I’ve teamed up with Natwest to write about my experiences of saving money – past, present, and future, while also letting you know the help Natwest offer when you are working towards a savings goal. For savings advice and tools from Natwest check out their Fairer Savings page.
In the past I have never been a particularly conscientious saver. Call it naive but when I was at school and I had part time jobs, I spent my pay packet as soon as I got it, knowing that while I was still living under my parents roof that they would help me out if I didn't have enough money for petrol or to go out to a party. I wasn't spoilt, but I didn't have a particular drive to save for things.
Then when I was eighteen I went to Leeds University. All of a sudden I was away from home with a big chunk of student loan money hitting my bank account each term, and I must admit I took full advantage of that. I didnt' live like a student at all- I bought designer makeup, bought new clothes a lot, and went out almost every evening. I would eat cheap frozen chicken and chips for dinner, yet drink out in Leeds nicest bars and buy clothes from All Saints and Harvey Nicholls. I just didn't have my head screwed on when it came to money at all. Saving wasn't on my radar in the slightest and I just enjoyed living life to the fullest- not worrying about money or that I had bills to pay. Life just seemed to have a way of working itself out. Yet again I knew that if I got really stuck, while I was still in education, my parents would help me. I didn't ever ask for their help, but in the back of my mind I knew they were there as a back up. Somehow I just managed to live within my means.
Rocking the 'Classy' look back in 2003!
One Summer of uni I went travelling around South East Asia for a few months. While we lived like backpackers and everything was cheap out there, I didn't save up for the trip before I went, so I ended up using up all of my student overdraft. When I came home and told my Dad what I had done, he was furious and went absolutely crazy at me, telling me that I was immature and silly. In the end he paid it off for me, but not without a lot of cross words and me learning a real lesson. To this day it is something I regret as I know how much I disappointed him. It definitely helped me realise that I needed to have a better approach to my finances.
When I was in my final year of uni I got a job in a bar part time and it was there I met my future husband. We were good friends for a couple of years before we got together but after uni finished we ended up moving into a flat together just as friends and I began to work in the bar full time. I wasn't earning much at all, but I was heavily involved in the Leeds nightlife scene and yet again I managed to live way beyond my means. Everyone in the bars, restaurants and clubs knew each other so I could get away with going out every evening and not paying for a single drink- therefore my money yet again was just spent on rent and buying clothes, I would eat my meals in the bar or at other bars or restaurants where I could eat for free.
One of the first photos of us.
It wasn't until Mr E and I finally got together and moved to London a couple of years later that I finally got round to saving. In London we lived above a bar, which meant we lived rent free, albeit the flat we lived in was absolutely horrible. Because of this I had more money than I had ever had before, but by now I was older, wiser and had a serious job. I saved a lot of my money, aware that someday in the future we would want to buy a house and even possibly have a wedding. All of a sudden 'grown up' things were on the horizon for us.
When we eventually moved to Cambridgeshire Mr E and I had managed to save enough to completely pay for our wedding ourselves. I was really proud of this fact and it felt good knowing that we had saved this big chunk of money. I was proud of everyone coming to our wedding and knowing that we had paid for every single penny of it. (bar my dress which was a present from my Mum) We bought our first home together and did end up getting a big loan out for various bits and bobs- but by this time we were both doing well in our careers and were a lot more responsible with money.
Showing off our wedding rings in 2009.
When Mads was born we had a period of time where Mr E got made redundant, I was also on maternity leave and we really struggled with money. We went from being a newly married couple, both with good salaries and a nice lifestyle, to trying to survive on one person's very small income and the expense of a new baby. It got to the point where we would have to count every single penny and I remember one month crying down the phone to my Mum as I couldn't afford to put dinner on the table or pay our mortgage. We had a very stressful year and I wouldn't want to go through it again, but everyone has financial worries every now and again- we got through it even though it was very tough at times. In some ways though, it was one of the best things that could have happened as it has really made me appreciate money and I have completely changed in my attitude towards saving now.
I have become very sensible, I make sure that I save as much as we can, spend as little as possible and I will always make sure we have a savings pot as a back up just in case we ever end up in that situation again. It has made me a lot more controlled about money and my spending habits and budgeting- which in some ways is a good thing but also means that I can be a bit too rigid. Silly things like before I would go to a bar and treat my friends to a round of drinks, nowadays I am a bit more careful and I have lost a bit of that generous spirit that I used to have. But ultimately we are now in a good place and I want to make sure I protect and look after our family as much as I can.
Bizarrely considering I am terrible at Maths and considering my past history, I am now the one that looks after all the bank accounts in our household. Mr E trusts me to do it and knows that I try to put as much away each month as I can. I am now freelance so I have to keep my accounts up to date for the tax man each year, so I have become pretty good at keeping track of what we are earning and spending.
We have a couple of savings accounts now that I try to put the odd amount in as and when I can. I wouldn't say we have any grand plans for the future- we are just at this moment in time enjoying being in a position where we are comfortable and can afford to enjoy life a little. We have done some big improvements to our house this year, which is lovely after five years of living in our home. In the back of our mind we will in a couple of years want to move to our next house- whether that's our 'forever home' or just one a little bigger as our family grows. But I am in no rush- our ridiculously high five year fixed mortgage rate ended last year and that loan we took out is finally nearing it's end- it's nice not to have to worry about every single penny we spend and to treat ourselves every now and again. If I could offer advice to my younger self when it comes to saving I would say definitely enjoy life as you are only young with no responsibilities once, but also to not be so reckless when it comes to money and to try and keep some back for emergencies, treats or serious things.
But at the end of the day we are a young family, with lots of dreams and aspirations. We don't live beyond our means and we aren't flash. We still keep to a strict budget when we do our food shop each week, and we still um and aaah when we go out for a meal as to whether it's necessary or whether 'we can afford' it. We are sensible and we will always save as much as we can- whether that's for a rainy day, a big purchase like a new house in the not so distant future, or just so we can enjoy it in years to come.
Natwest have a handy savings goal tool for their customers which works with your savings account to calculate a time frame for your savings goals and track your progress. There is also a great budget calculator that anyone can use to get a clearer picture of your earnings and outgoings and your potential to save.