Reflecting over a hot cuppa

DSCF3884 - CopyI’m not well today, so picture me typing this all wrapped up, with a hot lemony drink close at hand and a serious case of the ‘fuzzy head’.

I’ve just finished work for a week, and it’s one of those times when one’s body decides this would be a great opportunity to get sick.

As a result, this prose may not be my most dazzling, but being ill does force you to pause for a moment, pushing all but the most urgent tasks back for a few days.

So this evening I’m reflecting on the couple of weeks since my last post, when I told you all about the new website I set up, Simplicity Voices.

It started off with some really helpful and encouraging comments from you all, including advice on what to tweak and which articles I might want to feature at some point.

Then things went a little crazy. The site was mentioned as one of Joshua Becker’s recommendations in his regular Inspiring Simplicity: Weekend Reads segments over at Becoming Minimalist.

As far as I know, Joshua hadn’t heard of me a fortnight ago but obviously someone’s kind words reached him, and here we are.

Now, I have huge admiration for Joshua and his blog. In my eyes, the guy is basically a minimalism rock star.

And it turns out lots of other people hang on his every word too because within the space of a few hours, thousands and thousands of people had gone over to Simplicity Voices to check it out.

When I cottoned on what was happening, I was just about to go out for a meal with my wife and my in-laws.

I panicked and immediately thought there wouldn’t be enough articles featured on my site yet, so threw a few more up in a rush and hurried out of the door.

Well, that was about as good an idea as it sounds. Luckily some kind soul emailed me to say my links weren’t working and I was able to fix it a few hours later. Viral fail.

But the huge response I got was a very humbling reminder that I am not alone: that there is a massive appetite out there for getting back to a slower way of life.

Here are thousands of people rejecting the assumption that you should work as hard as you can for 50 years to fund ever-increasing markers of success.

So thank you all, because without those initial words of encouragement, I wouldn’t be here, looking at a website that has got almost as many hits in a week as Want Less has had in over a year.

A website that chimes with people looking for another way.

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Introducing Simplicity Voices

It’s time to confess a secret.

I’ve been working on a little project for the past few months. It’s a new website, which I hope you’re going to like.

Simplicity Voices will (hopefully!) be a well-designed place where people can drop by to be pointed towards the best articles on the web about minimalism, happiness and slowing down.

It will be a one-stop-shop for that little bit of inspiration or motivation you might need.


In effect, I’m creating this for myself. I’ve been devouring loads of different sites and blogs over the past couple of years, discovering great articles written by people doing some really exciting things.

But I was thinking it would be great if there was a little portal showcasing the very best. After all, if we’re busy rediscovering those simple pleasures in life, we don’t want to spend hours and hours in front of a screen, right?

To be honest, I had been in two minds about setting this new site up at all, for that very reason.

It may not look it (!) but my blog Want Less actually takes a fair bit of work – maintaining its social media accounts, writing blog posts, taking bad stock photos – so I had been a bit reluctant to spend even longer each week in front of my computer in my spare time.

I also don’t make any money from my blogging (nor do I expect to), so this is literally how I’m choosing to spend my leisure time. I am aware of the irony, when I’m often writing about logging off from the screens and getting out more.

With this in mind, I’m keeping this new website really simple. No comments, no social media accounts, no GIFs of Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air doing that awesome dance. Just pretty pictures (i.e. not taken by me!) linking you straight through to a well-curated set of articles.

This resource should grow over time so eventually you’ll be able to search for your particular niches: minimalism for cats, simplifying your toes, whatever.

And as for Want Less, that will be carrying on as normal.

I’d love to know what you think of Simplicity Voices. Check it out and let me know. And if you do like it, please do spread the word. At the time of writing, it’s had about five hits – four from me and one from my other half…I’m sure we can at least double that before Christmas.

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The Millennial Money Rebellion begins here


Right, prepare for some fighting talk.

In the UK, people born in the early 1980s – my age group – are being utterly fucked, financially, according to a new study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Ok, so I’m paraphrasing, but we are the first wave of this ‘screwed generation’ everyone’s been talking about since the recession.

