Living the dream, on a budget

HyperJar member Ben talks money management when you up-scale your quality of life but down-size your salary. Spoiler alert: it involves a lot of coffee compromise.

Living the dream, on a budget

Project Downsize

Three years ago I jacked in a big well paid job, sold my lovely house, volunteered in Africa for two years, then returned to the UK to a one-bedroom-flat and a job with a UK charity. Friends who still work in my old world envy how much I love my new job, the fact that I feel like what I do actually makes things better. It all sounds great, but… old habits die hard.

Changing my ways

I’ve always been sensible with my money - pension, savings, cheapest mortgage.  I thought I knew what I was doing but dropping your income by 75 per cent takes a lot more thinking about than I realised.

The ‘bigger picture’ when it came to my spending used to be fine because…well…I earned a lot of money.  However, I now needed a much better, much more detailed, picture of my expenses because I had to change all those bad spending habits that I didn’t even know I had.  This is where HyperJar was invaluable.

The first step was to sit down and look at my bank statements to see where my cash was going – this meant that when I started using HyperJar I had a feel for what I wanted to put in to my jars. To be honest it was a bit embarrassing.  This is some of the stuff I discovered:

  • I was spending between £10 and £15 a day on coffee
  • I was spending over £50 a week on Uber
  • I rarely bought lunch for less than £8
  • Most weeks I spent over £75 on cigarettes

This was all down to habits. Habits that I picked up while I was earning silly money, when I could easily afford them; but in my new life, this was killing me. I was spending close to £250 a week on stuff that I definitely didn’t need and I definitely couldn’t afford. I felt stupid because I used to think I had a good instinct with money. How on earth could I be wasting so much on stuff I didn’t need or could get cheaper?

The easy fix

It might not have been welcome news but HyperJar did make it easy to fix. Once I’d figured out what I had been spending, I set myself a budget for what I could spend. Opening different jars in the app meant it was easy to organise my money as I wanted to spend it.

Whenever I bought a coffee it came out of my coffee jar - I drink a lot of coffee and one day managed to top £20.  I had another jar for Uber, one for eating out, one for cigarettes.

The old saying goes that ‘knowledge is power’. I think that’s rubbish, but I do agree that ‘ignorance is stupidity’.  Unless you know what you’re doing, what you’re spending money on, you can’t do anything about it.

Looking forward

Unlike all the other money apps and budgeting systems I’d tried in the past, HyperJar helps me manage before I spend, not after.  It helps me think about my spending while you’re at it rather than when it’s too late to cancel the Uber or the coffee. I even post notes to myself in my jars as a reminder that one pricey coffee a day is fine… four is not.

Not all the merchant partners on the app are relevant to me, but the fact that I can stick money in a Shell Jar and know that if I need petrol for a Zip trip the money’s locked away and at least I’m not losing against inflation, which all the money in my current account is.

I’m not saying that HyperJar helped me give up smoking or cut-out coffee. Neither has it won the lottery for me.  But it has been easy to use, it’s helped me understand my bad habits and to make the most of my money and the changes that a hefty salary down-sizing brings.

It sounds simple but there’s no other app that’s been so useful.

I still drink up to six coffees a day. I’ve just learnt to make them myself.

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