Managing My Life/Work Balance and Finances:
Those of you who follow London-Unattached may know that I’ve been moving home for the last year. Well, obviously not actively moving all that time, but looking for a new home, trying to sell my old one and, eventually succeeding. While I’m not close to having unpacked or done the things on my (constantly growing) list of work on the house, I’m already feeling quite settled and I’m waking up happier and more relaxed than for months. Of course in between I’ve been travelling – to Oman, Chennai, Sri Lanka, Salamanca, Antigua and Sarlat as well as around the UK. Perhaps not the best way to plan a move and perhaps why I am still in chaos here…
I was lucky enough to buy my first house very early on. Aged 25 I moved jobs and was offered a re-location allowance that was enough to pay half the deposit on my first house. The remained came from savings. I had to move out of London to be able to afford a tiny, semi-derelict two up two down house, in the City I would still have been budgeting for a studio flat. Even so I was left with nothing at all in my piggy bank and I remember my parents lent me a car so I could get to work. I did an evening course funded by my employer for three evenings a week simply so that I could eat (supper was provided because I was ‘working’ extended hours) and get petrol for the car (our mileage allowance was more than the cost of the petrol for my very economical mini!)
It was a struggle. I remember the loo icing over because I couldn’t afford the heating, I remember my incompetent attempts at DIY which usually resulted in a boyfriend or my Dad turning up to rescue me and I remember winning £500 (a fortune at that time) in a Christmas competition – enough to pay for a very basic but much needed new kitchen.
I’d learnt to cook from scratch at University – my friends and I ran a cooking collective and each cooked a meal for 6 once a week, so that we had the time to cook everything from cheap ingredients. And, that has worked well for me throughout my life. I’m sitting eating home made chicken noodle soup right now, using some tired carrots and celery, the stock and some scraps of meat from yesterday’s roast chicken and a handful of noodles. Delicious, filling and almost free. It’s a strange contrast for someone who dines out on steak and smoked salmon a couple of times of a week, but one that works for me.
Owning my home did change how I lived at that time even more. For a few years any spare money went on buying a new sofa, bed, TV and carpets. I learnt how to sew and made my own blinds and curtains. I even managed to re-cover a three piece suite, though I seem to remember it looked a little better dressed with cushions and throws!
There wasn’t much in the way of travel – and when there was it was generally piggybacking friends who were hiring self catering accommodation or driving to Europe. I joined a choir and went on tour, expenses paid and I used to extend work trips overseas and stay on for an extra few days. A mixture of luck and resourcefulness meant that I managed to visit the Italian Lakes, Lyons, Montreaux, Annecy and tour around Germany for virtually no cost.
I was single though and I do appreciate everything gets a lot harder if you have kids to take into consideration too. While some of my adventures were accommodating at least for single parents, most were not.
After the first few years of being mortgaged, it did all seem a lot easier. Perhaps I was used to budgeting. In any case, for me at least the benefit of owning my own home far outweighed the things I couldn’t do or have for lack of cash. I still spent cautiously – at least on things that didn’t seem to matter too much to me (cars, TVs and hi fi for example). Instead my spare money let me travel around Europe and to the States. I went to Portugal and Spain out of season and each time without any hotel reservations. While bartering for a room might seem unlikely, if you are willing to take the risk you might end up like me staying in a Palace or the Turret of a Castle. I prefer travelling business class for long haul trips, so I’d fly via Paris to reach New York and save around a third of the cost – as well as getting a couple of nights in the City of Lights for free too. That always seemed like a bargain to me.
Now, with this move, I am mortgage free for the first time in over 25 years. I’ve ‘downsized’ not in space but in location. And I’m loving my new home. Prices in Earls Court where I have moved from, rocketed not just for property but for everything from getting your hair cut to lunch at the local pub. It’s around half the price in not-so-posh Walworth. I’m looking forward to having some spare cash, first to get this place exactly as I’d like it and then to travel some more.
If I was starting out again, I’d look around here, South of the River but central enough to make getting home easy and to make having a car not necessary. I might look at shared ownership or I might repeat history by moving out of London for a few years. Friends of mine bought together to get a step on the housing ladder. I’d definitely talk to a good, ethical mortgage provider like TSB mortgages. Something I didn’t realise when I first bought, during that very cold winter when the loo froze over and the pipes burst, is that a good mortgage lender will be sympathetic if you need help for a few months. While they won’t pay off your loan, if you talk with them first you may find they can offer you some flexibility. I do believe that working with a good financial services provider can help us all manage our finances.
I’m trying my best to make the most of my life – and having a lot of fun doing so.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by TSB. All views and content is my own.