And it’s not just the recession’s fault. Essentially, stagnating wages, Britain’s out-of-control housing boom (meaning young people are stuck renting) and the elimination of generous defined-benefit pension schemes are to blame.

The average wealth of someone like me, in their mid-30s, is about £27,000, but those born a decade earlier had twice as much money at our age, according to the study.

It’s clear successive governments have failed to help us, because they’re too busy appeasing older people who tend to be more likely to vote.

No-one will help us, so we have to help ourselves. It’s time for the MILLENNIAL MONEY REBELLION.

Here’s my (slightly controversial) battle plan:


We need to stop worrying about what other people think

Social media drives a really unhealthy life-comparison habit. If you ‘can’t afford’ to pay into a pension, you CAN’T AFFORD that stay in an over-water chalet in the Maldives, no matter how Instagrammable it is.

Superpower gained: FRUGALITY

Everyone born after 1980 should move out of the south-east of England

It’s way too expensive and we can’t afford that shit. Move up north, where houses can be picked up for less than £100,000. Yes, wages are slightly lower outside London but living costs are WAY lower.

Superpower gained: FLEXIBILITY

Newcastle-Gateshead. Doesn't look so bad, does it?
Newcastle-Gateshead. Doesn’t look so bad, does it?

Ditch the credit cards and car loans

We need to stop living off credit, full stop. It is not helping us in the slightest. Buy the car you can afford with the money you have. Yes, it will probably be a piece of crap. Suck it up. Think of the rebellion.

Superpower gained: INDEPENDENCE

Bank some serious cash

Cut your living expenses to the bone and stash your money like mad. If you’re not a homeowner already, throw it in a Help To Buy ISA. If you are, a Lifetime ISA (which launches next year) will also be a good bet.

Superpower gained: WILLPOWER

Buy a small, cheap house as quickly as you can

There’s no debate in the UK about whether buying or renting is best for your bank balance. Renting costs are out of control, as the study clearly shows. Yes, I know, buying your first home is harder than ever. So forget about buying an adorable new-build house with a picket fence and pick up something you can afford with a small deposit. Then, try to pay off the mortgage as quickly as you can.


Take out a workplace pension, even if it’s not a very good one

If you work in the public sector, you might still have a decent pension. But for those in the private sector, don’t despair. Paying into any pension is MILES better than not doing so at all. Take full advantage of any employer match. Bonus points for boning up about the stock market so you can make an informed decision about how to invest your pension.

Superpower gained: FORESIGHT

Harness our strengths

We are some pretty grizzled people. The smackdown from the global recession hit our generation square-on, and only gave baby-boomers a glancing blow. But we have more of one key resource than they do: time. We will only benefit from this if we put our money away NOW and leave it to multiply without touching it. The days of spending all your paycheque are over. Save and invest, for the sake of the Millennial Money Rebellion.

Superpower gained: COMPOUNDING

Learn from the enemy

I’m being flippant: individual baby-boomers aren’t the enemy. They might be your parents. Learn from them. Get to know what they know about money. Heck, even live in their spare room if you have to. Tell them about the problems you face – they might have solutions you could try. Tell them to support policies that help younger generations. And for God’s sake, vote yourself.

Superpower gained: STRONG ALLIES

We SHALL overcome. Who’s with me?


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Debt-busting challenge: the halfway mark

At the beginning of this year, when the mornings were still crisp and most of our celebrities were still alive, I made a solemn vow to you, dear reader.

The vow was that I would step up my game and pay off my debts faster so I would be rid of them within 18 months.

We’re halfway through that challenge so I thought now would be a good time to give you an update.

The good news is I’m (pretty much, if I squint at the graph) on target!

It’s been a tough few months, with some points where I simply despaired. Take yesterday, for instance, when my car was in the garage for not one but two faults while simultaneously at home, the kitchen sink decided to stop draining. (We successfully unblocked it ourselves – woop! – but in the process created a new leak – sigh)

Meanwhile, the dog is on expensive medication for the foreseeable future and the seemingly everlasting pay freeze at my work is going on another year.

But what the universe takes with one hand, it gives with the other.

