I started off with the best of intentions, honest! (Also NSD # 3)

When I acquired my first ‘didn’t belong to a bank I was with’ credit card it was honestly with the best of intentions.

I have spent most of my employment history on a zero hour contract basis. A zero hour contract is basically a contract where I would be employed by a company on an ‘as and when needed’ basis. I would have no guaranteed contracted hours. Some weeks I could be working 30+. Sometimes I would be given a three week rota with only one shift on it (a short one at that).

This made it impossible to predict an income or even to budget effectively. Some weeks I would be flush, and other times I would be buying a reduced loaf of bread on a credit card as I didn’t even have 40p in my bank account (true story).

So I discovered you could get credit cards through places that weren’t banks. And as I was sick of borrowing money off my boyfriend just to pay my share of the household bills (although he was happy to do it I thought of myself as a parasite during these moments) I decided I would get a new and shiny credit card to use only in emergencies when I had a shortfall in my income.

But then I decided that I ‘deserved’ that new book by my favourite author. I decided I couldn’t possibly wear my current clothes on a night out and I ‘needed’ a new outfit. I wanted some new jewellery and make up to go with the new outfit.

Soon I had maxed out the card, so as at this point I still had a passable credit rating, I applied for another.

And then another.

Until I had 5 maxed out credit cards, increasing bills to pay and was still on a zero hour contract.

I wasn’t afraid of hard work. At one point I had SIX part time jobs at the same time just to try to desperately earn an income.

That is why one thing you will never hear me say is that my income is too low or that I need a better paying job.

Because they wage I’m on at the moment, whilst still entry level, makes me feel like a millionaire.

It’s just that I spend nearly £300 of it getting to work a month, and I spend an almost equal amount of that just on my debt repayments a month.

It’s not my income that’s the problem. It’s me, and my bad habits in the past.

But I have good news.

In 2016 as all I did on 4 out of 5 credit cards was pay towards them each month they started throwing balance extensions my way. This meant my ‘credit utilisation rate’ went down (meaning I had borrowed a small amount of money compared to what was available to me) which meant my credit rating went up!

I get a free credit report every month. It is by no means a perfect indication and the company I go through isn’t the best, but since I am not really applying for anything major in terms of credit all I want is a happy little indicator that I am doing good. And the day the report comes out is a good day for me as I can see the little, probably meaningless, numbers go up.

This means I have better options available for me in terms of credit, such as a nice low rate balance transfer card.

I have been accepted for a new 0% balance transfer card and soon all my credit card debt will be at 0%, meaning when I spend £250 a month on my debt payments, you know that it will all come off my debt.

Previously I was lucky if over £100 of it was cleared from my debts a month.

I got myself into this mess and I don’t mind working hard to get out of it, but will still do things to ease the journey. A 0% balance transfer card is a good compromise, it is still a debt, but one at a better rate.

I know the year is only 6 days old, but things are going well.

The pleasures and sorrows of over buying (and NSD #2)

My name is Flo and I’m an over buyer.

The world is made up of under buyers, over buyers and probably a huge amount of sane normal people who buy as and when they need something. Lucky gits.

I am someone who buys multiples of everything. Does a shirt I like come in three different colours? Then that’s three different coloured shirts I am going to own. Is something on special offer? Then I’ll buy 20 of it. I don’t buy a weeks worth of shopping, I buy a months shopping at the start of the month, so that I have lots of everything. I like to stock pile and stock up and as a result I spend a lot.

I am a hoarder. My Dad is a hoarder and I get many of my tendencies from him. His stems from some deep childhood trauma I won’t bore you all with and mine….also stems from a deep childhood trauma which I won’t bore you with.

In particular I am a food hoarder. In my cupboard I have 6 tins of Green Lentils which I use when making veggie lasagna.

I last made a lasagna in the summer.

And yet I still buy the tins.

The obvious reason behind this is I am afraid we will one day run out of food. I don’t mean that in an apocalyptic ‘the end of the world has happened’ way, I don’t really fear that. It’s more I’m scared that one day something will happen to our finances and we will have no food and have to survive on our wits.

