My trips to Liverpool probably started when my dad left. I was 14 and obsessed with Liverpool FC. The person who used to take me to see them play had disappeared, but I was determined to keep going. Mum was on a low wage, so I started selling things to classmates, from sandwiches she had made to sweets bought from wholesalers, just to afford the journey from Havant in Hampshire.
Immediately after leaving school, I worked in factories and a local shop and soon became a part-time postman, saving everything to buy my car, aged 17, to get to Liverpool. That approach to my finances continues, as does my dedication to Liverpool – I have missed only a handful of home games in 15 years.
If Liverpool are playing in the evening, I work until 12.30pm, drive to arrive a couple of hours before kick-off and afterwards drive straight home. I’ll be in bed by 3am and at work by 8am, just to save the holiday. It may be a 500-mile round trip, but I’ve built up car-sharing connections to cut petrol costs.
I spend £3,500-£4,000 a year on home games and European away fixtures. Every month I put money in a separate account to fund my ticket, accommodation, travel, a pint or two, a programme and maybe a pie at the match. By the end of the season, my football pot is plus or minus about £30.
My wife, Stacey, and I moved into our house to be closer to the University of Portsmouth, where we both work, and we share the £1,000 monthly mortgage payments. We had no furniture when we moved in, so everything came from Freecycle, Gumtree or friends and family. In three years here, the only thing we’ve bought is a dining room table.
We stick religiously to a meal plan and the food bill is about £200 a month. I love to cook most meals from scratch so we only eat out once a fortnight. I will generally pay for this as I earn the higher salary, as research information and system manager, of around £35,000 a year.
I’ve always been into travel, but in 2009 we decided to start putting a whole lot of destinations into a bag and, twice a year, pick one out to visit as cheaply as possible. It ramped up in 2013 when we realised we were saving more than needed. We are now getting away three or four times a year – always attending a game of football. As well as having 33 days annual leave, the university shutting down at Christmas is of great benefit as we can go somewhere with cheap living costs, such as south-east Asia.
Aside from travel, we have very few outgoings. We purchased our car outright, but cycle or walk to work. I pay £19 a month for my gym membership and £8 for my mobile. Saving on all that means we can focus on making memories together.
My foreign football travel has led to me writing a book around the 10 biggest football derbies and I am attempting to see them all in two years. I’ve done four already, and will do Glasgow, Rio and Istanbul this year. The usual rules apply – keeping costs down and cramming as much into the time as possible, even getting dropped at Gatwick to sleep on the floor before an early flight. The money I put away for football and travel is an essential outgoing. It gives me a greater sense of wellbeing than buying things for the house. I’m lucky to be married to Stacey because we share views on these things and not many people would put up with me!