Payday is so depressing. In the week before I’ll undoubtedly see something I really fancy buying and put it off until payday. Then realise that all the money’s already been allocated to the life essentials and there’s not enough spare this month for the shiny new (but completely unnecessary) things.
It wasn’t always like this. Payday would arrive, I’d go buy stuff, and get hit by the bills later in the month. For several years I was spending ever so slightly more than I earned, and little by little, every month that overdraft and credit card bill would creep up.
Some time ago I made a conscious decision to stop the slide. I cancelled the overdraft, and haven’t used the credit card in over a year. That still leaves debts to be repaid, but at least the slow movement is in the other direction now, back towards the black.
I’m well aware this sounds like a horribly middle-class, first world problem. After all, all I have a roof over my head, a stable (if modestly paid) job, food in my fridge and a little left over for fun – unimaginable riches to an awful lot of people. But, middle class guilt aside, paying back what I owe would lift a huge weight from my mind.
Just like getting physically fit, getting in shape financially for me is all about the baby steps. I’ve absolutely no intention to sell everything I own, eat nothing but beans on toast and go live in a squat somewhere. While this would probably clear my debt in next to no time, I’d rather do it the slower way and still have a few of the things that make life OK (like showers, socks without holes, and a large glass of red). And the little sacrifices really do add up to significant savings: I now take packed lunches to work, shop for clothes on eBay, use the library rather than buying books, and consider a good cappuccino a treat rather than a daily necessity. It’s hardly extreme poverty living.
And I use a bike for transport.
Out of curiosity I did some rough sums the other day. Last year I spent a total of £350 on cycling; a comparatively expensive year because as well as the usual spares and repairs, I had to buy a new bike when mine was stolen.
And now to what I saved….
Let’s say I cycle to work an average of four days out of every five. And then use the bike at least once at the weekend for social stuff or shopping trips.
That’s 260 days a year, minus 20 days for holidays.
As a non-car owner, the very cheapest I could do those journeys would be £4 per day by bus, or £960 per year. Taking off the £350 I spent on the bike, still leaves an extra £50 or so in my pocket every month or £610 for the year.
People reading this who earn comparative fortunes will probably laugh in the face of these numbers. But to me, they mean a lot: significant steps towards peace of mind, and you can’t put a price on that.