Britstops here we come

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Mr BOTRA studying the new Brit Stops guide

Wherever we park our campervan is our home, it is self-contained and we carry everything we need to be comfortable.  At present, with work restrictions, we generally spend about 70 nights a year in our motorhome.  To do this while continuing to save for our retirement we are always looking at ways to save so when the new Brit Stops guide arrived recently we started planning free nights away in the ‘van.

The Brit Stops scheme is a simple system [always the best ones].  Farm shops, pubs and food producers agree to host one or more motorhomes to park at their venue for a night for no charge.  For the cost of £30 for the guide, a motorhomer has a list of 640 places where they can park up for free.  This is modelled on the French Passion scheme that is popular across France.

Using Brit Stops we get to stay in some beautiful places and sometimes discover a new local food or drink.  We might stay at a farm shops and buy some cheese, or a café and relax over their breakfast the next morning or we might enjoy a pint of local beer in a country pub.  Brit Stops also allow us to be spontaneous as we don’t have to book a pitch many months before.  No sooner have we spotted a forecast for a spell of fine weather for the weekend and we can be on our way (although some Brit Stops do like motorhomers to ring ahead).

The beauty of Brit Stops for us is that we get the opportunity to buy good quality local food created with care by a small business which beats the mass-produced offerings in the supermarket any day.  Camp sites can be quite expensive in the UK and the Brit Stop guide can help us save money on our holidays (meaning we can take more].  In any year, once we have stayed two nights on a Brit Stops the guide has paid for itself, so we feel good, and we can support local businesses with some of the money we have saved, so we feel even better.

The number of places to stay has grown dramatically since Brit Stop started in 2011.  It took us a few years [and the ownership of a slightly bigger van] until we got the Brit Stop bug in 2015.  This happened when we were staying on a Caravan Club Certified Location that charged £15 for just a hook up on an uneven field where they hadn’t even bothered to cut the grass.  Down the road was a Brit Stop where ‘vans could park for free with views overlooking the canal; no competition, as they say.

 

 

 

I saved my money

We are often asked how two low-paid public sector workers managed to afford a new campervan.  There is no mystery to this, we didn’t find a lucky money tree, win the lottery or rob a bank, the answer is that we saved our money to achieve our dream.

P1080174This (and perhaps my love of the west coast of Scotland) is why I feel a connection to the Deacon Blue song Dignity.  If you don’t know this song, you can hear Deacon Blue version here.  I became reacquainted with this beautiful song when the singer-songwriter Karine Polwart played her own version of this 1987 hit at a gig last year, after playing it at the National Theatre of Scotland Blabbermouth event in 2014.  This was a twelve hour celebration of Scottish music and spoken word on the eve of the Scottish referendum and you can see her playing it in this video.

The song is about a man who works for the council and is mocked by local children but who has a dream; over the years he saves his money to achieve his goal.  The song reminds us that no one is who they might seem at first glance and celebrates the hopes and dreams of those who work in humble but essential jobs.

I had dreamt about owning a campervan since I was 13-years old and although there were many years when this and a twelve month gap year in a van seemed unachievable and impractical Mr BOTRA and I got there eventually and the adventures are told on my first blog.  Now we are saving for early retirement because for us there is no dignity in working until we drop.

Dignity lyrics

There’s a man I meet
Walks up our street
He’s a worker for the council
Has been twenty years
And he takes no lip off nobody
And litter off the gutter
Puts it in a bag
And never thinks to mutter
And he packs his lunch in a Sunblest bag
The children call him Bogie
He never lets on
But I know ’cause he once told me
He let me know a secret
About the money in his kitty
He’s gonna buy a dinghy
Gonna call her Dignity

And I’ll sail her up the west coast
Through villages and towns
I’ll be on my holidays
They’ll be doing their rounds
They’ll ask me how I got her I’ll say
I saved my money
They’ll say isn’t she pretty
That ship called Dignity

And I’m telling this story
In a faraway scene
Sipping down Raki
And reading Maynard Keynes
And I’m thinking about home
And all that means
And a place in the winter
For Dignity

Chorus

Set it up (repeat)

And I’m thinking about home
And I’m thinking about faith
And I’m thinking about work
And I’m thinking
How good it would be
To be here some day
On a ship called Dignity
A ship called Dignity
That ship

 

Saving for early retirement

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Instructions on the wall of our campervan

Having read plenty of other blogs by fantastic people working towards financial independence and early retirement, all I have really learnt is that everyone has different priorities for their spending.

So our spending for 2015 is below and is offered up humbly for blog readers to pick at as you see fit.  I don’t claim to be a model of frugality, Mr BOTRA and I are just doing our best but hopefully you will think that managing to save 40% of our income isn’t at all bad.

We save by looking for the cheapest deals for utilities where we can, shopping in the discount stores (mostly Lidl as I like to support them for paying the living wage ahead of other supermarkets) and Mr BOTRA does all the bicycle maintenance.  As you can see we have a weakness for rock concerts … they do make us happy … and a lot of our socialising with friends involves eating in restaurants.

2015 spending £ %
Utilities 4966.59 13%
Holidays 3374.58 9%
Vehicle costs 1460.00 4%
Diesel 957.90 3%
Food & groceries 2788.84 8%
Other household items (inc furniture & bikes) 2399.18 6%
Restaurants, cafes and bars 1249.32 3%
Public transport 357.70 1%
Gifts 822.92 2%
Concerts / theatre and other attractions 1034.36 3%
Healthcare (dentist, specs & prescriptions) 500.78 1%
Clothes, shoes & accessories 394.69 1%
Unidentified spending (cash) 2080.00 6%
Savings 14734.00 40%
TOTAL 36857.30 100%