We are taught to strive for more: bigger house, bigger salary, more possessions. More, more, more. And there is absolute nothing wrong with that. But what happens if financial wealth isn’t your goal? Katie Watkins has recently sacrificed disposable income and instead opted to be skint. Here she talks through whys and wherefores of that decision, including being raised from humble beginnings.

  • Money’s a funny thing isn’t it? Some people say ‘the best things in life are free’ and ‘money isn’t important’. But on the other hand it really is. We need money to survive. Everything requires money – sure the love of your family and friends is free, but what about that roof over your head that you’re so lucky to have? That costs money. It’s no wonder so many of us have such complex relationships with it.

  • Personally, I’ve lived and seen both ends of the spectrum. I grew up with nothing, earned a good amount in my early twenties and then went back to living with nothing (though this time through choice), so I’ve pretty much come full circle.

  • I’ll take you back to the beginning though, because after all, my past is what moulded my present.

  • My early memories of childhood are good ones. We were the kids on the street who had it all. We were the house whose garden you wanted to play in. The one you wanted to sleepover at. We were the kids kitted out with new Kickers each school term while other kids had holes in their shoes. 

  • We lived in a deprived area, in a council house, so we weren’t rich by any means – we just had more than most people on the estate. My Mam would call us in from the garden (we weren’t allowed to play in the street) and we’d be in bed by 7.30 listening to the sounds of the other kids still having fun outside. Some people thought my Mam was a bit stuck up and a snob. But no one could argue with the fact that she was a brilliant wife and mother.

  • In August 1997, I distinctly remember watching the news and seeing that Princess Diana had died. I was only 8 at the time but I remember running into the kitchen shouting ‘Mam, Mam! Princess Diana is dead!’. ‘Don’t be so bloody stupid!’ was her retort. My Mam was very much a vision of health at that time.

  • Flash forward to early December 1997 and we lost my beautiful Mother to stomach cancer. It was quick and aggressive and she was just 35 when she died. My Dad was a wreck, suddenly left to raise an 8, 6 and 5 year old on his own. He was clueless. He was the bread-winner. He didn’t know how to look after 3 young children, how to cook, how to run a house…

  • As you can imagine the burden on him quickly took it’s toll. He tried to drown his grief with alcohol and constantly moved us from house to house looking for a ‘fresh start’. I don’t blame my Dad. I love him to pieces and I can’t imagine ever having to go through what he did. Yes, I lost my Mam and growing up as a girl without a mother is a whole other tale of grief. But being at the point I am now in my life? I can’t imagine losing my husband at such a young age. My Dad was 33 – just 3 years older than I am now. I can’t even comprehend losing my husband and being left to raise 3 small children alone. 

  • So to put it mildly, he struggled a great deal. He had to give up work. He struggled with his mental health and he has battled alcoholism ever since. It quite literally destroyed him. Even though he’s in a good place now and in a good relationship, the undealt with grief is still there, bubbling away under the surface. 

  • But back to money – we had none. We left most of our possessions behind each time we moved and my clothes were usually hand-me-downs from friends or part of my £200 Christmas budget. Yep, I had a budget! My Dad would assign each of us £200 for Christmas and £50 for birthdays each year to buy whatever we wanted. I would spend hours leading up to Christmas circling things in the Argos catalogue, adding them to my list, totting up my total on a calculator and editing it each time I found something new I wanted instead.

  • I remember the weekly food shops. We lived a good half hour walk away from the supermarket (if you were a fast walker!) but each week all of us would walk there with Dad, do the shopping and each carry a bag or two the long walk home because Dad didn’t drive and there was no way we were wasting money on a taxi.

  • School trips were not something we did – unless they were free or highly subsidised. I did get to go on a Maths trip for free once though, because I was in top set! School dinners were also free. I remember selling my dinner tickets and saving the money I made, making myself a packed lunch instead. I also remember collecting ‘freebies’ and samples and building little gift basket hampers that I would ‘raffle’ off to neighbours in order to make myself some extra pennies.

  • Growing up with nothing, I learnt how to be frugal, how to make money stretch and how to do things as cheaply as possible. I probably could’ve just as easily turned to crime – as many people on the estates we grew up in did. But somehow, despite all the shit he went through, my Dad raised us right.

  • As soon as I turned 15, I got myself a weekend job. It was £3 an hour working in a supermarket cafe and I got seriously taken advantage of – scrubbing down industrial sized greasy ovens while all my colleagues had yet another fag break… but I didn’t care. I was earning money, and it was mine.

  • When I completed my A Levels I decided not to go to University. I got a job and did my AAT qualification around it – deciding that Accounts and Finance was where the money was, so that’s what I was going to do!

  • Flash forward a few more years and aged 22 I had settled down with a boyfriend, moved cities for him and in the process got myself a £10k pay rise. I was earning nearly £30k a year – more money than I’d ever known and with his salary combined we were taking home over £50k. 

  • As tends to happen with increases in income – lifestyle inflation. Suddenly we were driving better cars, renting a house in a ridiculously pricey area in Bristol and taking holidays to New York and Las Vegas. My ex was a very materialistic person – all Ralph Lauren clothes and expensive golfing equipment – even though he was in shed loads of debt.

  • We decided to save up for a house while he was paying off his debt management plan and waiting for all the black marks against his name to fall off with time. And reserved a plot on a new build development on a marina. The flat we reserved was a tiny 2 bed and we had an offer accepted of £240k (which is actually cheap for prices in that area now!). The mortgage would’ve been over £1200 a month, before ground rent and all the other bills. 

  • Thankfully, we broke up a few months before we completed in January 2013 and the only thing I lost was half the reservation fee of £500. Lesson learned.

  • I decided to move back to Wales with my Dad, give up my job and take a steep pay cut to be back on the right side of the bridge. Unfortunately due to naivety or even stupidity on my part, I had a few thousand pounds of credit card debt. My ex was blacklisted so couldn’t get credit, so everything was taken out in my name. And he left me to pay it on my own when we broke up too. What a guy!

  • Later that year in October 2013, I met my now Husband. And our life together since has been a whirlwind. In 2014 we moved in together, 2015 he proposed, 2016 we got married and 2017 we bought our house and had a baby. 

  • Nowadays, I’m not materialistic at all. The debt is all gone (thank god!) and we bought a house in the Valleys so our Mortgage is low. I climbed back up the career ladder and was earning good money before I went on maternity leave. 

  • But then I decided to go back to work part time. And my husband decided to go to University full time to be a student paramedic. Which leads us to now. I’m earning less than half of what I once did and we are okay.

  • My wage is enough to cover the essentials and my husbands bursary covers the rest (just). If we need anything more or want anything that’s not in the budget then we ‘side hustle’ the money. Which is what my blog is all about.

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply