Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Renovation project - Living the dream when the money runs out!

Renovation project - Living the dream when the money runs out!

Well this is the blog post that may shock/surprise/upset family and friends, which is why I have left it to be a retrospective post. I have always been optimistic and you will find out just how optimistic that sentence was when I say, just before we opened we were almost out of money!

This is not one of those TV programs 'out of money' but hey we just found an emergency 50,000 Euros, this was a complete, Holy S**T, there's hardly any money left!

Now don't get me wrong we were not on the food bank stage but we were only a few months off.
There is nothing quite as horrible as looking at your bank account and wondering how long will this last us, how far can we make it spread and how thinly?

There were times when we panicked, when we argued, when we just sat quietly, which is probably the worst thing you can do, because if you start to dwell, you can start to regret and suddenly look
back on your old life with rose tinted glasses,

There were times when all I could think about was the fact that we had left behind our children and now our baby grandchildren for our new life and now we were in a situation that may become much more difficult than any life we had before, yes work was becoming scarcer in the UK, but it was still there, there are emergency systems in place in the UK such as benefits, which we are not entitled to here, and suddenly there were lots of stories about people who had come to France and left with nothing, are we going to become one of those sad statistics.

This is also the stage when you can start to blame each other, this we never did, you have to keep your spirits high, we were doing this for a reason and we were going to be successful!
it's easy to forget why you came to a new country when it is not going well or to plan, but you came for a reason and that old adage is very true, what doesn't kill you can only make you stronger.

There will be times when it is a struggle and having no money in a country that isn't your own means that you are not entitled to any help, there is no emergency payments, you can't call round to family plus you really don't want them to know that you are struggling and so far away

We were living the dream, we had bought the derelict house, we had almost finished renovating, we were going to open as a B&B, but should we now be concentrating on selling up and trying something new?

We had done everything correctly, we had budgeted, we knew what we had spent, we had kept all the receipts (admittedly they were just dumped in a box and never looked at again, but we had kept them as we had been advised!)

We had been on an 8 week tour of Europe, but what is the point of having a great new life if you don't get to enjoy it?

We had visited family regularly in the UK, and without this, I definitely would not have been able to stay here, France was for a better life not to lose touch with those that are really important. This is one of the biggest dilemmas about moving to a new country, can you see your loved ones often enough?

Could we possibly have done more to preserve our funds, maybe, but would we have been as happy, no definitely not!

Now this is where our optimism (or is that naive stupidity? No I prefer optimism) came in, we are both achievers, we get what we set our minds too so we decide to go ahead and concentrate on the B&B.

We have it decorated as we wanted it, we have all the little luxuries in the rooms, there is the option of cutting corners here, but that would be shooting yourself in the foot, it is a little B&B competing against established providers, we needed to set ourselves apart, we were going to be luxurious.

We have opening night with champagne, we are in France after all and even with little money there is always enough to buy some champagne, again that question of preserving funds comes to mind but as you can buy (not official) champagne (but something that tastes as good) for 2 Euro’s let’s push the boat out!

We have our first summer and we are full from June to mid September, we have made money, far more than we had ever hoped for, it was a roaring success.

We are now so pleased that we kept our heads and our optimism, it worked for us, the food banks are now a distant nightmare, we are here for another year.

Were we just lucky where so many others were not, I don't think so, we had a plan, not set in stone, as we adapted it on a regular basis, we knew how much money we had and spent it wisely (well 90% of it any way).

We did not need to employ anybody and this kept our costs down, we didn't gold plate anything but made sure that luxury was there at an affordable price to us, we lived with no electric, no heating, no floors or doors and without most basic necessities,

And most importantly we did the essentials first, our bedroom was not finished until after the end of the season. It didn't really matter how we lived until we knew there was enough money for it.

This is where so many people do go wrong, why install a pool, luxury owners master suite etc. until you are up and running and making money. You have lived on a building site your luxury can wait.

The basics have to be completed first, we wore lots of jumpers and ran too bed fully clothed as it was not worth putting heating in until all the holes in the walls were filled. We read about one family that spent a fortune on oil trying to heat a house with holes and draughts, this is pointless and will use money that can be better spent

But we we are here, it was a success, we have met some amazing friends

Would we do it again? yes most definitely

Would we change anything? Probably not.

Do we have any advice for anybody doing the same thing? Yes bucket loads of advice, feel free to e-mail and ask

But our top tips are
  • If you are not doing the work yourself. Have a clear budget and decide if it is financially worth it, (sometimes it is cheaper to buy a completed property rather than have the costs of renovation)
  • keep within your budget and don't be afraid to call it a day before you have finished, it's not failing it's being realistic
  • do not put gold trimmings on, shop around you will be amazed at the bargains you can find
  • have a clear plan, but be adaptable
  • learn the language in case you need to take on a 2nd job to supplement your income
  • it's not always a bed of roses, there are good days and bad days, just make sure the good days outnumber the bad days.
  • Talk to each other and don't let negative feelings take over
  • And the biggest piece of advise we received was not to have a plan B, because if you have a plan B the only thing guaranteed to succeed will be the plan B!


  1. this a great post, we failed and came back after three years! but i still worked in the uk part time while my wife stayed in france.
    so true about plan B!!!

    1. thank you, sorry it didn't work out fully for you, do you still have a place in France? Happy new year :)

  2. We can definitely relate to this - ran right out of money after we moved to the USA, got my first job just as the deadline for the mortgage payment became due. Glad we stuck it out for twenty more years :)

  3. That's brave Jenny
    we are skint too but we will find a way to keep going
    good luck with next season and I will take a leaf from your positive book

    1. thanks, it was a hard one to write, admitting that times were tough, but hopefully will give people the confidence to go on or call it a day.

      wishing you a fantastic 2015 xx

  4. You are brave to admit that Jenny
    we are on thin ice ourselves but trying to stay focussed and positive

    hope 2015 is good for you