A few months ago I got a surprise cheque through the post for a few hundred quid, from a bank I borrowed some money from a few years back. Turns out, it had made some admin error and as an apology, it was refunding most of the interest I had paid on the loan. After a few days fantasising about a massive blow-out trip somewhere, I eventually did the right thing and put it towards my debt mountain. You, dear reader, would rightly have given me hell if I hadn’t.

So here’s how the last few months (in red) have gone:


This week, I passed a major milestone, getting my debts to below £3,000 for the first time in what must be over a decade. It means my debts are now four-fifths destroyed.

I now have just one debt:  a credit card on a 0% interest deal.

And it feels great. I do feel like a weight is being lifted off my shoulders, and if something dire happens like I lose my job, the minimum repayments are less than £75 a month so there would be no impending disaster.

I start to scare myself if I think back to the time when my debts were at their height and my minimum payments were hundreds of pounds a month. This meant I was often robbing Peter to pay Paul, and in the background the interest on the debts quietly started to spiral.

But while psychologically I feel far happier and more in control, in reality things are not getting easier. I’m still having to make major sacrifices each and every month, without fail, because of my poor decisions many years ago.

It’s often said that minimalism is a helpful tool for those crippled by debt because they can a) sell their stuff to generate some cash and b) nip those damaging shopping trips in the bud.

In my experience, I’ll have to be honest: that hasn’t really been the case. I was never one for shopping for Gucci handbags and of the stuff I have got rid of, very little had any resale value.

The fact is, I had little to show for my debts. My spending was driven by more nebulous things – post-graduate courses, too many nights out, no appreciation of the importance of shopping around.

But there has been an overlap in one sense. Getting rid of my clutter (most of it utter crap) and getting rid of my debts has left my life lighter, physically and metaphorically. When once I couldn’t sleep for the panic attacks, now I quite frequently catch myself enjoying a strange sense of…contentment.

But I’m not done yet. I’m not done with my debts and I’m not done with my stuff.

I’ve been taking both purges slow-and-steady and I’m fine with that. My first priority was to be kind to myself. I didn’t want to embark on an outburst of enthusiastic self-flagellation as punishment for my former sins. That would have been no good for me, at a time when my emotional state was so fragile.

So yes, I’ve taken my time. But the end is in sight and I can’t wait.

I’d love to hear about anyone else paying down debts – how do you stay motivated?

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Giving a stiff upper lip a kick up the rear: the real meaning of stoicism

romansmallWhat goes through your mind when you hear the word ‘stoical’?

For me, it conjured up images of a stiff-upper-lip approach to life: putting up with things you shouldn’t, in a slightly joyless yet smug fashion. Definitely someone you wouldn’t want to go to the pub with.

But it turns out the meaning has been corrupted over the centuries and back when folk wore togas, it was the name of a pretty interesting philosophy.

The bare bones seem to be:

  • Learning to be content with (and even crave) the things you already have
  • Recognising when you’re worrying about things you can’t influence
  • Embracing discomfort as a way to broaden your comfort zone

In other words, being an utter life-ruling badass.

On this blog over the past year or so, I’ve been exploring ways to beat stress, spend less and enjoy life a little more. Turns out, people have been working on this for thousands of years. (This blog has a long way to go)

Now, I imagine there will be a lot more to Roman stoicism than my horrendously simplified, Google-inspired bullet points, so I’ve enrolled on a free, week-long crash course during Stoic Week (17th-23rd October, 2016). It promises to teach people ways to fit old stoical ideas into modern life. Sounds pretty good to me.

For now, I’ll leave you with three quotes from one of the big-boss stoics, Seneca, who sounds like one chilled-out motherchuffer:

“Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realise how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.”

“It is not the man who has too little that is poor, but the one who hankers after more.”

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”

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Ethical shopping (and other meanderings)


bananassmlCasting your vote in the supermarket

There’s a saying that every time you make a purchase, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.

It’s a nice thought, but kind of a terrifying one. That is a whole lot of responsibility to face up to, right there.

I’ve gone through phases of buying ethical products, but for the last few years that had fallen by the wayside as I concentrated on reducing my mountain of debt.

