Dreams about becoming financially independent (and general thoughts about money)

Readers may note that this blog is named after a lyric from a Bob Dylan song, called ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’. At the bottom of this article, I’ll post the whole lyric. 

This song explains, better than I can, my thoughts about money in today’s society. Take ‘advertising signs they con/ you into thinking you’re the one/ who can do what’s never been done/ who can win what’s never been won.’ And then think about the last time you had an urge to buy something because it keeps popping up on your Facebook feed. 

Of course, there are no prizes for guessing the line in the song that grips me the most: 

‘Money doesn’t talk, it swears’.

JL Collins calls it ‘F-You’ money. The moment when you have enough money behind you to walk into your boss’s office and hand them your notice. When you don’t need them, you’re financially independent. 

Having that sort of money is the dream for almost everyone. Yet, it’s accessible to most of us. By thinking about what we are purchasing, lowering our expenses and saving the difference, we too can become financially independent. 

I’ve already explained that I’m very much at the start of this journey. I thought it would be a good idea to give you a bit of background about me. 

I wasn’t born into a well off family. We weren’t poor either. But my father was self-employed. Each day, he would come home and tell my mum how much he had taken. One year, when the UK was in a recession, I remember that nerves were fraught. Work was drying up. 

I’ve never asked him, but I don’t think my father is much of a saver. In any case, this part of my life shaped how I thought about money. 

When I started work, I never took stability for granted. I knew that loyalty between a company and employee counts for nothing. At any moment, I knew that I could be dispensed with. 

Of course, at 17 years old, although these thoughts tumbled around my head, I didn’t have the means to do anything about it. 

Actually, ignore that. I had the means, but I didn’t have the knowledge. I was more interested in nights out with my friends than a 10% return on my investments. Wouldn’t it have been great to have started investing way back then?

Money carries weight in this society. From big business to the man on the street, being financially stable is important.

Known for his turn of phrase, Bob Dylan has another quote that has a FIRE spin: ‘A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.

In a nutshell, that sums up financial independence to me. In however many years, I hope to be able to wake up when I want and to spend my time at my own will. I imagine I will still work at my freelance writing side hustle, but I won’t be a slave to 9-5 work.

Another not-financial-independence-related-but-I’ve-put-my-own-spin-on-it quote is from Charles Bukowski. At FIRE finishing school, they should give out a copy of his novel, Post Office, such is the drudge of working life which he describes. Factotum is the next step, which follows Bukowski’s semi-fictional self’s early writing life. My favourite quote is: “How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so? ”

This is why I want to become financially independent. So I can enrich my own life, rather than those at the top of the company chain.

Anyway, to play you out, here is Bob Dylan:

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more
Person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
what else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only

Bobdylan.com

Follow me on Twitter @swearingmoney

***The information contained herein does not constitute financial or other professional advice and is general in nature.
This post contains affiliate links.

How to Save Money: a few ideas

There is no greater feeling than having independence and the freedom to choose what you want to do when you wake up in the morning.

I’m not there yet and I’ve possibly got a long way to go. This is my long-term goal: to become financially independent. You might be saving money for a house, or saving money for a car. You might even be saving money to retire early. No matter what your goal is, there is always a reason to save money

Over the past year I’ve made some alterations to how I am saving money and I’m very pleased with the changes I have noticed. I have always been looking for simplicity, and now I think I’ve found it. 

This post will not go into any depth about tips on investments or what to do with the money once you have saved it. That’s a topic I will post about later. Instead, this piece will be about how to start saving money and my money saving tips.

If you are in debt, stop reading this post and read this one instead!

  • Keep a record of your expenses and outgoings: This one is really important. How can you reduce your spending when you don’t know where your money is going? I keep a spreadsheet with broad categories – such as ‘Entertainment’ or ‘Groceries’ – and I update it each month. Then I take a lot and see where my expenses are increasing and where and how I can save money.
  • Determine essential spending: You can save money anywhere: food bills, entertainment, home insurance. But sometimes spending money is essential and you have to admit that the price you’re paying doesn’t get any better. Take nappies for example: they’re expensive, but it’s essential my newborn baby has them (top money saving hack: we find the ones on Amazon good, or failing that Aldi (although the ones at Aldi sometimes aren’t a great fit)). People sometimes suggest reusable nappies. We’re not that hardcore yet!
  • Reduce your spending: My good friend was complaining that he never has any money. He orders a takeaway at least three times a week for his family. If that’s £60 a week, he’s spending over £3k a year on grease. He’s a nurse and earns about £30k. That’s 10% of his gross salary on takeaway food. You might’ve come here expecting a money saving plan. What’s the point? You’re almost certainly spending too much money on stuff you don’t really need. Extortionate gym membership? Expensive clothes? We don’t do that here. We tell you to stop spending money on things you probably don’t need. That’s our simple saving hack.
  • Increase your income: think of your personal finances as a business. You have expenses and you have income. The difference between the two is either a profit or a loss. To make a profit, a business will look to reduce expenses and increase earnings. You should do the same and balance the books. I’ll explore how to increase your income in another post, but some quick tips for now: ask your boss for a payrise, develop new skills and get a side hustle, look for a new job which pays more.
  • Automate your savings and pay yourself first: each month after I get paid, an amount goes straight from my current account to my ISA. This is the minimum that I’ll let myself save. Usually I top this up at the end of the month when I’ve worked out what hasn’t been spent. I want to forget about my savings and investments and make the process as simple as possible.
  • Ignore others: this is my motto. The Ferrari my neighbour drives? I would bet my ISA that it was bought on finance. The holiday that my friend took to Thailand? That was bought on a loan. I’m happy with my holidays in the UK and my cheap hatchback. My priority is to retire early.
  • Set short-term and long-term goals: I don’t judge people here. You might be saving for a new handbag or a new car. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you are realistic about your savings. It helps me to set a short-term saving goal. 25% of your salary a year is a good saving goal. That’s achievable for a lot of people and would put you in a really good position down the road. Long-term goals are a good idea too. Set your sites on something and go for it.

