Saturday, 29 December 2012

Reminiscing in Frugaldom - Part I

Computer Science Geek / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Having been 'working' online since the early 90's, it's time to backtrack and make allowances for those who haven't. I do tend to forget how many years have passed and that we've moved on another generation.

I've seen so many names come and go that I think that's what sometimes disillusions me about life online, the Internet and all that stuff.

Running frugal or money-related challenges means doing it continually - it's like it can never end for me. Those who take part usually move on to the next chapter of their lives as soon as they're on their way to resolving whatever problems brought them here in the first place.

New sites begin, new forums open, new challenges repeat old, new blogs... for those of us who came here so long ago without the cash or wherewithal to make a career of it, debt-free obscurity is about as much as we can ever hope to achieve. As long as it's within our own means and we can live with the consequences of our own actions, possibly that's all that matters.

1994 So, a look back over the years, courtesy of the Internet Archive, which has been around for a long time, just not quite as long as I'd have liked. It's been there since the mid 90s, but I didn't pay it much attention back then - I was too busy getting used to using a mouse and enjoying the hype of the soon-to-be-released Windows 95!

Back then, things cost an absolute arm and a leg. Our first 'proper' computer and printer were bought on credit at a cost of well over £1,000 - it had 16mb of whatever and the modem was a 9,600bps! Prior to that, it was an ancient Amstrad that took cassette tapes and an age to load a single game! Technology has moved so far forward since that point that it's scary!


The Compuserve guys back in 1996
Connecting to the Internet was a bit hit or miss in the early days. By 1996, we had Compuserve with a standard phone line, billing was by the minute. It was the epitome of luxury that few could afford, so my first thought was to help make it affordable! Initially, this meant not going online very often. The introduction of '0845' local rate for America Online was an absolute God send back then and, by 1998, they had introduced multiple accounts and a fixed monthly fee! The cost of using the Internet was then controlled by your telephone company billing at local rates per minute.

I'd done a basic City & Guilds course in IT, learning word processing, spreadsheets and databases. Being 'computer literate' seemed like the right thing to do. Indeed, it seemed like the only way to go, especially for those of us who were working from home.

In 1996, Motley Fool arrived on the scene. It was one of the first money-related sites I remember being a part of, even attempting to set my frst online money challenge. (At that point, it was mainly US based, but it reached British shores by 1999.) The site developed into one more apt for stocks and shares investors - which is probably how I ended up doing that for one of the later challenges.

But the Internet was still a luxury few 'normal' folks could afford. I couldn't, so I needed a plan to make it affordable.

In 1998, I opened an Internet cafe - Charlotte's WWWeb - complete with shop front, art and crafts group, writers' group and office facilities for all the frugalers to pool their resources and share the costs of promoting their goods and services, spreading the costs of accessing the world wide web. Learning how to develop a basic website was a real eye-opener and bears no resemblance to how things get done nowadays, that's for sure.

That same year, eBay took to the virtual stage in USA and our own eBid came into being here in the UK. The Internet service providers saw fit to offer fixed fee accounts and the wonderful world of online selling had arrived! It was around that time that the Government saw fit to provide Internet access through the libraries - our local library was practically opposite, so it virtually ended the Internet cafe idea!

1999 - We needed to advertise our multifunctional frugal business centre, we needed a way to help promote the crafters and writers, we needed to cut overheads and survive! We began publishing 'Now You Know'.

Back then we used message boards, chat rooms and e-zines plus the basic, essential websites. We published the newspaper both online and in print! Web logs (now known as blogs) hadn't yet fully fledged their technological nest, but word was spreading.

With no funding of any description, there was no way of promoting anything, so hooking up with Lanarkshire Television, a private enterprise nearby, seemed like a good idea - mutual promotion whilst taking on the mass media establishment. We set up Scottish Web TV (.co.uk) - nobody was interested, so we shut it down again. (In 2007, plans were set in motion for a relaunch, but it never happened.)

By 2000 we had three online newspapers running - 'Now You Know', 'Paranoid Times' and the 'Lanarkshire News'. That's when we launched the Scottish Web Directory. I placed all the money challenges under the heading 'Cyberdosh' (cyber/online, dosh/cash) and began trying to fund it, going further afield and seeking suitable premises.
  • 28th May 2000 - Copy of a rather apt archived page of notes showing that clootie dumping has featured regularly in my writings! I'd never realised that before now! Our forum, back then, was exciting! The discussions were fed directly to the local TV station, live on air - anyone remember the sliced sausage discussion?
(In 2009/10, an online newspaper began to emerge. The owners have the audacity to advertise themselves as "Scotland’s first truly online newspaper." I'm sure you can understand my contempt at this blatant lie.)

2001 Disaster everywhere! I was finally presented with a massive opportunity to develop my project commercially, but there were conditions... sadly, those conditions simply could not be met. It was the beginning of the end, as far as marriage, home and business* were concerned.

Sometime later, around 2002, Martin Lewis set up his 'Moneysavingexpert' site and the associated forums. My version of moneysaving was not made welcome there at all during the early days, so I left - I was struck off his site, if I remember correctly! I retreated, only to return in 2007 and relaunch the challenge to run it parallel with one I had running on eBid!

The Martin Lewis ideal appeared to be to screw every company around to get the best bang for your buck - as long as you weren't having to do without, that's all that mattered. Hmm...

