Five years ago Ann Wise took early retirement from her job to downsize, sold her modest home in London and moved to the country to follow her dream to train to be an artist. She thought that her pension and savings would see her through her retirement years. The change in the economic climate found Ann worrying about money and realising she no longer had the option of being 59 and retired.
‘My savings had dropped dramatically in the last two years along with my personal pension that was paid three monthly. Yes, I had paid for my home in full and didn’t have a mortgage to worry about but even day to day expenses were giving me sleepless nights. The rise in fuel bills meant that I went through the winter without having my heating on all day – I just added more layers of clothing and went for brisk walks to keep warm and active. I did worry that I should not have decided to downsize my life and leave my job so early.
Pay As You Go
I made some New Year resolutions to save as much money as possible and rather than get depressed about the situation I sat and made a list of all of my outgoings. I did consider changing my gas and electric meters so that I bought my fuel as I needed it but a quick check with suppliers made me realise that buying it this way was more expensive. Instead I opened a savings account and put the money away each week as I used the fuel. I moved my bed to the smaller bedroom, hung the thickest curtains and put rugs from other rooms on top of my fitted carpet. I also took bedding from the spare bed and put two blankets under my bottom sheet. Over the top of my duvet I added a second spare duvet. I then went to bed wearing a woolly hat to keep my head warm and also a thick pair of socks. Apart from when the weather turned to snow or an icy wind blew I was really snug without the heating running.
During my walks I found branches that had fallen from trees and collected them to carry home. To begin with I had thought of having the fireplace in my living room opened up so that I could burn my free wood supply. A friend introduced me to a website called Freecycle where I could give away unwanted items to declutter my home. While browsing I found that someone wanted to get rid of an old wood burning stove. My young neighbour kindly collected it for me and we cleaned it up and black leaded it before paying someone to install it. The cost was nominal and I used the money left from my fuel saving venture to pay for the installation. The stove was so efficient that I found I could leave the door to the living room open and the heat kept the whole house comfortable at night. An added bonus was that the stove had a small hotplate on the top. If felt strange at first but by making a stew or casserole in one pot and having it simmering on the wood burning stove in my living room I saved on gas I would have used to cook my meals.
I started to visit charity shops for the odd household item and also found some very nice pieces of clothing at really reasonable prices. While visiting one charity shop for a children's charity I spotted an advertisement asking for voluntary workers to teach art workshops. So, for one day each week I taught my hobby to young people and their parents. This got me away from home for a while and I also met lots of interesting people. During one of our exhibitions of students' work, I had hung a few of my own paintings of local views and I found people showing interest and asking to buy them. This led to my having my work hung in a local tourist office and the library and increasing my income from a few very good sales.
I know I shall always have to watch the pennies as will a lot of people but I can go forward into my retirement years knowing that by watching the pennies now I am keeping my savings for a later date. I realise now that one has to think more about the future when one decides to downsize but it can still be done and enjoyed.’