How did I become so frugal?

I know that I haven’t posted much yet, and more importantly I haven’t posted much about living frugally. But that’s about to change. The road to get here – to get to the point where we are physically resident in France – has not been easy. Any of you who follow my Instagram will know that.

So putting on my psychotherapist’s hat for a moment, if we want to know the present then we must first understand the past.

I’ve not always been brilliant with money. I came out of university with debt, student loans, and credit cards. I knew things weren’t good when I had to use a credit card to buy food. I even worked to try to earn enough to get by but it all ran out really quickly. I lived off my loan and shopped cheaply. My friends and I now joke about the dubious quality alcohol we used to drink – a poor man’s copy of Lambrini as I recall – but the truth was we couldn’t afford anything else.

Having my first job as a graduate was great and paid reasonably well, but I already had debts and was living with someone who earned a very meagre wage. I ended up subsidising our lives and somehow would always end up with nothing at the end of the month. Credit cards seemed like the obvious way to fix the situation, but of course it wasn’t.

I slowly became aware of the amount I was spending. Driving to work and back each day cost £30-£40 a week and I felt it keenly (shout out the Southampton’s traffic issues!). I was presented with an opportunity to make a change after I received a pay-out after a car-crash of around £3,000. At the time I knew that I had credit cards, a graduate overdraft and a loose understanding of how much I was spending at the time. £3,000 wasn’t going to make much of a dent in the balance, so I could decide to spend it (I wanted lots and lots of things back then, mostly from Topshop and ASOS) or I could use it to pay off some debt. To facilitate making the decision I decided to draw up a spreadsheet of all outstanding credit cards. I was horrified to learn that my grand total was around twenty-seven thousand pounds of unsecured debt. Aside from some fantastic memories of trips to America and a few places in Europe, a full wardrobe and an overfurnished home I really didn’t have anything to show for it.

Thankfully, I decided to tackle my financial denial and paid off a card. I proceeded to learn more about how to limit the expense of paying my cards off – moving to zero percent cards and doing some damage limitation on the interest. I quickly learned how addictive it is to pay off debt, to which I almost entirely credit the forum. If you’re in the UK, have debt and are unfamiliar, I highly recommend checking it out.

My frugality ebbed and flowed over the years, but when I decided to leave my career in IT and retrain to become a therapist I knew that I would be exchanging material comforts for psychological ones. Being self-employed added an additional strain to this adaptation and the years where my business was starting out were some of the hardest of my life. I had a large mortgage on a house that I had once intended to sublet the rooms of, however, due to some personal changes (i.e. getting into a serious relationship!), that didn’t come about. It meant finding a large mortgage payment every month along with covering bills and my newly rented office. Looking back on it now I almost wince. I remember taking a temporary role doing admin in the NHS for six weeks, and its no lie to say that I cried when I received my first incredibly meager payslip.

Fortunately necessity is the mother of invention, and I adapted my outgoings as much as I possibly could to limit the need for income. I ran an airbnb from my house. I sold things on eBay, I did small one-off jobs and opened another small business to supplement my therapeautic income. I easily worked 60 hours a week toward the end of my time in the UK. I was exhausted.

Do you remember where you were when the Brexit vote was reported? I do. I felt bereft. It was all anyone could talk about. It felt like grief, and in a way, it was. I was grieving the idea that I would never get to France. That place that I had loved but recently overlooked as I strove to make it out of the red. I certainly couldn’t afford to go on holiday there and it had grown distant in my memory. So I was poor, my country had voted (in my opinion, don’t @ me) to make itself poorer. I had ridden out the last recession in a well paid job using credit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride out another.

My partner is brilliant. He supports all of my crazy ventures and I feel as though he is my biggest cheerleader. But I wasn’t sure how he would feel about a suggestion to leave the UK. I knew I didn’t want any more debt, so I researched house prices in France (truth be told I had been a part-time French property tourist through various websites for years) and we worked out whether we could feasibly survive on what equity we had in the UK. It was obvious that one or both of us would need to continue to work – and I had enjoyed so much success with my psychotherapy business that I wanted to carry on whatever we chose.

Would I say that I am an impulsive person? Yes. Is my partner? Less so, but after a wine… also yes. So we made the decision that precipitated the adding of thousands of micro-tasks (and some positively maxi-tasks) to our joint to-do list. We decided to move to France. Over the coming weeks I’m going to go into the various ins and outs of that process, as well as any financial learnings which we have gained along the way – so that any of you following us might have some more insight than we did.

Speak soon – L x

We did it! Now we live in France (frugally!)

Even stranger to type!

We’re here, nestled in the Limousin countryside (or Haute Vienne as it’s now known) on this grey Christmas Eve watching films in front of the wood burner, both cats installed in their respective beds of choice.

But let’s go back to just over a week ago, to completion of the sale of our UK home. After sleeping on the floor of our bedroom (having put our beds into storage the day before) we rose knowing that this day would be the culmination of well over six months of effort and stress. The final packing of the car had to be done – including getting the cats into their travel crates and fitting in our last few bits.

Reader, it was horrible.

The big new/old car could not contain the massive amount of things we had hoped (the cat crates were huge, but with such a long journey they needed to be). The night before we had played an interesting game of Tetris with our various possessions and managed to get most in, however we were forced to concede that no plants whatsoever would be able to come with us, and bulky things like our duvet, pillows and blankets, the Hoover and a few boxes from the kitchen would have to stay with our lovely and generous neighbours (who’s house we have filled with stuff and we owe them dearly).

