Thank you for reading yesterday and for all your nice comments.
I bought my first home with my, then, partner and it was an ex council house that I picked up for a song (£77,000 in the South East with was a real bargain at the time) and was in need of an awful lot of work. I love to get my hands dirty, so I did 100% of the work myself and sold it after 2 years for £110,000. I tried everything and learnt any new skill that I needed by reading books and just giving it a go with patience. Making some money was just a lucky circumstance. Unfortunately we had got into debt because we had had to take a loan out to make up the deposit and our relationship just couldn’t stand the stress, so all in all, I came out of that experience £13,000 richer, but life poorer and more stressed than ever. Shortly after this I bought my flat in London and that was an expense I could, fortunately, at the time afford, although only just. I was comfortable but very discontent in a city I hated. The thing it allowed me to do was to sell up and move here with a small mortgage of only £46,000. Which makes me a very lucky man indeed.
As I have hinted, I had become increasingly sick of people wasting money and began to look back with shame at some of the ways in which I had wasted money in the past. It is so much easier to just do what everyone else does, but I think in this way it is easy to lose perspective on who you really are and what you really need.
I bought some pots and started planting my own veg and to be honest, I think my real journey began when those first green shoots appeared in my tomato plants. It was a revelation to me that I could grow something from a tiny seed that could eventually feed me. I bought a guide to self-sufficiency by Dick Strawbridge and devoured it, borrowed gardening books and read them from cover to cover and a plan took seed, just like those first green shoots of the tomato plants. I had become increasingly depressed and stopped going out much, not just because of the money but because of my hatred for where I lived. I saw that I had to make a long term plan. Being immobile was not an option.
Stage one of my plan happened about 3 years ago, when I started taking driving lessons, I knew that if I was going to live in the country, I had to be able to drive and until then, it had not been necessary. I did this, passed and bought a car.
Stage two was saving, saving and saving some more. I knew that I would have about £37,000 once I had sold my flat, so knew this would buy me nothing in the South East without a wopping mortgage and anyway, deep down I wanted the county I was born in. It was a slow realization. I was born in Lancashire and I am a Northerner at heart and was never meant to live in a Southen city. So lucky for me that house prices are very different in the North than in the South, I could have never done it the other way around. Having said that, I can honestly say that I would move anywhere to have improved my lot.
And that would be my first piece of advice to anyone wanting to do something similar. Don’t be afraid of moving or trying something new if it could improve your life. Move to a modest home and look at your serious priorities. I think a garden was a top priority for me because it gives me the means to grow my own food, to get my hands in the earth and to build that connection up again with mother nature.There is nothing quite so calming as spending an afternoon working in the garden. My wish list had a sunny aspect garden at the top of the list – I felt it to be more important than the house actually – which made estate agents roll their eyes at me! Next I wanted a fixer upper, learn to do whatever can be done by yourself. Don’t pay someone if you can do something yourself, however busy you are, you can find time, think of all the time you save by not going shopping!
Anyway, back to the story. After passing my driving test, I gave myself 2 years more (was stuck in a fixed rate mortgage) and decided to make myself save another £10,000 in that time – no mean feat on a fairly low income with a mortgage to pay. I literally reduced my spending down to the bare minimum, I learnt how to cook everything from scratch and experimented with learning how to make just about any product that could be bought, from scratch. I tried making baked beans, tomato ketchup, shampoo, washing up liquid (not successful) etc etc, you get the picture. When you begin to break things down to the basics, you realise that most things can be done yourself, for a fraction of the cost – not always cheaper, but mostly.
So second piece of advice, learn to cook! Go to the library and get cookery books, or beg borrow and steal them. Buy a freezer and make large amounts of everything and get it frozen. Never throw a single piece of good food away and if it looks like it might go off, do something with it and freeze it! If you don't need it, don't buy it.
That is the end of part 2 and tomorrow I will post the final part of my short journal.