Yet, the crazy thing is I won’t touch some of the tins, as I like having 4 tins of baked beans as it means I have baked beans available and yet I won’t eat the baked beans in case we run out of baked beans.

Confused?

This is what it is like living in my crazy brain.

It’s not like there is going to be an international baked bean shortage, and I can always go to the shop and buy another 4 tins of beans, so why don’t I?

I don’t know, I think that is the root of my problem. I am scared of ‘running out’.

When I was a young girl my family had little money, we weren’t on the poverty line (at least not until I was a teenager) but we were a typical working class family, too many mouths, too little money.

A lot of my clothes were hand me downs, I mean that’s hardly a hardship is it? I lot of younger siblings wear their siblings hand me downs.

Except my same age siblings were all boys. I did have sisters, but they were 15 and 14 years older than me so their hand me downs weren’t appropriate for a 10 year old girl.

As a fashion conscious kid, teenager and adult, not being able to express myself through my clothes and style was quite unpleasant.

When I had a disposable income, or money to spend (whether it belonged to me or a credit card) I spent it on clothes, because I was comforted by having a bulging wardrobe. I was comforted by having so many clothes that the rail in my wardrobe broke. Because to me that was a sign of ‘Wealth’ It was a sign I was doing ok, that I had money, that I was doing better then my childhood.

But spending all the money I (didn’t) have on clothes meant I couldn’t see my friends, I couldn’t afford to go out and show off the clothes, all I could do was stay home and watch TV.

I remember one weekend when cash was a bit tight and I saw it as a violation of my human rights that I had to spend that weekend at home.

I know I’ve already said it but I was a complete an utter twat. I have never considered myself a particularly materialistic person, but looking back I was the dictionary definition of one.

Over buying is a pretty bad way to live, but it occasionally has benefits.

I have spent today and yesterday off work with a nice general lurgy, my immune system is clearly under attack because I even have a cold sore.

I was all set to go to the shops and buy some cold sore cream when I decided to search the house first to see if it was something I had in stock.

And lo and behold there was some, in a slightly damp medicine bag on the bathroom shelf, but the packaging was intact so I dosed up.

I had been planning on not only buying cold sore cream but also a face scrub and maybe some cheese, but I decided I could live without the other stuff and was happy to report I got to stay at home and recover.

So on this occasion I was saved by my previous spending idiosyncrasies.

Maybe I can survive this year.

Better and Worse

On January 1st 2015 I bought a five year diary. Here is what I wrote 2 years ago today:

“Somehow I have become a financial hell hole again. I don’t know how I do it.”

Hmm, somehow I still hadn’t grasped the concept of spend more than you earn = bad times.

Or to put it much better, the famous quote:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.” ― Charles Dickens, David Copperfield.

My 2015 diary entries are littered with days like the above.

May 13th 2015: My credit card extension came through. Spent loads.

June 25th 2015: I am very poor and I don’t realise it.

June 27th 2015: Got paid by new job so have had one of the best days of my life.

October 8th 2015: OH and I went for a 2 mile jog! We also had an argument about money.

October 31st 2015: Had a wobble over finances.

November 16th 2015: Bit of a low day. Felt too mentally unwell to do anything. I need to raise money and fast.

December 5th 2015: I need a lot of money.

Also littered throughout that years diary entries are the many, many days when I had either gastrointestinal problems or eczema. Both were caused by stress.

I was stressed by my job at the time. I worked in a call centre. I worked with absolutely amazing people, but unfortunately my anxiety over talking to people I don’t know, inability to deal with conflict and did I forget to mention my PHOBIA of talking to people on the phone meant it probably wasn’t the best job for me. But I had to work it, as I was in debt and had huge credit card bills to pay.

So I was stressed by money and my mounting debts, so I needed my job to pay them, but I hated my job and was unbelievably stressed by it and ended up using all my allowance of sick days in a less than 6 months meaning on the occasions when I was off work sick with stress after that I had reduced sick pay.

So you can understand a little bit more about how I got stuck in this mess.

I shopped to feel good as everything else in my life was going wrong.

Things are better now.