Sometimes, when you’re facing a financial catastrophe, you have to make some tough choices. That meant my well-meaning weekly box of organic veg had to go, replaced by cheap-as-you-can-get produce from Asda (US folks, read Walmart).

Now I’m nearly done clambering out of my debt spiral, I’ve been trying to get back into being a more thoughtful consumer.

Today at the supermarket we made an effort and bought things like FairTrade bananas, free-range and organic chicken, eco-friendly laundry detergent and carbon-neutral peanut butter.

And yes, the bill was a little more expensive.

But as I was going round the shop,  I was disappointed to see that some of the ethical alternatives they used to stock are no longer on the shelves. I guess people had stopped buying them. People like me.

What if the world turned minimalist?

Check out this great new collective post over at Mostly Mindful about whether everything would go to hell in a handcart if we all turned minimalist.

Some big names pitched in on this question, like Colin Wright of Exile Lifestyle and Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch, so I was honoured to be asked for my two-pence-worth.

An ominous letter

I got a note pushed through my door the other day, telling me to pick up a letter at the Post Office which I had to sign for. When I went to collect it, the envelope had the ominous word ‘police’ on the front of it.

Crap, I thought, my first speeding ticket. (The slightly judgey expression from the man behind the counter told me he had come to the same conclusion)

But when I opened it up, it was a note saying a police station had the bag, wallet and phone I lost 200 miles away back in April.

I don’t know how or even if I will pick it up (it is still 200 miles away, and I’ve replaced all the stuff) but it’s nice to know there are decent folk out there who decided to hand it in – even if they did inexplicably sit on it for five months beforehand.

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In praise of wasting time

DSCF4010If you’re like me, and spend lots of time checking out blogs, podcasts and books about how to make positive changes to your life, you may find one word cropping up time and time again: productivity.

We’re told if we buckle down, we can fit our working week into less time. If we allot our leisure time properly, we can do all those hobbies we’ve never got around to. If we want more money, we can build up side-hustles while holding down a nine-to-five.

Beat distraction. Beat procrastination. Beat laziness. Do more, better, faster.

Now that’s all great. And if you master all the productivity tricks out there, then more power to you.

But does anyone else just get tired at even the thought of all this?

A few weeks ago, I had a really bad day at work. Really bad. So bad, I just wanted to forget all about it…but couldn’t. I ended up stuck in a cycle of pointless fretting.

Do you know what broke me out of it? Trashy TV. Hours of it. It’s not a habit I indulge very often, but that day, it worked for me. And I feel not a jot of guilt about that.

A couple of years back, I was drawn to ideas like minimalism and simplicity because I felt overwhelmed. I wanted to do and have less. To create space in my life for…well, sometimes, nothing at all.

Sure, lots of people use meditation or mindfulness to get a break from the stresses of modern life. I go to a guided meditation class every couple of weeks and always feel far better for it.

But in a weird way, it’s still work. It’s structured, it has rules. You can’t start throwing cushions at the person next to you. (Although you’d probably get told off really gently)

There is something to be said for completely unstructured time. No goals. No expectations. It’s refreshingly freeing.

So I don’t feel guilty if I lie in bed instead of taking a wholesome hike on a weekend morning. I don’t worry if hours of my day slip by and I’m not exactly sure how I filled them. I don’t agonise if I sit down with a beer when there’s still a pile of ironing to get through.

My advice is to be lazy every now and again. Allow yourself the luxury of accomplishing absolutely nothing. There should be no guilt in the pleasure of wasting time.

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Podcasts that will make you a boss at life

condensation1I’ve made a fair few changes to my life in the past few years.

But if there’s one change I’ve made to my daily routine that has boosted my happiness more than any other, it’s listening to podcasts while I’m driving to work.

Commuting is the worst kind of dead time, especially if you’re driving, as it’s really not the done thing to, say, read the paper at the same time.

But I made this pretty straightforward change to my routine a few months ago and I’m still absolutely loving it.

Podcasts are just better than the radio, because you have that much more control over what you listen to. I find that they a) take my mind off the fact I’m heading into the office (boo! hiss!), b) introduce me to loads of new and interesting discussions and c) act as a great motivator, getting me fired up to take action on the issue of the day, whether it be the refugee crisis or sorting your socks.

