Saturday, 31 March 2012

Be extraordinary

My mum is afraid that I am missing out on life by saving money and paying towards a future with no mortgage and no debts. She things that I should have some fun sometimes. It got me thinking about how the world perceives money savers. It is no surprise that the national average debt is somewhere between 4 and 6 thousand per person, excluding mortgages and student loans when the attitude of exceptionally sane people like my mother still equates fun with spending money. I have had the most wonderful, enjoyable and yes, fun, week with my friend and the sum total we spent was some petrol, but not much as I only did about 20 miles in the whole week and £1 in parking. Food, except for a cream tea, was eaten at home and cooked in the kitchen, as it normally would be for me. Because I am a good cook, restaurants are often a disappointment. How often do you find when you are paying a restaurant bill, that you start thinking about how much that would have cost if you had made it yourself and how much better you could do it. Could I have had more fun by spending large amounts of money? I doubt it, because the fantastic company of a really good friend, the wonderful English countryside and the joy of fresh air was something that can't be beaten.

I have, in the past, been on dating websites - they have never lasted long because in the end, that is not how I would like to meet someone and there is something a little sordid about many of them. But one thing that I notice is that in the list of hobbies, one of them that often comes up as a choice is 'shopping'. Since when did spending money become a hobby? How did materialism really take over peoples lives so much that shopping became a solution for having fun?

I was paid a huge compliment a few years ago by a colleague of mine. She said that she had always respected me so much, because I was never drawn in by the crowd, never followed what everyone else did and never minded being different. That I didn't shout about it, I didn't preach about my life, I just led it in a different way. It is something I am proud of.

One of my favourite films is 'Dead Poets Society' and one of the phrases that I have always loved in that film is when Robin Williams takes the boys out into the corridor to look at the old photos of past school boys and quotes the poem 'Gather ye Rosebuds while ye may'. He reminds the boys to 'be extraordinary'. Nowhere does he say,' and remember to have fun and spend lots of money'. Just live your life differently than the crowd.

I am lucky, because I have seen the world through my job and travelled extensively with it, so spending money on holidays has never been important. Yet of the three big holidays I have had, the best by far was also the cheapest - hiring a little cottage in Scotland, for very little money. Beat going to the caribbean, or, horror of horrors, the trip to Egypt I had, which cost me an arm and a leg. It is so often about the company, and not about the money spent.

Most people think that if they have not something new and shiny to show for their lives, for their money, then they have somehow failed and sometimes I think people spend so that they can show other people what they have. Possessions have become more important than what is going on inside. They think that others judge them on what fashion they are wearing more than what are their values and morals. Sadly, this is probably true. When the country was struck by horrible looting last summer it wasn't a stand of people trying to fight for what they believed in, but the dregs of society trying to get more possessions for free.

A large part of the blame for all of this is down to people trying to emulate what others have. Following a celebrity culture that shows that you can have what you want and that you deserve it. It is down to media and reality tv making the very worst kind of people into stars which the young look up to and wish they had the same things, when wise people such as frugal Queen and mean queen should be the real stars. Instead, people who have good values are made out to be a bit eccentric on shows such as Superscrimpers.
How wonderful would the world be if people started saying NO and turning away from celebrity culture, if people started to be extraordinary in a different way.

by Robert Herrick

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may, 
  Old Time is still a-flying: 
And this same flower that smiles to-day 
  To-morrow will be dying. 
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,         5
  The higher he 's a-getting, 
The sooner will his race be run, 
  And nearer he 's to setting. 
That age is best which is the first, 
  When youth and blood are warmer;  10
But being spent, the worse, and worst 
  Times still succeed the former. 
Then be not coy, but use your time, 
  And while ye may, go marry: 
For having lost but once your prime,  15
  You may for ever tarry.



  1. What a well thought out and well written post! I've always laughed at those "shopping" as a hobby comments too. Never thought about why it made me laugh but it makes sense now. Very inspiring. Thank you!!

    1. Can you imagine if that were your hobby? Give me gardening, reading, hiking, cooking any day! Glad that you enjoyed it!

  2. Wonderful post Dan, and oh so true. I feel incredibly blessed to have lived without much money all my life. My parents had very little and there were 4 children to keep. We had fun blackberry picking as a family, exploring the woods and streams and wild flower meadows, eating jam sandwiches and drinking a bottle of water in a sunny field on a Sunday afternoon, playing games. I've tried to do the same things with my children, though there are no wild flower meadows these days. We've tramped through the woods on frosty mornings, marvelling at the frost patterns on gate posts and leaves,searched for shells on beaches,laughed as we've kicked through the fallen leaves in Autumn and picnicked in the park after school.It's those things that they remember; those and being loved, cared for and raised as the loving and accepting individuals that they are - there are definitely no 'isms' in our house.We have people in our lives for who they are and the values they hold, not because of the amount of money they have, the colour of their skin, their age or their sexual orientation.Raising the girls to have the same attitude has been my greatest achievement.