In 2015 I frequently had insomnia and difficulty falling asleep as all I could do was panic over my spending chaos, my huge debts, what could soon turn out to be a negative income and how I was going to tell my OH (Other Half) that despite earning MORE than him I needed to borrow money.

I WAS A TWAT!

I have no one to blame but myself, which is why I ‘reject’ sympathy. I got myself into this mess and by hook or by crook I will get myself out of it.

Please don’t feel sorry for me (you probably weren’t, you probably agree that I was a twat but let me continue). Yes I can make an argument that my shopping addiction started as a result of a deep empty void, terrible stress and low self esteem but then shopping has never been listed as a cure for mental health difficulties now has it?

In December 2015 my finances were in such a dire state that I had to withdraw the money I needed for my upcoming personal expenses, and then put the right amounts into separate envelopes, label the envelopes with what the money was for (Work Xmas party, Slimming World etc) and then give the envelopes to my OH to look after and have him issue them to me on the days I needed them, but I was incapable of not spending money in my account.

It didn’t matter is I had £55 in my bank account, and I had £55 of expenses that month. I would ‘forget’ that the money was reserved for other things and I would head straight to the shops and buy something, anything.

I considered it a violation of my human rights if I couldn’t go straight to Peacocks on payday and buy a new outfit.

In the early part of 2015 I did realise I was getting out of control, and I did start making baby steps towards getting under control.

On April 1st 2015, as it was the start of a new tax year (one of my favourite days of the year is when I get to do my self employed taxes. I don’t know why I just love doing my taxes. Yes, I am weird) I decided it would be a good idea to start keeping a spending diary. Truth is I got the idea in March and not in January when normal people start diaries but oh well.

I religiously kept every receipt I was given, and I showed them in a folder.

Then one day when my OH was at the football (I support the same team but was too poor to go, probably on account of spending all my money in Peacocks or on Faberge Eggs or something ridiculous) I started creating spreadsheet spending diaries for each month of that year. I also love spreadsheets, you’ll get to find out more about that over time.

I still do this to this day.

So I can tell you exactly how much money I spent on the various categories of my spending. And I can tell you that this year I have spent on average £40 less a month then I did in 2015. So things have got better.

I now spend all my time thinking about money, in particular my money, my attitude to spending, how I spent, how I calculate things.

It is my all consuming thought, but it makes me happy now. I am in control and take pleasure from being in control and knowing everything about my spending.

Which is why I am desperate to pay off my debts as soon as possible. Because as soon as I pay off my debts I can return to studying. I am going to study either Economics, or Accountancy, or train to be a financial adviser. I want people to know there is a way out, whether your debt is £6000 or £600000 it is possible to lead a life of value and fun, pay off your debts and make your dreams come true.

I have direction now, which I didn’t have before.

 

NSD #1

I am pleased to report that today was a ‘No Spend Day’ (NSD) meaning so far this year 1/3 of the days have not involved any money leaving my wallet.

Yes the year is only three days old but I will take victories where I can.

In December I think the weight of 2016 had finally gotten to me because I was buying a big fat sugary latte coffee (despite being more of an americano kinda girl) at least once a day in order to just get through the day with at least one eye open.

But that can happen no more, so it was goodbye Java Mermaid and hello supermarket own brand gold roast instant coffee. I do like a nice ground coffee but am perfectly happy with instant, I know to some that is a sin but I don’t really have very discerning taste buds.

It was so frosty this morning, and so cold, and so dark at 6am that I was a bit like ‘Up with this I will not put!’ but there are far bigger problems in the world.

We do need more milk, but I think we can live without replacing it until tomorrow. I am desperate for as many NSDs as I can get.

In 2016 I achieved 71 NSDs.

In 2017 I want to achieve double that.

Some may wonder, what’s the big deal about a NSD? Why go out of your way to have X amount of NSDs when all that matters is that you stay in your budget?

I agree, to a certain extent. The trouble is I know myself, or at least the old self. I could barely go more than half a day without spending my money on something. It didn’t matter what it was.

I am the sort of person for whom money really does burn a hole in my pocket.