Here are some of my favourites but I’d love to get any other recommendations because I am going through these at a fair old rate!

TED Radio Hour
In a nutshell: It’s a universal fact that everyone loves TED talks. Even the snobby people who sneer at them secretly love them, but just don’t want to admit it. This takes a few talks on a similar topic as a stepping-off point for a big discussion.
If you listen to one episode, make it: Maslow’s Human Needs

Afford Anything
Formerly known as The Money Show, this makes personal finance loads of fun, from interviews with people who make a living selling second-hand finds on eBay to discussions on how to reach that Holy Grail of financial independence (aka super-early retirement). It’s fronted by Paula Pant of the Afford Anything blog and earlier episodes were co-hosted by J Money of Budgets Are Sexy. Personally, I preferred these earlier episodes because the two had a great double-act going on.
If you listen to one episode, make it: The Habits We Use to Grow Wealth

Death, Sex and Money
This is my other half’s favourite podcast. It’s a really gossipy, open chat between host Anna Sale and the guest of the day, from A-list actors to normal people with an extraordinary tale to tell. And the things you learn are just eye-opening. (‘He asked you to do what at gay conversion therapy??!’, ‘Jeff Daniels earned how much less than Jim Carrey for Dumb and Dumber??!’)
If you listen to one episode, make it: Falling In Love…With Heroin

The Mind Palace
Ah, it’s great to hear a proper regional British accent on a lifestyle podcast. Melissa Cain, from up Sunderland way, joins Jessica Lynn Williams, who seems to flit between idyllic coastal US locations, in a weekly transatlantic chat about minimalism, living sustainably and lots more. Sometimes esoteric, sometimes silly, always a good listen.
If you listen to one episode, make it: Waste

The podcast that made podcasting famous, the first series of Serial is quite simply excellence in journalism. I have yet to listen to the second round, which seems to divide opinions a little more.
If you listen to one episode make it: S1 E1 The Alibi. After that you will be hooked anyway.

Good Life Project
Ok, so this one may be a bit earnest for some, but I like it. Imagine the kind of personal development workshops you might find at an eco music festival between the falafel stall and the fair-trade scarves and you’re kinda halfway there.
If you listen to one episode, make it: Karan Bajaj On Yearlong Sabbaticals and Real Jobs

This American Life
Another giant in the podcasting world here. Each week there’s a topic and various segments which riff off it.
If you listen to one episode, make it: Are We There Yet? (Haunting accounts from refugee camps in Greece)

The Minimalists
This podcast may seem a little repetitive if you’re as familiar with The Minimalists’ blog, books, film, talks and interviews as I am, but there are still nuggets of wisdom in these discussions worth hanging on for.
If you listen to one episode, make it: Documentaries

10% Happier
Sceptical TV news reporter Dan Harris had a panic attack live on air and realised he needed to make some changes. He was surprised to find meditation helped him and wrote a book about it called 10% Happier. A nicely bullshit-free look at the world of ‘striving for enlightenment…whatever that means’.
If you listen to one episode, make it: RuPaul

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Capsule wardrobes, fast fashion and a surprise from an old holiday photo


OK, so here’s a question: how long is it appropriate to keep an item of clothing for?

I ask, because today I was flicking through some old holiday snaps and came across one from 2013, when my wife and I were on holiday in France with some friends.

In the photo, I was wearing a grey t-shirt. I looked down to see I was wearing the exact same t-shirt, three years on.

I was partly horrified and partly impressed. The t-shirt no longer looks brand new, as you might imagine, but it’s…fine. It covers me up and stops me from getting arrested when I step out of the front door.

Mostly, I wasn’t that surprised to discover how long I had owned it for. I tend to be a person who keeps hold of their clothing until holes appear, rather than until the next fashion season hits. I like saving money and I hate waste, so this just makes sense to me.