Once that had been attended to we were ready to go, at 8am on the dot. My partner drove the first UK leg and we managed to get to Folkestone for our channel crossing early. By noon we were onboard and enjoying the thrill of knowing that we would only be going one way this time.

Personally I’d never been on Le Shuttle before but it was a perfectly easy and quick experience, if at a pricey £154 for two adults, a car and two cats. We were soon out the other side and crucially, in France.

We stopped briefly for a quick espresso, then drove on to continue our journey. Around 10 hours of shared driving later having passed some gorgeous french countryside we were still driving but soon to arrive out our intended location: our rental gite for the next two months while the purchase of our house goes through.

And that’s where you find me now. Sat in front of the fire about to pour myself a Baileys and watching reruns of River Cottage.

Wishing you all a very Joyeux Noël and I shall have more updates in the next few weeks as we get really settled, and crucially complete the purchase on our french house!

Au revoir!

Laura x

* follow me on Instagram *

Moving from the UK to France – our final week as British residents

Well, that’s a strange thing to type.

By this time next week, I do hope that we shall be on our way to Folkstone to make our planned channel tunnel journey to France. Buying a one-way ticket felt like a big moment. It is a big moment. I’ve been talking to people on Instagram this week about the process and it is a weird feeling now that it all seems as though things are starting to come together.

For so long we were wrapped up in getting the house sold, choosing a house in France, sorting pet passports (!!) and the myriad of other tasks which needed to be correctly and meticulously resolved so that we can move. I think the delays to our exchange happening on the house in the UK became the most intense period of this process. As so much investment of time, energy, hope – and not least money – had already been sunk into working towards this outcome.

Now we are almost there, seven days to go. Our LeShuttle ticket is booked. We all have our passports ready (yes, even the cats). We’ve booked our storage and are working on an inventory. Work for me is over, my partner is finishing the last days of his role. It’s so weird. Brilliant, a relief, but also now a bit scary.

The only time I’ve ever had this feeling before has been in the run-up to my first marriage – where six weeks of intense planning resulted in a very stressful lead up to a brilliant party and overall fantastic day. I remember distinctly though that I didn’t really realise that I was getting married until I sat in the car with my dad, on the way to the ceremony. There has been so much to do, manage and set-up that my consciousness hadn’t had the chance to appreciate the gravity of the situation. I feel that now too.

Except for the fact that this time, I don’t feel fear. And I hope that is because this is the right thing to do for us. That we are going to make changes to our lifestyle so that the things that we currently don’t enjoy in the UK can be put down. And replaced by some of the things that we love in France. Also, it really feels like an adventure. And for me, this is probably the biggest, riskiest, most exciting thing that I have ever done.

So please do wish us luck. We haven’t even tried to see all the people that we love in the UK, and with airfare between Bristol and Limoges being as low as £5.99 with Ryanair for a single ticket, I don’t feel a sense of finality. I know that we will be back. Probably not for a few months while we sort things and move into the new place, but my hope is that this new life gives us both more time for us, for spending with the people that we care about, and for doing the things that are really important to us.

I may not blog again before we go, but I am working hard at becoming more active over on Instagram and started with my ramblings on Instagram stories this week. Do check them out if you’re a fan of inane waffle and predominantly unkempt hair… speaking of which, I just bought a beret because I’m a walking chiché and I couldn’t help myself.

So for now, au revoir!

Laura x

French moving costs

It sure does.

We’ve been working out what to do for the best in terms of getting us, our two teenage cats and the much-pared-down contents of our three-bed house across the channel and down to the French countryside.

It turns out, moving internationally is quite pricey. Who knew?! (Well, I guessed…)

A quick punt on Anyvan produced a four-figure quote, and I refuse to pay anyone that much money for belongings that I probably picked up on eBay or from a Bristolian charity shop.

SO where does that leave us? Well firmly in the land of a DIY move I should think. And anyone who has had the misfortune of doing this before has I’m sure, shuddered at merely reading those words. (I’m sorry for any flashbacks of loading a sofa onto the roof bars of a Toyota Avensis in the rain this may conjure).

packing the lounge

It’s still going to cost, but hopefully around a quarter of the quote if we self-drive, still things to consider are:

– flight costs to Limoges

– XL van hire

– return ferry fare France – UK

– loading all by ourselves 🎻

– loading the cats, and the long drive back to France

Plus so many more things I can’t bring myself to list now. One glimmer of positivity is that on the interview call to set up my French bank account this morning I’ve received an offer with an international moving company who offer free storage for a short period of time. That might help.

For now, here’s a peek at the state of us mid-international move…

packing the hall packing the kitchen

Frugal France : Living a frugal life in France

Welcome to the blog – this a new venture built on top of an adventure.

My name is Laura and I’m in the process of moving myself, my partner, our two cats and a shedload of belongings

from our current home in Bristol, the UK to the Limousin, France.

With all of the uncertainty of #Brexit swirling around us here in the UK, we have decided to take the plunge and move our lives from the greyness of Britain, to the green and pleasant land of the Limousin.

Here I’ll be posting all about my experience of moving, and the delights that await us living a frugal life in our new French home.

You can follow me using the handle @frugalfrance on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook.

Au revoir!

Laura x