I remember when I was a 12 year old girl and was going shopping in town with my friends (no parents, woo hoo!) I would spend all my pocket money there and then, and if I had 50p left, then I would find for something, ANYTHING, that was 50p just to buy it and to have more more things.

I remember my friend had to stop me buying a 15p shampoo that had the look of washing up liquid just in order to use up my last pennies.

My problem is shopping gives me a high, and ok my tastes are cheap, think Peacocks not Prada, but debt is still debt whether it came from haute couture or the high street.

This may seem like a big revelation, but actually I have known for a long time that I am on the hunt for something that will make my life better. I am on the hunt for essentially a magic wand or a genie lantern.

What is wrong with my life? What do I have to complain about?

My life is pretty blessed, but I do have mental health problems, hormone problems, anxiety problems and low self esteem. Aye aye aye.

I was after a magical product that would cure my problems. Dealing with them head on in a mature and reasonable fashion would be too simple and sensible for the old Flo. Instead I tried to buy happiness. I had a hole in my heart that needed to be plugged with something shiny.

So when I did go shopping I couldn’t stick to a list. Oh I would make a list, but I would add to it. I couldn’t just buy the loaf of bread and milk that we needed, I would hunt high and low until I left the shop with the baking supplies, herbal teas and wonder products just to buy some lifestyle I was hoping to emulate.

I don’t really have the confidence to be me. To say and believe that I am fine the way I am. I seem to be trying to find someone else’s idea of perfection in the shops.

What I’m hoping this year is to cut to the very core of who I am and rid my life of ‘clutter’ whether it is in terms of clothes, physical items or mental clutter.

NSDs do me good. They make me realise I can live without buying crap.

Just 141 more NSDs to go.

 

 

My adventures so far

So the year is only 2 days old, how have I been doing?

Well the universe seems to be wishing me the best as on my trip to the shops today to get milk I found £5.

This is great for me as I had been panicking about the £2.50 I owed my other half for the printer paper (which led to the hastily assembled ‘Home’ category on the years budget) and then last night whilst trying to watch Netflix from Computer to TV the HDMI cable stopped working, so my OH bought a new one on Amazon for £5.

That means I was already over budget on the ‘Home’ category and the year had barely begun.

So as soon as I walked in the door I handed the £5 note over to him.

If things keep going like this I should be fine.

I also picked up milk for me to take into work tomorrow, which comes under the ‘Work Expense’ category and I had my two online food shops arrive this evening.

I should explain a little about our food budget. As it’s just my OH and I we have set a budget of £185 for the month. The food budget month runs from my payday to the next payday. I generally get paid on the 27th, unless the 27th is a weekend day or bank holiday.

As my December payday was before Christmas our food budget this month runs from the 20th December to the 26th January. Our budget for the month is £185 based on no other factor than that’s the number we settled on. I think it is a little lower than the national average for a 2 person household, but I am a pescetarian who rarely eats fish and my OH is an omnivore who eats a mainly vegetarian diet (thanks to me) so it is fine for us.

Now this is where you may go ‘WTF? That’s madness’ but I usually (not always) get TWO monthly food deliveries, one from Tesco’s and one from Morrison’s. The reason is we find this works for us as we can compare the deals (making sure we get the best ones on offer) and also some products we cannot live without, and they are only available in one of the stores.

So my Morrison’s food delivery was £49.91, and the Tesco’s delivery was £46.14.

Now thanks to it being a longer food month then usual I find that we have less than £30 of the food budget left to last us till the 26th.

I also seem to get to this stage every month.

But do you know what? Somehow I usually manage to sneak in past the payday finishing line with a couple of pennies to spare. This does mean we often spend the last week of the month eating strange meals and not having much in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables, but until my debts are cleared we can’t spend much more on the budget.

But I make sure we have beer and my OH has steak this month, so I am not a cruel mistress, we do have some luxuries.

We also have a hell of a lot of basic own brand labels but I have never been a brand snob and thankfully my OH isn’t either. I say we eat frugally rather than badly or desperately. For this I am grateful.