But that holiday snap piqued my curiosity.  I started looking through photos from other trips, seeing how far back I could go and find items of clothing I still own today. I got to 2012, in Iceland, when I found myself in a purple, woollen winter coat which is still hung up in the house. Now this coat does look worn now. The lining is coming apart in places and I’ll probably replace it before next winter.

But in other photos, I found myself thinking, ‘I liked that top. Why did I get rid of it?’

I was actually surprised to find that most of the clothes – even ones I was wearing last year or the year before – had actually disappeared from my wardrobe.

So, if I tend to wear all my clothes to death, why was this?

I have a theory.

Firstly, I have been trying to create a capsule wardrobe and getting rid of everything I don’t absolutely love. For it to stay, it has to a) fit, b) suit me, c) not have any holes, stains or defects and d) be something I like to wear.

This means I have got rid of a fair few items of clothing in the past year or two, by either donating quality items or binning raggedy ones. I hadn’t really had a huge wardrobe to begin with anyway, so all my stuff now fits on about seven or eight hangers, two large drawers and two boxes for shoes.

It meant that t-shirts I was keeping for sentimental reasons also went. You know the kind: the ones you buy at gigs, or a celebrity has signed for you, or you get given after completing a charity fun-run. A quick photograph, then off they went.

Secondly, the fact that my wardrobe is pretty small means I wear the remaining items a lot. Effectively, I wear them out pretty quickly. So while I’m not one for fast fashion, I do end up replacing things quite a bit.

One type of clothing tends to hang around a while longer: dresses.

It’s a tiresome fact of being female that you’re really not supposed to wear the same dress repeatedly to functions, year in, year out. So come wedding season, I usually end up buying a new one. But I don’t want to get rid of old dresses I’ve worn half a dozen times, and they linger.

It seems to me that there are two extremes at play in the world right now. There’s the frankly horrendous fast fashion industry, where workers are exploited to make cheap goods sold for less than the price of a pint of beer and only designed to last the three-month season.

Then there are the older generations, who will keep clothes for absolutely ages, repairing where necessary. Heck, if they hadn’t, vintage clothing wouldn’t even be a thing. I know someone who inherited a well-worn suit from his father, and happily started wearing it to work. That’s just great: it shows a really touching pride in his family, a money-saving attitude and a rejection of the throwaway culture.

But while wearing clothes from the 1980s and earlier is the epitome of hipster-chic, wearing clothes from 10 years ago just isn’t, is it? I’m a minimalist – I’m not going to stash stuff in the attic for a few decades until it’s acceptable again.

So, what is an appropriate amount of time to keep clothes for, assuming they still fit and are in good condition? I’m interested to know what other people think. How much of an influence is the changing fashion world? And do people’s attempts at minimalism see them ditch their togs more readily?

How old is the oldest thing in your wardrobe?

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Wedding bells, balls-ups and budgets


IMG_0144It’s that time of year again: wedding season.

I’ve just been to the most wonderful wedding on a beautiful farm in the middle of the countryside. The day was full of carefree fun: playing with my niece, exploring barns, dancing, eating and drinking too much and catching up with people after FAR TOO LONG apart.

It made me think back to my own wedding, nearly two years ago. We’ll be celebrating our anniversary in a few days. See the picture above for a frighteningly accurate depiction of how we looked on the day (I’m on the left).

Our wedding day was, of course, the happiest day of my life. I married my best friend. I wouldn’t change a thing. (Except maybe that one thing about the….nah, forget it, Claire. Move on)

But the weeks, months and even years planning the thing, stressing about the budget and worrying about how our big day compared to other people’s? That wasn’t so good.

There’s always one person in a couple who does the bulk of the organising. That person was me. I was struggling with loads of debt at the time and my girlfriend and I had made a solemn pact that we would not borrow more money for the wedding. I’ m so glad we decided that.

But it meant we had to make really tough decisions. I remember at one point, as we were getting pressured to put this person or that person on the guest list, I broke down in tears in the middle of a phone conversation to a relative. I knew we just couldn’t afford to host any more people, no matter how much we might have wanted them there.

Here’s the thing: organising a wedding is not easy and despite what the glossy magazines might tell you, it is not always fun.

But in the end, we worked our socks off to get the best day we could on the budget we had.