As you can see, saving should be simple. That’s not to say that it isn’t difficult. I often have to physically stop myself from buying things that I don’t need. Right now I’ve taken a break from looking at motorcycles I’d like to buy to write this blog post. Everyone is tempted to splurge out at some point, but try not to cave in and always remember your goals. 

People are often deterred from saving, as they feel they didn’t start early enough. It’s easy to get caught up in all the hype about Warren Buffett buying his first stocks when he was eleven. But remember point six above: ignore everyone else

I am against extreme frugality. I think people should enjoy comforts during their limited time on earth. Of course, excessive spending can mean you don’t get to spend time on your own terms. It’s a fine balance for sure. But if there is something I want to buy that will bring me genuine pleasure, I see no reason not to buy it. 

Let me tell you a story before you go. The other day, I was chatting to a business associate. He had just bought a Rolex on his credit card and was clearly proud of it. It cost him £12,000. Politely I showed an interest. Inside I was screaming. 

‘You should get one!’ He said. 

I nodded. 

In years past, owning a Rolex was something I aspired to. But ironically, now I want the time that the money could buy. 

I relayed the story back to my wife when I got home. 

I could buy a Rolex and not put it on a credit card. But I choose not to. Now how powerful is that?

What are your money saving tips? Let me know in the comments below!

Follow me on Twitter @swearingmoney

***The information contained herein does not constitute financial or other professional advice and is general in nature.
This post contains affiliate links.

An introduction to FIRE in the UK

I’ve written about clearing your debt. In my mind, that’s the most urgent thing for you to do, which is why I wrote about debt first. 

Any credit card debt or money owed for items bought on finance should be cleared as soon as possible. If you’re still paying a high interest rate on something, look at my last post. Your debt is slowly compounding and spiralling out of control as you read this post. 

Now I want to explain why I’m writing this blog.

I’m not your typical FIRE (financial independence, retire early) blogger. Usually, they have either a perfect past and any pound (or more common, dollar) earnt is invested wisely, leaving the author in a position to be financially independent in their 30’s. 

At the other end of the spectrum, the writer might have had debt up to their eyeballs. Everything they could, they bought on finance. The blog usually follows them clearing their debt first, and then their journey towards financial independence. 

And then there are those middle of the road types. I look around and I’m like so many of my friends and family. My financial position was probably similar to yours:

  • Late twenties/early thirties
  • Average income for the UK
  • About £5,000 of credit card debt
  • Nothing else purchased on finance, but no money saved

My biggest outgoings at the time were food and drinks on nights out. I could easily spend £100 on a night for drinks, food and a taxi home. I’d probably do that three times a month. Looking back, it was crazy. But my friends were doing it, so if I wanted to see them, this is what we did.

I wasn’t suddenly enlightened by the FIRE movement. I’d always wanted to retire early but without earning big money, I didn’t think it would be possible. Then I read an article in the Guardian, and learnt that I could in fact retire on my average salary. All I had to do was to be frugal. 

By this point, I’d cut out my credit card debt. As soon as it was cleared, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. 

I tracked my spending and made a few adjustments in order to boost my savings rate.

In this time, only a year or so ago and before our child was born, I was trying to find a blog about financial independence in the UK. The Reddit FIRE UK thread was brilliant, and Mr Money Mustache’s forum has a sub-forum for the UK, but otherwise I couldn’t find anything that fit my requirements. Everything was geared towards to the United States.

This website hopes to fill that gap. A blog about FIRE aimed at readers in the UK, but I hope it is also helpful for people around the world. 

Enjoy!

Follow me on Twitter @swearingmoney

***The information contained herein does not constitute financial or other professional advice and is general in nature. This post contains affiliate links.