    1. And I have no doubts that you raise well rounded children who will have the right attitude to life and will pass on what you have taught them and look back at you with true respect.

  3. How very true Dan, well said. Although we don't consider ourselves remotely 'old', we are slowly changing things as they become nearly worn out so we don't have to worry about the cost of replacing them when money might be even tighter. We have saved hard and that is what we are spending. We have de-cluttered, still more to do, especially in the attic. People think we are mad to live how we do (we are not as frugal as we once were but still enjoy the challenge of it - great fun). I think only people living in a similar vein truly understand us. Parents lived through the war and other mean years so they had no choice on scrimping and saving. I think that is what they find so difficult to understand, that we do it because we want to and to have a better, debt free future.

    1. People will always think frugal people are mad, but we no better, don't we!

  4. dan
    I can appreciate what your mum says... and she is right.. you need to strike a kind of balance between your chosen lifestyle AND that of everything BEYOND the rural.
    I dont always get that right, and believe it or not is is necessary
    you are a young good looking bloke.... dont isolate yourself too much..... mind you dont forgo your principles either! but obtain both, a balance......a balance is good!
    and both CAN be obtained cheaply

    1. I appreciate what my mum says, too, and a part of my life is reactionary after 19 years of living in London. Having said that, I am happier than I have been for years and the slowed down pace is just what I needed. I feel like I actually see friends here more than I did when I was in a huge city surrounded by people - because it costs a lot less to see them compared to trailing out into London via train and tube, both financially and emotionally. Balance is the key, as you say.

    2. I can relate to this. I lived in London for a year as part of my degree. It was VERY expensive! There are a lot of free things to do though. But yes, in a city of millions and millions of people, you become more isolated than anywhere else. Give me Cornwall any day! :)

  5. Deliberately frugal people are often more secure and happy because they have knowledge. Knowledge of what things "cost" in terms of time, money, space and just sheer problems. They are in charge of what they are doing and not on "auto pilot" just blowing around with whatever is the newest.

    I am secure for the future with the knowledge that I have enough to ensure a calm and happy future and can make do with even less.

    1. Security in the future is about so much more than just money isn't it. My life is richer because I have less, it seems.

  6. you are so articulate dan, often i read your posts and think 'yes that it, thats what i think!' but am not so good at putting the words down lol

    Often i wish that people could just 'feel' the happiness and satisfaction my lifestyle gives me because even tho they laugh it off or think, i couldnt go with out such and such i know if they just experienced it they'd understand. There is nothing more comforting and satisfying than knowing i am living far below my means and am setting myself (and my future children) up for a debt fee, sustainable, beautiful, close to nature life :)

    I totally get it, a lot of people dont but dont let them sway you into thinking maybe i should just splash out every now and then - you know what makes you happy, only listen to yourself!

    ps i loved it when you wrote about that 'over spend' where you bought a tree and a few other things for your garden, i thought 'brilliant!' thats my kind of overspend hahaha

  7. I am glad you think me articulate, because I don't always feel it. It is quite often difficult to put into words what we are feeling.
    Your happiness and satisfaction in your way of life shows through wholly in the way you write.
    I must admit that I could splash out an absolute fortune on my garden! I have such big plans. I am doing little about them at the moment, because my garden layout changes weekly. When I have honed it and decided on the definitive version I will start it bet by bit. PS, my apple tree is growing new bits - so exciting!

  8. When we bought our little cottage we began to embrace our dream. It brought with it semi-rural living and lovely country walks on our doorstep (the county footpath infact-every time I see walkers go by I want to grab my walking boots and join them!).
    That was the first step. The second is to be mortgage free which is still on track for December-as then I can 'just' say I became mortgage free at 40! LOL!
    Third step is to fulfil a travel dream each year for the next 7 years.
    Fouth step is for me to retire/semi-retire at 48 ish. Before I'm 50 anyway. And embrace a contented frugal lifestyle here.

    I'm a bit older than you. I teach and our profession have good wages but not like city professionals (as are lots of our contemporaries being 25 miles form London).

    Mr Sft and I are both our own people and are not sheep.

    Our friends are true friends and know our way of doing things.

