Downsizing challenge day 2 – little background

I Thought I should give you a little background into my life & to try and convince you this isn’t a privileged middle class reaction to a lifestyle.

When I was younger I had no money at all. My dad & I lived with my grandmother and we all pitched in as a family. We had one part time wage in the household. We where lucky in the fact that my grandmothers mortgage was paid off in full when my grandad died. So we all lived in a house on one part time wage. To say we had little money is an understatement but we managed and nobody would have been the wiser to our money problems.

I started working from a young age. I had a morning paper round which took 1 hour a day 6-7am before school and paid around £10 a week. Extortion! I also had a second paper round which I worked in the evening. It took two whole evenings a week. I had to deliver 400 papers & leaflets and it paid £7 a week. So from 13 years old or so I was earning £17 a week.

This small wage allowed me to buy my first computer, an Amiga 1200 on hire purchase. It took a few years to pay off but it was mine. I started coding & learning how to use computers on the Amiga and a year or so later my best friends family gave me their old 386 pc. I loved that thing. Windows 3.1 and the ability to learn so much more.

A few years later I got my first real modern pc. It was a 300Mhz powerhouse with 64mb ram and about 3GB of storage. I loved it.

This trend carried on throughout my life. When all my friends started learning to drive, I couldn’t afford to. I bought an old Mini off a family friend for £50 and learned the basics of mechanics. But I couldn’t afford to learn to drive and nobody was able to help out.

A few years later when I was 17 my dad passed away. He battled demons for many years but was always there for me. This was a difficult time. I was with my wife then (our relationship was only months old but we are still together & married). I managed to scrape through my A levels without actually attending in the second year due to the grief/upset in my family. We moved to a smaller house with my grandmother and I started looking at universities. I was self taught in computer science and when I applied for university in London I was accepted into all 5 universities.

My wife & I went down to look for accommodation but I decided without any parental help I wouldn’t be able to afford to live there. My wife’s dad offered to pay rent but I couldn’t accept that.

We moved to Scotland and I took a year out before applying for university again. I worked at PC world on £4.08 an hour! We lived in my aunties flat free of charge whilst it was on the market to sell. We had more money than we had ever had before even though our earnings where still relatively poor.

A year later we moved to Manchester. We lived in a tiny £300 a month apartment. My wife worked for a clothing retailer and earned a small wage. I had no family help through uni so we survived on her wage and my small student loan. We made it work. We where very happy.

I put myself though driving lessons at university. I even bartered driving lessons for building my instructors website and bringing him new business. We moved to a slightly bigger but still modest flat. We got married and had a great time, still with very little money. We managed to visit New York and stayed in a hostel. We had a great life. Our monthly income total was about £1000 between 2 people. One working full time!

When I finished uni we moved to a small two bedroom house in Manchester, around the corner from our first two apartments. It was lovely and although more expensive it was still affordable.

My wife started working at a bank and earning great money. I started working for a city centre web development company and again earned great money. Our monthly income trebled overnight. My wife didn’t like working at the bank and felt the company was immoral. The money was good but the work not so much.

I was working for a web dev startup. The hours where long and my job role was massive. From building websites & databases, to managing all our servers in house and at a co location. I had a lot of stress and we where both becoming unhappy.

A year later I left that job and went back to University to study for a masters degree. Before I left we setup our small business Koolbadges. It was making a little bit of money but it was fun.

A few months after I started the Masters degree my wife left the bank. The stress was too great and this was just before the start of the financial crisis so a lot of people where making a lot of money. I continued the masters and we both started working full time on koolbadges. It was. A gamble but it paid off. We managed to match our previous city wages and life was good.

I finished my masters and we moved to a bigger house in my home town. We bought a 4×4 and started to live a flashier lifestyle. More and more stuff went on credit cards and we went on holidays on credit. I bought a flashier computer on credit, new cameras, iPhones and the whole nine yards. We looked like we where doing well and we where, but our credit debt increased.

We then moved to Cornwall for the good life. Our house was now double what our old flat was and was unfurnished. We furnished the place and funded the move on the credit cards. It cost us a lot. After a year or so we where both bored. There was no tech culture down there. I had to do a 200 mile round trip for an iPad!

We moved back up north and lived in Scotland for a year with a view to living with family & clearing debt. It didn’t happen, we got depressed and spent a lot of money trying to feel better. Money we didn’t have. Vickis dad had a stroke during that time and we lost a lot of business. We couldn’t concentrate on our business while her dad was recovering/rehabilitating. So we started doing a lot of helping out while earning less and less money. This all went on the credit cards.

Another year later we moved back to my home town. The house we moved into is £750 a month rent, before council tax and utilities. So we are about £1200 a month on housing before food/leisure. Our credit card repayments are now around £500 a month. Our land rovers gearbox failed and we paid a fortune to put it right. It failed again so we sold it for a lot less than it was worth. We borrowed money to buy our mini which we later sold and bought a mercedes. We where out of control at that point. I’d gone from simple living to complex over a few years mostly on the back of grief/stress and a need to validate my status in life.

Which leads us to this point. A tipping point. A point in both our lives where we feel consumed by guilt, stress, anxiety and debt. A bad place to be.

The downsizing started 2 days ago but I thought this post had to be written. It’s as much for me as you guys. Seeing it all and reliving some of those memories is hard but also quite therapeutic. At least you can all see I’m not some wishy washy wealthy middle class idiot. I’m just someone who became swept along in shopping culture.

Please let me know how you feel about this post or if you can relate in anyway.

And don’t feel sad about this post, I don’t. I’m over it all I just needed a kick up the arse to change!

John Large

My name is John Large. I am a Web Developer, E-commerce site owner & all round geek. My areas of interest include hardware hacking, digital privacy & security, social media & computer hardware. I’m also a minimalist in the making, interested in the Tiny House movement & the experience economy along with a strong interest in sustainability & renewable energy. When I’m not tapping on a keyboard or swiping a smart phone I can be found sampling great coffee, travelling the world with my wife Vicki (who writes over at Let’s Talk Beauty) & generally trying to live my life as unconventionally as possible.

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