|Burglar Bill: the friendly face of theft|
Don’t worry, I’m not about to nip round in a mask, carrying a bag marked ‘swag’, to raid your life savings.
It’s more that I was shocked by a news article I spotted yesterday, which reported that more than 16 million people in the UK have less than £100 in savings.
Less than £100!
That’s a whole lot of people without the cash to cope if the boiler blows up, or the car breaks down, or the washing machine gives up the ghost, or everyone grows out of their school shoes at the same time (sore point).
It’s a massive proportion of the population: 4 in 10 people of working age, according to the Money Advice Service, which carried out the research.
So millions and millions of people, 40% of the population, don’t have even £100 to call on in a disaster. Perhaps they have supportive family and friends. Perhaps they have the flexibility to slap it on a card. But maybe, if it came to it, they’d be well and truly stitched.
Saving isn’t only for the loaded
Now, I get that when finances are stretched to the breaking point, saving can be completely impossible. Rent or mortgage payments, childcare and debt repayments can wipe out any spare cash and more. Relationships break up, jobs end, landlords give notice. Without any savings, many of us are a few weeks from the streets.
But to me, the most interesting part of the research was that some low earners can and do save. Apparently, nearly a quarter of working-age adults earning less than £13,500 have £1,000 in savings, and 40% save every or most months.
Makes me think that saving is more of an attitude, a habit or personality trait. Sometimes saving can be possible, even when there isn’t much cash swilling around.
Not spending more than we earn
When it comes down to it, saving is about spending less than you earn. It’s not something that only kicks in once you hit a higher tax band, or fluke that Lottery win.
The Dickens quote from David Copperfield, with Mr Micawber’s recipe for happiness, is a cliche because it’s true:
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen and six, result happiness.
Annual income twent pounds, annual expenditure twent pounds ought and six, result misery.
Grasping that chance of happiness, we need to either spend less, or earn more. To quote a meerkat more recent than Micawber: simples.
Now I don’t search through yellow-stickered short-dated food, or find discount cinema tickets, or raid charity shops, just for the sake of it. I’m trying to manage our money to live within our income, have the most fun with the cash we have AND (and this is a big and) set some money aside for the future.
So coming back to the original question – where do you stand?
Maybe you have a room full of riches, salted away like Scrooge McDuck.
Maybe you’re scraping by, and can only dream of having £100 spare.
Maybe, like me, you’re somewhere in the middle. I’m guessing if you read this blog, about moving to the country, living on less and making the most of it, you probably do take care of your cash.
October savings challenge
I reckon saving doesn’t have to be difficult, it doesn’t have to be boring and it definitely doesn’t have to be all about deprivation.
So I’m setting myself the challenge this month of making small changes each day, in the hope of making a big difference.
Any extra money will help in the run up to Christmas. December is always a financial car crash for us, not just because of Christmas, but because of six (yes SIX) birthdays for immediate family in the month before, including my daughter, son and husband. Presents, parties, celebrations, the whole shebang.
I reckon I’m pretty thrifty normally, but can take it further. There are things I used to do, or don’t get round to, or perhaps of never thought of before, that could all count.
Anyone like to join me during October, to spend less, earn more, and see how it all adds up? Surely we can set aside £100 to combat the cost of Christmas.
Any top tips for small changes that make a big difference? I’d love to hear.