    To really appreciate the value of things is the key.
    To lead a frugal life so you can afford what really matters.

    You're doing great, if you meet someone now, it will be a person who compliments your lifestyle choice and is attracted to you by the person you are now.

    The world awaits you....Well done for going for it!

    Sft x

    1. I like your grand plan! To become mortgage free soon is amazing and you have done brilliantly. it is not just a case of saving money, it is, as you say, learning the true value of things, both in monetary terms and emotional terms.

  9. I agree, a very well written post! I agree with the subject too. I do enjoy trips out with friends every so often (not every day but not too infrequently), but the best kind of friends accept that you are trying to save money and are happy to just spend time together, maybe at the pub or going for a walk somewhere.

    I definitely save my money more for events though, rather than things. I don't really buy stuff anymore, just some experiences.

  10. Using money for experience is living life, using money for 'stuff' is not. You impress me with the way you get it. 15 years ago, I didn't get it at all and although I didn't ever follow the crowd I frittered money away. I don't regret it, because it was just a stage of my life, but I do wish I had left London earlier. Maybe it wasn't my time yet.

  11. This post sums up perfectly the philosophy of the growing frugal movement. Our family is regarded by some as a little 'odd'in our frugal habits, but I know we've got it right. We're on track to be mortgage free 2 years from now, while others I know have huge amounts of debt which won't be paid of until retirement in their mid 60s. Now that is truly scary.


    1. I know people who have been whittling away at their mortgage and have nearly got it down to nothing, or next to nothing and who immediately start thinking about moving house to something bigger and getting another mortgage. I always think this is very strange behaviour. To me, these are the odd ones, never content. For me, mortgage free living is the ultimate goal.

  12. Replies
    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed reading it.

  13. I've just caught up with your last three posts, they were a joy to read. It sounds as if you had a lovely time with your friend, exploring and home cooking. If I lived near your hill I would want to go up it every day.

    I am totally turned off by shopping, it's not a fun hobby at all, in fact it's hell most of the time. If I have to go to the shops for something I try and spend as little time there as possible. Half an hour is enough for me.

    1. I must say, I want to go up my hill every day too!
      If I go to the shops, it is for something I specifically need - which is pretty rare, besides food shopping. half an hour is easily enough - which is great for parking costs too!

  14. Hey, don`t let anyone tell you how to lead your life. Sofar you have done perfectly ok without their help. Make the most of what you have and treasure the quality times spend. Forget the ones that shout 'spend, spend'. The best of times are often spend not using any money. You`ve found your perfect place in this world, so do not let others and their views spoil your quality being!!

    1. Thanks Sarina, I think that I have found my perfect place in the World too!

  15. I once received a proposal of marriage based solely on the fact that I told the man in question, that I hated shopping (I do, but I didn't, if that makes sense LOL).

  16. I once received a proposal which was along the lines of 'I am 23, and I have a large salary, a house, a car and my own piano, WHY won't you marry me?
    He was most upset when I said that I didn't think that obtaining possessions was what I valued most in life!

    Just re-assure your Mum you are happy, and let her buy you treats occasionally. One of these days the Right Person will come along.

    Easter blessings !!

  17. That proposal made me laugh! Sadly I think that there are a lot of people who would jump at that though. I liked your answer.

  18. Ha! It's funny because my mother--who is very frugal--seems ambivalent about my frugality. On one hand she's very proud and happy that I'm frugal; on the other hand she has told me "You have to live a little" and "I think I've created a monster." But as I pointed out to her, I do the things I want to do and I'll spend money on them (going out dancing every so often--the clubs I go to are holes in the wall, lol, learning a craft, gardening, etc.) but I don't do very expensive things. I don't want to do expensive things, they hold no interest for me. (OK, going out for a really nice meal once in a while, but that's about it).

    I hate shopping. Most people I know really enjoy it, but I start twitching if I have to do it. I just don't have the patience for the crowds and the noise.

  19. Any partner you come to be with in the future is going to be one lucky person. I think you're extraordinary (from what I read) and I hope you are rightly proud of being you!

    I have to say, I quite like shopping.......but only for complete bargains in the sales, charity shops or for carefully thought out & needed purchases, these days!

    Celebrity culture is one of the most poisonous things in this country. I hate it with a passion and I don't use the word "hate" very often. But it really is bad and is seeping through into society, year after year. It makes me sad.

    What you said about the riots and people gaining possessions for free was spot on. It made me angry that the country was rioting for the first time in how long? And for what? New trainers?

    Anyway I won't rant on...I could be here for hours!