For those of us who simply don't want to screw the financial system, or who have no justifiable reason to do so, money-saving is about getting back to basics and living within our own means. I'm never going to sell my websites in a deal reported to be worth up to £87 million, I'm only here to promote frugal living and working! As part of the economy, we are deemed pretty much worthless, from how I see it. Now I know that Mr Lewis was said to have promised £10 million of it to charity and £1 million in support of Citizens Advice, and I applaud that - if it ever came to fruition - but so what? Martin Lewis has probably never tried to live on £4,000 for a year! (I'm assuming everyone knows that Moneysupermarket.com bought out Moneysavingexpert.com)

Frugaldom is about NOT spending money, it's about getting back to basics, accepting the fact that consumerism can wreck lives and that it just isn't for everyone; it is alright to turn your back on society's pressures to comply and spend, spend, spend, it is alright to be thrifty or frugal!

I have existed on whatever income there has been, I have struggled to overcome debts accrued, I have seen close friends suffer to the extent they literally went over the edge and into the abyss and I have witnessed those I have helped in the past go right back down the spending path of destruction, no lesson learned. I will keep on frugaling, I will keep on cutting costs wherever and however I can and I will fight to remain debt free. But this frugal living and working lark isn't easy, so we need to make it FUN!

That's roughly my story to the point at which things went completely off the rails. That's also the point from which I have been trying to recover, fighting my way back to 'normality', shunning consumerism and trying to live a better life - a life without debt. I do use credit cards, paid in full every month, so I do technically have debt from one month to the next, but how else can we safeguard ourselves as online shoppers when a Debit card offers no such protection? I do hate that fact, but I also appreciate the fee-free, 1% cashback accruing from my use of the credit card.

Nobody really gives a stuff about anyone other than themselves until they face a personal crisis. People come, people go, major events, catastrophes and tragedies occur, money comes and money goes, debts come and go, life carries on regardless. It's acceptance that matters most:
  • Can we live happily on our chosen route through life?
  • Can we live within our own means?
  • Can we shake off the self-inflicted shackles of our past?
  • Can we see a better future?
  • Are we prepared for circumstances that are completely beyond our control?
I'll apologise now for this rather gloomy overview that has barely come close to the present, but my journey has been a long one. It is this fact that I want to emphasise to all the newcomers who are still at the start of their frugal journeys. Don't let debt bog you down, don't fall for the hype - follow what you know is the right path to financial freedom and prove that it's possible to live a normal life without succumbing to unneccessary spending. IN the long run, the less you spend, the more you can afford - so what will you do once the debts are all gone and your time and money are your own to do with as you please?

Any given day sees the realisation by someone, somewhere that they must take control of their own situation and make important changes. It's accepting that these changes need to be made that shows we are on the right track. No matter how difficult certain situations might get, it's our acceptance that we need to face them and resolve our own problems that matters most. Yes, there is help out there if we care to look for it, but confessing to needing it and then accepting it, let alone seeking it out, is something that we can't all deal with; for many, it can lead to feelings of guilt, shame and failure.

Stripping things to the bone, the frugal lifestyle makes us all survivors! To hell with what others might think! We may never get what we want but perhaps we only think that we want it in the first place!

My first priority is in ensuring that I never again owe anyone any money, (business or domestic) which means spending as little as possible. If this seems mean-spirited or self-centred to you then go and read another blog, because this one isn't for you.

Part II will follow shortly, in preparation for a brand new start to 2013. I hope I haven't bored you all to tears and I also hope you'll see through the next post, then join us in 2013 for a no holds barred, nitty-gritty reality check on spending, while making the very most of life itself.

Frugaldom.

7 comments:

  1. There's absolutely no way you could 'bore us all to tears', this made for fascinating reading, thanks for sharing.

    The one thing anyone in debt should do first is to stop spending, once you 'get' that notion you're on the road to recovery. No more buying a pretty note book to jot down your spending just STOP!!

    I look forward to part two.

    Sue xx

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  2. Sue, I need to defend the 'pretty notebook' because I received one as a Christmas gift in 2007 and it has worked like magic! (Despite all the calamities that have occured between then and now, but most of thise you have already borne witness to over the years.) I still can't help but smile when I think of my landlord almost lurching at me after thinking you were me after he'd read your comments here. Classic frugal gold, that was, seeing him almost topple off his quad in fury! ROFL

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  3. That is a really good post Nyk, thanks for taking the time to write it and I am looking forward to part 2. x

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  4. Thanks, Samfan. Hopefully see you in the not too distant future! Have a great new year. :)

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  5. That was very enlightening, thanks for that. I think you might be at the farthest end of frugalism with your living on £4000 per annum. Nothing wrong with that, as it is what you need to do to get where you need to go. I think what you are trying to do (and doing) is great so don't let anyone put you down. I love your blog, very inspiring.

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  6. Wow I had no idea how tumultuous your past was. I've only been following your blog since last Christmas, and while I have picked up hints, this suggests more. Hats off to you for living on £4000 a year and remaining sane through trials and tribulations.

    I also love your reflections on technology in the 90s. As someone who was a teenager in the 90s I remember Amstrads and Windows 95 with a sense of trepidation; Windows always used to crash. I don't know how I would cope without my trusty macbook these days (not very frugal I know).

    Unfortunately 2013 is going to start with me owing a bank a huge amount of money for the first time ever (I'm buying my first house). Fingers crossed I will follow your frugal steps and pay it off as fast as possible. I have done my sums though and for me it makes more sense than renting. :)

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts - and please don't ever think you bore your readers! you certainly don't bore me.

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  7. Don't laugh but i wrote a thankyou and how you gave me a bit of an insight into my faults and having a bit of a lightbulb moment and being so inept at technology's way its ended up/ as a post on my blog,! oops.
    Anyway Iam going to try to follow you now that I have visited I find what you have to say very interesting. Have a brilliant 2013. Mooloo

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