Flirting with frugality: My attempt to become less consumed by consumerism

Let’s dive right into this guys. There are three things I know to be true about my financial situation:

  1. I am a fully grown adult
  2. I make a decent living – I earn more than a lot of people my age (29)
  3. I am consistently broke

It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s true. The ‘why’ isn’t hard to figure out – the short version is that I have been living beyond my means for the last couple of years. During the five years when I was living as an expat in Dubai and Doha, I got a little bit spoilt. I was young and single, earning good money in countries where I paid no income tax.

Why wouldn’t I treat myself to manicures and massages? Prior to giving up drinking, bottomfrugalityless champagne brunches were the norm. Expensive holidays happened multiple times per year (No regrets on that front to be honest – Kenya and Morocco were worth every penny). And why would I bother cleaning my own apartment, cooking or washing my own clothes when I could afford to hire people to take care of all of that? I was profligate.

Shouldn’t I have been saving some of that money? Well, I kind of sort of saved a little bit along the way, and that was good enough at the time for responsibility-free me.

At the end of 2015, I moved back to Ireland. While I made some adjustments to reflect the fact the double whammy that had hit my income – I was earning a lower salary and paying taxes now,  I never really got out of the bad habits I picked up in the Middle East – eating out all the time, spending my money carelessly and paying people to take care of things I could easily do myself.

In the last month, I’ve put myself in considerable financial difficulty with a couple of poor decisions:

  • I bought tickets to see Ed Sheeran in both Dublin and Galway because I didn’t know which gig most of my friends would be going to
  • I didn’t like the crappy Samsung phone my new job was going to give me so instead of taking it (for free), I put €450 of my own money toward it and got a new iPhone 7 instead

The result? I have a huge credit card bill on top of the two small loans I had previously. It’s not a massive amount of debt, but there is absolutely no way I should be in debt at all. My savings are about 3-4 times what I owe, but for good reason they are locked away in a 7-day withdrawal account.

The buck stops here.

I’m almost 30. I have a decent career and good opportunities. I don’t have to live like this – knowing that as soon as my salary comes in most of it is accounted for already. A few months of frugality would clear my debts and leave me with the ‘fiscal space’ to really start saving for a mortgage. I want to buy a place in a nice part of Dublin, and if that’s ever going to be possible, I have to start planning now.

If you relate, you might want to follow my adventures over the course of August as I dip my toe into the world of frugality – cooking my own meals, doing my own chores (I know, #firstworldproblems) and finding free or almost free ways to have fun.

I’ve been reading the Frugalwoods blog for the last few weeks, and while I don’t plan to take it to their extremes, I’m hoping to put some of their tips into action.

My goal for this month? I’d like to still have some money in my account coming into my next payday. That might seem like a modest start, but it’s more than I’ve achieved in quite a while!

Have you ever tried to cut down dramatically on your outgoings? Let me know how it went in the comments. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

 

A trip to Kenya and a big decision

Have you ever gone on a holiday that genuinely changed your perspective on life?

Kenya did that for me.

I visited in September over the Eid break, and I loved every minute of it.

I landed in Nairobi, where I stayed with friends, and flew the next day to the Masai Mara.

exploring kenyaThe landing strip was surrounded on either side by zebras and other wild animals, and from the moment we touched down the landscape took my breath away. After a 25 minute journey in an open-top 4×4, we arrived at Mara Siria, an opulent bush camp owned by a German family and run by Kenyans, many of them from the Masai tribe. On the journey to the camp alone we encountered giraffes, monkeys, deer and more. The large, luxurious tents had running water, electric lighting and outdoor showers. There’s something about standing outside under running water naked in the African plains that makes a girl feel alive. The quality of the food was exceptional, and the camp was very accommodating to members of our group with Halal or vegetarian diets.

Our safari was organised with Mara Siria, and the guides were knowledgable, thorough and charismatic. The trip was timed to see the famous wildebeest crossing, and we saw thousands of them cross the Masai River. Incredibly, we saw them disperse as crocodiles feasted on the slowest among them, as a family of hippos looked blithely on. We saw several different prides of lions; groups of young males looking to start tribes of their own, females looking after their cubs and a male and female ‘on their honeymoon’, as our guide delicately put it. Majestic elephants and their babies made our day, and we saw lots of other animals from hyenas to ostriches along the way.

Honestly, eight hours in a four by four is quite literally a pain in the ass, but it’s worth every minute of it to see wildlife like this up close. Because of the wildebeest crossing, the lions and other dangerous animals were well fed, which made it safe to get really close to the lions [according to our guide]. As well as making sure we got to see the animals, our guide provided tons of fun facts, information on specific species and mating rituals.

I also visited the Masai Village, where locals live in huts made of mud and cow pat, and a Masai school children walk miles to reach each day. It was a truly humbling experience, and I’m okay with the fact that they ripped me off on souvenirs. If you are planning to go and see for yourself, I would highly recommend booking through Phoenix Safaris.

