As many of you may know due to my constant complaining on Twitter, I’m currently semi-self-employed (what a catchy job title) and not earning enough money. I’ve lost two jobs on the bounce due to sickness caused by my mental health conditions. In order to actually make some progress in getting better, I’ve decided not to return to the workplace just yet.
Whilst I am scraping some earnings together, it’s been necessary for me to evaluate my spending and change the way I relate to spending money. A few hundred quid a month can now last me just fine, aside from the glaringly problematic fact I can’t afford my rent, and I’m surprised at how painless it’s been.
There are still moment when I panic about the money (or lack thereof) I make, and I’m trying to piece together a few more income streams as well as starting to look for part time work outside my home.
For anyone else, though, I thought sharing my experiences in saving money might be helpful.
Unfortunately, being poor doesn’t immediately negate the need for certain things. As I lamented a couple of months ago, my mental health has not only caused me to gain weight, but also royally fucked up my employment prospects, income, and meant I struggled to afford to buy clothes that actually fit me.
My financial situation led me to consider selling some items of clothing I no longer wear, and admittedly, although I’m yet to sell anything, being on Depop has meant I’ve been able to snag a couple of bargains for myself and not feel too guilty.
Winter is coming, and I needed a new pair of boots because mine leak, and that’s not a particularly pleasant feeling. Enter Depop, with an almost-new pair of simple black boots for under £20 including postage. My faux leather jacket hasn’t fit me for ages; I got myself a new one for about £12, where it would have been over £30 in the shops.
When I’m earning a bit more, I’m thinking about upgrading my FitBit. These cats are £100+ in stores; if I search on Depop I can get one as-new for way under that. It’s helped me to consider what I actually need to buy, and having somewhere to look first before I go to the high street has been a great help to my dusty wallet.
Obviously, I need to eat. The food shops come from our joint account so I’m not spending my own money as such, but you’d better believe I’ve started evaluating what I actually need when we do go shopping. In the past, I could just buy things I thought I might use that week and inevitably end up not using them.
Now, I think about my meals more. I’m cooking for one (Mr Seeds isn’t vegan) and my portion control is incredibly poor. I’ve got way, way better at freezing things for use later. Example: I fancy a Thai curry one night. I’ll have some veg in the fridge, some frozen. I’ve got curry paste and other condiments. I bought a tin of coconut oil a month or so ago, which I used a quarter of then divided up the rest into similar one-use portions and froze them. Easy.
I make big batches of bolognese, chilli, or other one-pot meals, keep some in the fridge, and freeze the rest. These are also ideal if I’m not feeling too good and don’t want to cook anything. I can have a piece of lasagne out of the freezer and ready to eat in a matter of minutes.
I know it sounds simple, but it really makes a big difference to what we spend now there’s so much less wastage in our household.
This is probably a post all of its own, but this year I’ve embraced reducing my waste. I’ve invested in some reusable household products, such as cleaning cloths, sponges, that sort of thing. Instead of spending money on kitchen paper or throwaway sponges, I spent a few quid on some washable options so I can clean, throw them in the wash, and use them again. I’ve done the same for throwaway cotton pads, and invested in some reusable cotton face rounds.
Now, at this point make up is pretty much a luxury, but when I was working I’d be a sucker for sneaking into Superdrug and seeing what I could get on offer. Usually this was just as a pick-me-up rather than a necessity. Now, it’s on a replacement-only basis. I have enough make up. I really don’t need a new bronzer, eye palette, whatever.
Yes, I’ve given myself a couple of cheap treats, but my visits to Superdrug are far less frequent and my wallet stays shut a lot longer. I do love makeup, and it’s hard when tempting new things are always around, but it can wait.
Working at home also means I don’t actually wear make up every day like I used to. Instead, I’ll use it maybe once or twice a week at most. This means the make up I do have lasts longer and gives me fewer excuses to nip into the shops.
Okay, so I’m not as hot on this as I was a few months ago, but in April/May time I must have earned about £50-60 from doing surveys online. I know it isn’t loads, but I’ve earned cash and Amazon vouchers which have actually helped me buy some of the reusable items I now use, so I can’t really complain, can I?
When I was working, I was paying £50 for a double driving lesson every week. This isn’t sustainable on my current budget, and as I’ve been having lessons for a year now, a couple of months ago I switched down to single lessons and saved myself £25 a week – £100 a month – by doing so.
I’ve been anxious about forking out so much money every week without bringing its equivalent back in. Now, even if I have a slow month, I can usually cover my lessons. I considered giving them up entirely, but reasoned that I was too far down the line now and may as well persevere for as long as I can. It also gave me motivation to get my test booked, so soon enough I might not have to pay for them at all.
None of this is exactly ground-breaking, but managing my finances makes me feel a little better. Crucially, I’ve realised what I can and can’t live without. No matter how things turn out in the future, I hope that’s something I’m able to hold on to.
Being unable to pay my rent is a source of deep discomfort for me. I am very, very fortunate to have understanding parents who are helping me out with me rent whilst I scrape together a minimal income by other means. My aim is to either get more income streams set up from home, or to find a part time job so I know I’ve at least got my rent covered.
Having these few months away from the workplace, though, has been invaluable for my mental health. If I have a bad day, or I’m particularly tired, I do worry about getting back into the workplace, even part time. There are times when I’m not sure I’ll manage it. I won’t know unless I try, though, and in the mean time my newly-found (enforced) frugality is helping to keep me clothed and fed.
Although I complain and I’m embarrassed, the generosity of my parents is truly amazing and I’m very grateful. I’m also grateful to myself, in a small way, because although I can’t work full time, I’ve kept my hand in. I’ve been working from home ever since I left my last job, so whilst the money hasn’t been great I’ve been able to feel a bit like I’m contributing and have kept myself somewhat occupied.
I hope these tips are useful to someone – it’s definitely possible to survive even when our brains do all they can to uproot and off-road us.