As this year goes on you will get to know more about me and my ‘childhood traumas numbers 1 – 256’ that may explain a little bit more about how I got in this mess.

But one thing I don’t want you to do is feel sorry for me. There is nothing wrong with my life that time won’t fix. I have so much to be grateful for. I’m doing ok. For the first time in my life I have a direction, a purpose, a reason to get up and go.

I once said getting into debt was the best thing that ever happened to me. Whilst I now know that was going WAY too far, I do have to acknowledge that there have been positive benefits to my life as a result of having to dig deep and use my resources and develop some wily ways about coping with life.

It’s back to work tomorrow. Am I nervous? Yes, of course. I hate having an extended break from work as I become convinced I will have forgotten everything. And I know it will be busy for the next few weeks at work.

Oh well.

See you tomorrow for more Money Managing adventures.

 

Day 2 and already I am struggling

Hi everybody,

Despite the fact that the year is only 2 days old I have had some pretty big spending struggles.

The first happened yesterday. My boyfriend needed more printer paper, so we added some to our food shop from a certain well known supermarket and I was about to give him half the money when I panicked.

It was because I had decided that I was only going to spend money on things that fell into these categories: Gifts, Health, Postage and Packaging, Travel, Work Expenses, Social and Clothing Maintenance.

I did not have a ‘Printer paper’ category.

I did have a major panic and was saying to my boyfriend ‘If I give you half the money then I will have already failed and it’s only been one day’

So call it cheating but I have decided that printer paper is a worthy item to buy. So I have moved £2.50 from my social budget and created a category called ‘Home’.

Have I cheated? Well, printer paper is something I am clearly going to use in the next year, and if I really need to print something then doing it at home will be significantly cheaper then going to an internet cafe. I did think that a ‘Home’ category would be useful, it’s just that I was scared because last year I bought an awful lot of things for the home that were more decorative then essential and I was worried I would use the ‘Home’ category as an excuse to get a shopping fix and buy something pretty.

So this has led me to create a few ground rules for the year.

I can only buy a ‘forbidden’ item if the following is taken into account.

  1. The item would save me money in the long run.
  2. It is an item that will reasonably benefit me and my boyfriends life.

I have also decided that if I want to buy something pretty and shiny as opposed to useful and essential then I can, but I can’t spend any money on it.

Now before you think I am going to take up stealing I’ll add that I can only purchase the item with vouchers. I cam’t spend a single penny on it.

This is a little easier then you may think. I have many ways of maximising my income and I do it through things like shopping apps, online surveys and shopping research. In fact I frequently buy a job lot of presents for many people online and it only costs me about £4.30.

When the next Tesco club card vouchers are released I will have collected about £15 in total. After a little discussion with my boyfriend he has agreed that I can keep the club card vouchers for my own personal use this year.

So I may not exactly look cutting edge this year, but at least I know if I need something like an emergency pair of black jeans I can pop along to the big Tesco’s in Cardiff and buy a pair for £0.

Through another one of my ‘Money making scams’ (as my brothers would call them) I am due to receive enough ‘points’ that I can exchange it for a £10 voucher for somewhere like Amazon or New Look.

So it is perfectly possible that I can still indulge this year without spending any money.

I am just going to have to prioritise and be crafty this year.

One thing I did decide against buying is an independent magazine that I write for. I have had some of my work published in the latest issue, and I normally buy a copy not just for my own work but because I love the magazine.

I have decided against buying the latest issue.

I may ask my boyfriend to buy it for me as an early birthday present, but right now it is not an essential item, it does not benefit both me and my boyfriend, it can’t be purchased with vouchers and it will not save me money in the long run.

Therefore it can’t be purchased.

This year isn’t going to be easy, but that’s why I need to do it.

Do you know what is easy? Buying things without thought, without compromise, without a budget or thought or care.

It is easy to pick up a lot of stuff and put it on a credit card. It is harder to make tough decisions about what you can and can’t purchase.

I got into debt because I wasn’t prepared to ‘deprive’ myself, which says it all. The fact I considered it deprivation to not buy new items of clothing every month shows what a twat I was being.