After two amazing days and nights, I woke up early on day three to watch the sun rise and head back to Nairobi. I have to admit the tiny plane didn’t really suit me, and I did have a little altitude sickness, as did my friend. Back in Nairobi, my friends went all out to ensure we got the ultimate Kenya experience, including making friends with orphaned elephants, kissing giraffes, eating at some of the city’s most amazing restaurants and touring the Kazuri bead factory, where authentic Kenyan jewellery is produced, providing an income for vulnerable women in the city. Throw in a trip to the UN, where one of my hosts works, a Game of Thrones night and my first ever game of Cards Against Humanity, and I really could not have asked for better hosts.

My last few days in Kenya were spent in Watamu, a small coastal town most tourists would never have heard of. My friends organised for us to go there with a group of some of the most passionate, intelligent and stimulating people I had hung out with in a really long time. There were two amazing things about Watamu; the first was that it was simply an exceptionally beautiful place. The house we hired had a beautiful pool that looked out over greenery, and beyond that a white sand beach and the ocean. I felt a sense of calm there that I have been chasing ever since. We did almost nothing for two days and nights but eat, drink, and talk (apart from a couple of hours scuba diving). The second was the people I was with, most of whom work in aid and development, all of whom were fun, bright, articulate people doing what they loved.

In the Gulf, by and large, people put aside their passion for a pay cheque, sacrifice their morals for the sake of status, and often lost sight of what’s important. While I was living a life of luxury built on the back of what is to all intents and purpose slave labour, my new friends were not earning a huge amount, but they were making a difference to this world. Each, in their own way, is contributing to something greater than themselves. I envied them, and the sense of satisfaction they had with life. Even the way they spoke about their hobbies seemed to hold more substance and sincerity than my five-star, cash-rich, frivolous, empty lifestyle.

I realised I was selling out, and it had to stop.

When I got back to Doha, it was hard to readjust. I had only been gone 10 days, but my tolerance for my neurotic, passive-aggressive boss had shrunk to almost zero. While he remained his usual self, I had come to the realisation that there are more important things in life. I had rediscovered the beauty in life, felt my soul revitalised by connecting with nature and was inspired by the wonderful people around me. I realised that I want to go back to Ireland and reconnect with my family and friends in a meaningful way. I want a job I feel good about, because that makes the hard days easier. I want to feel grounded, and right now I think that means being in Ireland.

And so, a couple of weeks ago, after a particularly difficult day at work, I decided that enough was enough. I handed in my resignation, and next week, I’ll be on my way home. In many ways, my 10 months in Doha have been a truly positive experience. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve grown as a person, and I have made some wonderful friends. But it’s been six and a half years since I have lived in Ireland, and it’s time to go home.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who reads and follows the blog. It’s how I got to know the city, where I vented on bad days, how I connected with other expats and shared my thoughts on Doha life. I hope you’ll stay with me on the next chapter of my journey.

Any thoughts on how I should rename the blog now that Only in Doha won’t be in Doha?

Leave a comment!

Airport w***ers!

Going home for Christmas?

By plane?

Good luck.

I officially hate airports [though I love flying] and shall henceforth travel only by magic carpet. If you really must go through an airport to get home, watch out for these twats and PLEASE, please don’t be one!

Security snails: You knew you were going to travel today, right? And that you’d be going through metal detectors? Then why for the love of God why did you wear a belt/steel tipped shoes/15,000 bangles/42 body piercings/bring your laptop/keep loose change in your pocket? Don’t you know I have Christmas shopping to take care of in the Duty-free? Are you deliberately moving in slow-motion? How much time do I have to entertain this for before it’s considered just cause for your murder?!

Rebels: And following on from the above – In most aspects of life, I’m all about being rebellious. At airports it is never the time or the place. Yes, it is stupid that you can’t bring liquids over 100ml, I agree. But that is the rule and it doesn’t matter how hot you think you are or how much of an ass you are being, they are not going to make an exception  for you, so say goodbye to your hairspray or whatever it is they are taking off you and suck it up! If your baggage is overweight, that’s your problem, pay the fee and STFU – you knew what the limits are, or at least you should have – so STOP wasting MY time and move on with your life.

Beauty queens: Clearly this one spawns from the green-eyed monster. When I see girls in airports in high heels, tight clothes, hair curled perfectly and full make-up my first thought is “Wow, she is so glamorous” but almost immediately I move on to “What was the point in that? Her feet must be killing her, her hair isn’t going to last the 7 hour flight, her make-up will smudge and she won’t be comfortable.” Come join us at slobs’r’us I say – loose clothes, comfy shoes, easy hair. 99.9% of the people you meet on the journey are going to be strangers like me – who are you trying to impress?

Parents: Shut your brat up. Get him his juice, chocolate, blanky or whatever it is he needs to take that shit down a few decibels. I don’t hate the kid, he’s having a tough day, it’s late, he’s tired and in unfamiliar surroundings, no wonder he’s a bit upset! But I’m tired and cranky too, and watching you absentmindedly play with your phone while your kid demonstrates his admittedly impressive lung capacity is not helping matters.

There are plenty more I’m sure – don’t even get me started on airport staff! What are your pet hates when travelling?

PS: It was  all worth it when I heard the airport security in Dublin greet me with a North-side ‘Howiya love?” – it’s good to be home!

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