Saroj Joshi has a wealth of experience in investing, saving, and the property market. She is a strong advocate for sharing the importance of financial responsibility with children and establishing a good attitude towards saving money from an early age.
This Derbyshire-based money saving guru has provided much support to the local Indian community with her handy tips. Having migrated to the UK in the 1960s when a dime was hard to come by, her thrifty attitude towards life has paid off well into her adult life. Her first earnings were from a Saturday job and the first salary was donated to charity, as tradition dictates. She bought her first property when she was 26 with her savings from a year working in Japan.
In this brand new iMoney Guru section, Saroj Joshi reminisces about being part of the second wave of migrants from Punjab and how making and saving money looked different in the 1980s.
I always knew money was a worry as there were never any spare cash for anything other than the basics. I’m sure many will remember their mums making some of their clothes. Ours would sew and knit us into her creations – she could “make it at home for nothing!” We did always get Clarks shoes though!
Ironically, my first Saturday job was at a Clarks shoe shop and I earned £5.94 per day, but in the 1980s, this allowed me bus fares and a social life for a week. One of the treats I do remember having is going to the local shop to buy four packets of with 10p; Yes, 10p for my three brothers and me.
We didn’t have a bathroom in our first house. The toilet was at the end of the garden and we bathed in a tin bath in front of the fire or in the kitchen sink!
I loved school and worked hard there; at primary school we had a weekly ritual, whereby we brought 50p or £1 to add to our savings card. It was run by the TSB and it was a great way for us to learn about saving and for the bank to recruit future customers; a symbiotic relationship. I had amazing teachers throughout school, like Mr Woodward, one of my . I noticed that he was always well-prepared and he liked seeing and teaching us and he always smiled. His warmth and enthusiasm led me into teaching a few years later.
Our teachers promoted aspirational thinking and encouraged us to go into . On meeting a few of my cohort at a school reunion, we all seemed to have done well. I think because I was the oldest child in my family, I felt the pressure of setting a good example to my brothers.
One thing that made being a student easier back in the 1980s was that we didn’t pay student fees. In addition, we got maintenance grants (dependent on parental income) to help for our living expenses: accommodation, food, books etc. Yes, we got paid to go to university, which is vastly different to today where students are paying £9,000 to learn from home.
I always had a Saturday job, paid and , as a student. I believe this really cultivated my positive attitude towards work and money. We should encourage young people to be active in this way as it teaches them social skills for real life interactions and to give something back to the they belong to. At the charity shop where I worked, young people came to complete their Duke of Edinburgh voluntary service.
Talking about , growing up, we knew lots of other Indian and Pakistani families. We shared food, advice, local knowledge and supported one another. There was help from others too, for example, a local solicitor counter-signed my parents’ first mortgage when there was no-one else to do it. The pay-off was that we used him for all legal matters from then on.
Although we don’t have the same restrictions as in the past, there are many new arrivals from India in the country (quite a few via Italy) that need help with communications to do with work, legal and money matters. I help out where I can.
Once I finished university in Coventry, I applied to Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, which is aimed at promoting grass-roots international exchange between Japan and other nations. It paid about £16,500 for the year. (I was a Yen millionaire!) My mum not keen on my going away, but she came around…and dad bought me a suitcase which I took that as an encouraging sign. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I made the most of it, working in the schools I was allocated and also teaching English to the managers of Matsushita Denki on a Saturday morning.
I returned at the age of 24, and by 26, I found myself in a position to buy my first house. It was a one-bedroom flat in High Wycombe and it cost £42,500. In today’s climate, I’m sure it would be close to £200,000. We didn’t have Help2Buy schemes in those days, but the was booming. When I sold the flat 10 years later, I more than doubled my money. I was also collecting rent on it until then when I bought my second flat in 1998.
I always made sure I reviewed my saving accounts to ensure I was getting the best returns, and any money I could put into tax-free ISAs, high interest fixed deposits and notice accounts (up to 6%), I did. These days, the rates that banks and building societies offer are really low, sometimes as little as 0.01%. There is even talk of banks charging to keep your money.
One thing I really appreciate about growing up in such a frugal and trying time was the work ethic it cultivated in me. We took nothing for granted. My brother set up his own software company from the garage. We had to be entrepreneurial to get by.
Now the hardships are different. We may have access to technology and ourselves, but many of us are struggling to stay employed and on top of our debts.
If I had three tips to leave with you, they would be:
Review your current and savings accounts to see if there are better deals elsewhere. It’s easy to switch current accounts now – banks will move your direct debits and standing orders across for you through their switching services, and some banks offer a welcome bonus too! Virgin Money is currently offering a return of 2.02% on your first £1000, and £180 worth of wine as a joining perk (non-alcoholic options available too). One of the advantages of holding certain current accounts is the opportunity to save in a linked Regular Saver with a reasonable rate – you can set up a monthly payment to make it easier.
Call your utility providers and ask them, “What is the cheapest tariff I could be on?” You may be surprised by how much you could save, and it might help you with budgeting as you can enrol onto fixed tariffs. If you have a few minutes, you can do a comparison on a website, for example Uswitch- the best deal will depend on geography and your circumstances. Tariffs are set to rise again soon, so do it today!
Use cashback websites for additional bonuses on your shopping and insurance. I recently got a £75 Amazon voucher from LV for my car insurance. In total I’ve received over £1700 from TopCashback – some of this directly into my bank and some I’ve changed into Amazon credit. Top Cashback and Quidco are my preferred cashback sites and are worth bookmarking on your browser.
*For specific queries or money saving tips, you can reach iMoney Guru at