This year I want to get back to a core sense of what I do and do not need to lead a happy life. I want a stream lined life. I want a life free from hassle and clutter. I think not buying rubbish will do that.

Hi, my name is Flo, and I’m in debt

Hi everybody.

Well it’s a new year. In 2016 I started the year with  £5150 of debt. I was determined to cut back, reduce, and most of all stop spending money. Oh, and to pay off my debts.

I clearly did a great job because I ended  2016 with  £5996.12 of debt. Uh oh! How did that happen?

Well I should explain. I had a great summer in 2016, with lots of time off. That’s because I was unemployed!

Yes, in 2016 for four months between one contract ending and gaining a new one I was living off my Ebay sales, my money making scams and what remained of my wits. I didn’t do too badly to have only gained debts of  £900 during my summer off, but that’s  £900 I am gutted to have added to Mr Big Bad Credit Card.

So somehow I ended 2016 in more debt then I started it in.

It looked like it was back to the drawing board.

Here are my stats.

I am 27 and have a contract at my job until April 2017. I am hoping to be either reassigned immediately after this, or to get a job closer to home (I technically work in a different country to the one I live in). Working closer to home would do wonders for my disposable income and debt repayments as my season ticket to work is a little under  £300 a month.

I have five credit cards.

I recently transferred the largest balance from the card I lovingly refer to as Mr Big Bad Credit Card due to how much I hate it and how much pain it has caused me to a 0% credit card. I have 24 months to pay it off but if I was to make the same payments I had to make to the old card then it will be cleared a good while before that.

I have one credit card which has a balance of less than  £90 and I am focusing on this card until it is all paid off.

Another card also has a relatively small balance, whilst another is basically maxed out.

And finally I have one card which was a 0% balance transfer card last year and the 0% interest runs out in the next two months. I will be looking to apply for a new 0% balance transfer credit card very soon so that I can avoid paying any more interest then I have to.

I also live in my  £1000 overdraft, but am focusing on the credit card debt first.

Anyway, I did some assessment about how I spent my money last year and there were two things I noticed.

I continued to buy things (true, it was at a much lower rate) but I still bought things, including memorably a  £30 vintage Barbie alarm clock during my summer of unemployment.

and two

I hardly saw my friends or socialised outside of a house during the whole of 2016.

So I want to flip this for 2017. I want to socialise….and I don’t want to buy anything.

When I say anything, there is obviously a few exceptions to that.

I am allowed to buy Gifts for people, I am allowed to buy food and groceries for the house, I can spend money on travelling, health related costs, essential home ware, work expenses and posting things.

What I can’t buy are things like DVDS, books, stationary, accessories, ‘non essential food’ (takeaway coffee’s, work canteen lunches etc) and Clothes.

I am allowed to spend money on clothing ‘maintenance’ such as dry cleaning (when absolutely necessary), alterations and resoling shoes, but I can not buy one single items of clothing other than underwear.

And of course, I am not allowed to buy vintage Barbie alarm clocks.

I figured I would live this year by a strict budget (being finalised as we speak), by reducing, reusing and recycling (I hate waste of any description and feel bad if I throw away so much as half a mouldy lettuce) and by reconnecting with my friends.

To say I didn’t see my friends because I didn’t have any money would be too simple. There is also the harder fact to face which is over the last year I have developed somewhere between bad and extreme social anxiety meaning I can feel petrified about going somewhere on my own. Also when I get invited to things by my friends I can get into a state of panic before hand and become convinced they only invited me out of pity and would be a whole lot happier if I wasn’t there.

So I have a few things I want to work on in 2017 and they are

My debt

My social life

My health

Do you notice what isn’t up there? I don’t want to focus on ‘My Spending’ other than by eliminating the non essential spending. I don’t want to spend 2017 making sure I buy lots of DVDs, clothes and books etc.

So that’s it. In 2017 I want to stop buying things and instead see my friends. I want a life free from clutter. Either physical in terms of too much stuff in the house or mental in terms of too many bad thoughts invading my mind.

It won’t be easy. I expect I may fail, but they do say it’s better to aim big and bold then to aim small.