Saturday, 10 January 2015

Nobody's immune

Hello and welcome to all my new page likers!  Thank you so much for stopping by.  Most people tend to fall into one of two categories - either they know me through my writing but don't know me personally, or they know me personally but not anything about my writing.  Those who have followed my blog or read the $21 Challenge before will know already that saving money is my thing, whereas those of you who say hi to me in the street or message me on Facebook may well be thinking 'What the hell is she doing?  And why is she confessing to all and sundry that she only has $6 to feed herself?  Isn't that a tad embarrassing?!'

Actually nope, not at all.  Look at Jack Monroe.  Look at the massive number of people she has helped all over the world because she was brave enough to stand up and say 'My son and me are surviving on ten quid a week'.  Did people think 'God, what a loser!'  Hell no, they saw her as a fighter, as a survivor. Because everywhere you go people are struggling.  You just don't hear about them because they don't like to admit it. They don't want people to think they're 'bad with money' or haven't got their shit together.  A lot of the time it's their own fault they don't have enough money - but a lot of the time it isn't.  Yet they're too scared to say because in even in today's open minded society people are still far more comfortable talking about their sex lives than their financial woes.  Some people are comfortable talking about their finances - as long as you don't know it's THEM, e.g. on a public Forum or blog under a user name.  Which was why writing under the name Penny Wise for so many years was rather nice.

Talking of Penny, you may well be wondering, how on earth did I get into this situation?  Me of all people, money saving guru of the last 10 years?  Well that's another reason I started this blog.  If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone.  In my case, my marriage broke up and I bought a house which used up every cent I had.  I was conscious I didn't have any savings to fall back on but I carried on blindly because I believed that life would continue as it always had.  Then my work hours were cut and before I had the chance to find alternative employment I fell very sick and was unable to work for two whole months. When you're self employed you don't get sick pay and with no savings or emergency fund, I was quite frankly buggered.  You might be thinking 'don't you have some kind of income protection insurance?'  Yes, I do.  Sore point.  That's a whole other blog.

So there you go.  That sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen to me but it did.  And things like that happen to people around us all the time which is why I decided to shed Penny's protective cloak and write as me.  Because the one good thing about being in this horrible situation is that if there's anyone who knows how to get themselves out of it, it's me.  And somewhere, someone else reading this may have even less than $6.35 to feed themselves with and me sharing my story, my progress and the countless ways I have learned how NOT to spend might just help them as much as me.  I was amazed recently when I told a friend of mine how I had been making soup from a leftover cooked chicken carcass, one of the cheapest meals I know.  She told me that once upon a time she had been so poor when someone gave her bones for her dog, she used them to make soup to feed the family.  I was close to tears.  And I thought I had it tough.  The great thing is, she got herself out of that awful situation with sheer hard work, determination and a lot of savvy money saving skills.  She is one of the main people inspiring me in my mission.  If she can do it, there is hope for me.  I haven't had to pinch the dog's dinner yet but there are a lot of people who have and they are all around us.

The other thing I want is for people to learn from my situation that saving money really IS important. Nobody is immune.  Nobody is indispensable.  You could be in a job for 25 years but your boss could still go bankrupt tomorrow or have a dreadful water skiiing accident and have to close the company. Doesn't matter if you're 20, 40 or 60 it can still happen.  If I had thought I was ever going to be in this situation I would have stashed away every spare dollar from the time I was 20!  But hindsight is a wonderful thing.  For any young people reading this blog, and I know there are quite a few of you - SAVE, OK?  Don't be dicks with your money.  Be smart, don't spend it all on booze and pizza and you'll never get caught short or unprepared when the shit hits the fan. You can thank me later.

Anyway, that's the past, now you know why I'm here.  Back to the present and I have two days to go and still haven't spend any of my $6.35!  Although I will have to give in and buy a loaf of bread today but that's only $1.  I do have to confess meals are somewhat interesting though.  I had a few sausages I was saving to make a meal and an abundance of baked beans (thank you Foodbank) and remembered a recipe I had seen years ago in Sophie Gray's brilliant 'Stunning Food from Small Change'.  This cookbook literally cut my food bill in half when I first started using it. Granted I had a lot more money to spend on food back then but I had a vague memory of seeing 'Sausage and Bean Casserole' amongst its pages and dug it out.  It was super easy to make and along with mashed spuds and beans from the garden made plenty to feed the boys while I was at work until 1am.  I told myself that it was much like Devilled Sausages, although my tastebuds still told me that they tasted of exactly what it was; sausages and baked beans mixed together.  OK, so it wasn't something you would serve up to posh guests but for two teenage boys it would do.  Alas they were also unimpressed.  'Dinner was - characteristic last night!' Ali said with a chuckle.  'Oh yeah, that was yuk!' Liam chipped in a little less subtly.  Unfortunately that did not surprise me!  Still you have to try these things to know and out of the many, many Sophie Gray recipes I have tried over the years this is the very first not to result in a family favourite so I'm still not complaining.  It filled two large teenage tummies and didn't cost me a cent.  Dinner tonight is venison steak from the freezer, courtesy of Ali the hunter and then I just have one more day to get through and I will have survived on my $6.35!  In addition I have also managed to pay the vet $100 of what I owe and my car is now legally on the road. A pretty good start to Operation Hellhole I must say!


  1. Thank you for your first Blog Jackie, once again you are an inspiration.

  2. I just know that this will be a life-saver for people who are struggling. It makes the impossible ....well......possible.

    I second your advice for young people to have savings. Always have an emergency fund, because emergencies actually happen sometimes.

  3. Life can throw us curve balls and it pays to have some money saved. I enjoyed this post, keep writing!

  4. What a sobering post Jackie. You've sure been through the mill. I'm glad to see that you're finding your feet. I've always thought that everything happens for a reason. I bet you find you'll just go from strength to strength now.

  5. Can we subscribe to this Blog to get it via e-mail? I always forget to read my Blogs otherwise (sorry J). :)