This is my advice for anyone who is planning a wedding at the moment.

  • Work with what you have. Set a budget and include some contingency cash. Things will go wrong and having extra money on hand will alleviate stress. But if you have the budget for a shotgun wedding, you won’t be getting married in a castle. Accepting that is the first part of the battle. Work out the best wedding you can afford on the budget you have. Don’t get attached to a fantasy plan you will never be able to finance.
  • So you can’t afford an identikit wedding? So what??! Consider out-of-the-ordinary options; it can really inject some personality into your big day. We got married at a beautiful old building which is the home of a children’s charity. It was offering better rates than many of the hotels’ wedding packages and as a bonus we knew our cash was going to a good cause. You might want to consider getting married on an unusual day, or out of season, to save cash, or you might consider a pot-luck meal instead of a more formal dinner.
  • If you take people’s money, you also have to accept their input. Parents and other people might be kind enough to help you pay for your big day. But with that donation, they can also reasonably expect to have a say in how their money is spent. You may be pressured to invite great-aunt Nora, have a sit-down meal or hold your big day in a certain place. If you want complete freedom to make your own decisions, you have to pay your own way.
  • Don’t be afraid to haggle with suppliers. Flattery goes a long way. We found a DJ who we really liked, but the company was a little more expensive than the competitors. We fired off an email saying we were dying to book them but couldn’t quite afford their rates. Guess what? We got a discount.
  • Call in any favours you can get. We managed to get friends to perform music, a colleague’s daughter to use her staff discount to help us buy bridesmaids’ dresses and another friend to give us mates’ rates on photography. They may be happy to help, and consider it their wedding present to you. But don’t pressure any of your friends into working on your wedding. They might just want to kick back and enjoy your day with you. Give them the choice.
  • Enter competitions like CRAZY. I won three!! Hair styling on the day, wedding favours and the table plan, all hustled through entering all the contests I could find.
  • Feel free to get crafty, but beware: it may not always be a money saver and certainly isn’t stress-free! We made our own invitations using a kit and embellishing with our own decorations, which worked really nicely. But I also took the mad decision of baking our own three-tier cake with different flavours in each tier, which was really stressful and I’m sure didn’t save that much money, once I got all the stuff I needed.
  • Economise like mad on the areas you don’t care about, so you can spend more on the things you love. I got married in £35 high-street shoes so I could go on a honeymoon to Thailand. If your budget means you can’t do it all, make a list of your priorities.
  • Don’t be afraid to skip things. We didn’t have a wedding car. My wife rocked up in her band’s van and my dad dropped me off. That’s money saved and one fewer contractor to deal with.
  • The most powerful money-saving tip of all is to try your hardest not to see weddings as a showing-off contest. I know that sounds high-and-mighty and I really don’t want it to, because I had a real struggle with this. ‘It’s not a competition’ became the mantra I was often uttering through gritted teeth, not quite believing it. The truth is, you want people to have the most fantastic time at your wedding. Of course you do. But first and foremost, this is about the start of a marriage. Getting into loads of debt for one day is just a heap of stress you don’t need.
  • Lastly, enjoy your day. You may have worked your behind off bringing the damn thing under budget, but when there’s a hitch – say a friend announces at the last minute that they can’t make it – you can either fret over the wasted money on their non-refundable meal and the now-inaccurate table plan, or you can just shrug and let it go. Make a conscious effort to do the latter.

Before I go, I want to give a quick shout out to people struggling to pay to be a guest at weddings. I hear you! It can be a pricey business – the gifts, the outfit, the hotels and especially the hen or stag parties. A warning to people younger than myself: you will hit an age where you inexplicably have five weddings to go to within a few months and you’ll soon be broke, broke, broke, flat broke.

If you’re planning a wedding, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is the wallets of your guests, as you tuck into another meal of cheap noodles to save a few more quid for the big day. But you can help them by keeping any pre-wedding parties affordable, pointing wedding guests towards hotels that would suit all budgets,  letting them know that giving you a gift is optional and hooking them up with other guests (not in that way! Well, maybe…) so they can share rides. They’ll thank you for it!