First off, for those who asked, here is a link to a brief sound clip of me singing something 'light'. A quick duet encore from Guys and Dolls (not my usual repertoire) with my best friend singing with me (my onstage wife). I only start singing about 2 minutes into the clip. Hope you enjoy, sorry about the cheezy pictures.
OK, here is the third and final part.
I learnt so much in those two years of saving. I found out how much money was saved by turning everything off at the plug when not in use. I learnt to not heat the house ridiculously and get used to living in a cooler environment. To have throws on the sofa to wrap up in on a cold day, to turn the heat off in the rooms it didn’t matter about and just to heat the rooms I used. I learnt to switch the tap off while I was brushing my teeth and a million other small things. All sounds so simple now, but it was a learning curve at the time.
Finally I did it, saved the £10 grand the month that the flat went on the market and around the time that I started this blog. So now I had £47,000 when it would sell.
I gave myself a budget limit for buying my new house and kept as much to it as was possible. Yes, I could have afforded more, but why should I? I want to be mortgage free, I don't want to owe anything to anybody and I want to live my life peacefully with security. I don't need a massive house filled with the latest gadgets. I need somewhere to sleep, somewhere to have friends round, somewhere with room too cook and a garden to grow.
So my final bit of advice to anyone who wants to downsize in their life and spending, to live a better life and to get closer to nature is to just do it! Don’t get sucked into commercialism, learn to laugh at how ludicrous advertisements are, once you get into the habit of looking how they work, you realise what nonsense it all is. Don’t get sucked into random supermarket shopping, don’t be embarrassed to buy nothing but value ranges if necessary or yellow label food, learn how supermarkets work, they just want to part you with your money, they don't need to be the cheapest, they just need us to believe they are the cheapest, which means that we have to do the hard work of knowing where to go for what. Don’t be embarssed to say to friends, NO, I don’t want to go out for dinner because I can’t afford it, but hey, why don’t you come over to mine for dinner instead? Try living on the bare minimum for a month and then once you have done it, cut the budget down again to push yourself even further. Stop buying alcohol, it is a real money drain, so just have it on special occasions, or better still, try making your own, forage for some of the free items you can use for nettle beer or blackberry wine. Get rid of credit cards and make clearing debt a priority. My life is so much richer for what I have done and I will never tire of it now.
The only thing that has changed now and has more room for change in the future is my attitude towards work. I no longer want to spend months away from home (letting my poor veggies die in the process) and I am putting a lot of thought into what happens next for me. I want to have a dog, a cat and maybe a couple of chickens. I have had a good 15 years in this profession and have enjoyed a lot of the experiences I have had, but I can see a change coming. Maybe it will take a year, maybe it will take 5 or 10 but I am looking ahead and seeing what possibilities are there. Believe it or not I am already getting long in the tooth, at nearly 40, for the profession I am in – the roles of the 'father' are increasing and the role of the 'lover' diminishing. Like so many other ways in life, sadly the way we look is becoming more important than the way a singer sounds and youth rules. Sad to say, it is generally worse for women, as I know plenty of wonderful sopranos whose careers are coming to a close in their mid 40’s because people want to see someone young on stage (or at least companies believe that this is what people want to see). Commercialism and celebrity culture is infiltrating everywhere and even long established art forms are suffering for it. I am not sure how long I want to be a part of it, but time will tell. I feel that I have made the first leap and I have completely different priorities now than I had 10 years ago.
So what does the future hold for me in my little cottage? Who knows, no point in second guessing it. I have to go to London for 2 months, mid-April and to be honest I have mixed feeling about that. I am so settled here that I don't want to go really, but I know that once I start working I will enjoy myself. I will be staying with very kind friends to keep the cost of living there down, but with the best will in the World, the travel at least will be an unavoidable expense. I have organised friends and family to come and water my plants while I am away, as necessary, although Lancashire weather may just mean that won't be needed. On the other hand my utility usage will go down to nil while I am away. I am able to teach both singing and piano and music theory, so when my present contract is over (October) I am looking into the possibilities of maybe doing some teaching to make some extra cash. I will certainly be taking a local job if I can get one for the 'inbetween contracts' time, I'll turn my hand to anything.
One thing I do know now, is that I have found the place where I am meant to be and am enjoying the way my life is going, then there is no stopping me. I have loads and loads more to learn. This will be my first year of 'proper' gardening, and I am sure I will make mistakes. I still waste money sometimes and often am annoyed when I think, well that could have paid some money off my mortgage. But the secret is to never beat yourself up over mistakes. Just learn from them and then carry on learning in the process.
Incidentally, I went out to a friends house last night and we had humous and bread and then chicken and chips. There were 2 good sized pieces of chicken left and half a tub of now out of date humous (only by a day) and my friend was chucking them out - so guess who came back with a little tin foil package. Lunch is sorted!
Thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it.