I am doing better than the national average person

Hi everyone,

I have been awake for about 45 minutes and in that time I have learned something of value to a person in my situation.

According to a new report by the TUC, full details of which can be found here the average household unsecured debt in the UK is £12,887.

So my debt of £5996.12 isn’t looking so bad.

That is until I realised that a household normally contains more than one person when taking debts into account, so I am actually doing my fair share of the debt.

And as my boyfriend has no debt I am the household debt in our house.

Oh dear!

I am for the most part managing, I have a very small disposable income (which isn’t really a disposable income as all of it is budgeted for) which I can cope with as all my other expenses-bills, food, football training-are covered, so I don’t really need a disposable income.

But I do live pay day to pay day, I have no savings, and my contract at work ends this April.

So as long as everything stays the same I will survive.

If things change for the worse then that is when life will get very difficult.

I know my debt may seem smaller than some, some people may have £6000 debt on just one of their credit cards, but for me it is very much proportional to my income. It is a third of my annual pre tax, pension and student loan income, so it is difficult to pay off quickly.

Also my income is going to take a hit as I was under the impression that I was paying into my pension at work from the start of my contract, it turns out it only comes out of my wage after three months of employment.

This will be tough and I may have to readjust the budgets.

I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

 

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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth about Debt

Let me tell you the main thing about getting into debt.

Getting into debt is super easy.

Think about it, it’s managing your money that is hard. Making all those decisions, putting things back if you can’t afford them, saving up for things, that’s the hard stuff.

But if you have had at some point a pretty ok credit rating you can destroy this very quickly.

Here’s how it happened to me.

I have worked sporadically since graduating from University. I was in no way afraid of hard work (I at one point had SIX jobs), but I have only had one full time contract with a yearly salary in my lifetime. Everything else was short term, casual contract, volunteer work, self-employed work or something inbetween.

At some point after leaving University I was offered a Barclaycard credit card. I already had one credit card, but somehow I had misread things and thought the Barclaycard was a 0% balance transfer card. Which is one of the credit cards you do want. I had a guess that my income was about 10k a year (it wasn’t) and signed up.

Initially despite being very poor due to working part time on a casual basis I was good with the credit cards. I paid them off in full each month. This did mean that I had cash in my account for about 3 days of each month, as all my money would go on paying the credit card in full (I was too afraid of paying just the minimum) and then I would use only the credit card to pay for things.

This led to a particularly low moment when I was forced to buy a 40p reduced loaf of bread on a credit card as I had zero in my current account.

Somewhere around 2013 I got sick of my deprived lifestyle. I had just left a job that was so awful it made me have to take anti-depressants. I had cleared the Barclaycard months ago and destroyed the old card. I ordered a new one and spent. And spent. And spent. I had Amazon deliveries coming about twice a week. I ordered books I wanted to read, I ordered sports gear, I bought clothes and everything else.

I then went to climb Snowden with my sisters, whilst coming back down the moment I got a call from Barclaycard to say my request to increase the balance had been approved. My sisters cheered for me, but even at the time despite the freedom to buy more things that caught my fancy I knew that this was a low point.

I started a new job, which I was fired from after 7 days because the villains at my old job put a stop to it (I will tell you more about this point in my life another day). I got another job, but it was again casual. I maxed out my credit cards at Christmas.

I survived through my pittance of a pay slip and lots of borrows off my boyfriend. It was in about 2014 when I was thinking about the book series ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ . I didn’t know how someone could amass a huge collection of credit cards as I thought you could only get them through a bank. It then occurred to me that there must be other ways to amass credit cards.

A quick google search later and I had an Aqua Card heading my way.

I thought I would use it to buy a laptop, or to pay back my brother, but I was a twat and used it very very quickly. I blew through 500 quid in a couple of weeks.

At this point my credit rating was still passable so I quickly ordered another card. And then another.

My monthly bills went sky high. I blew through this money (borrowed money) so quickly that I am ashamed of the way I behaved.

I was a complete and utter idiot. I was selfish. I was bad. I was awful.

Getting into debt is a stupid, stupid, thing to do.

I was depressed, and debt and depression usually go hand in hand. I was buying things because I wanted to feel better because I felt so awful on the inside. My confidence was zero. I believed I was worthless.

I was sick of not getting anywhere with my career. I was sick of working casual jobs for minimum wage. I was sick of not owning the same things my friends did.

I was wrong. I was selfish. I was a twat.

When one of my credit cards was extended in late 2015 I used it to pay off a long debt I had to my brother. Finally I was free of that, but I had caged myself into a long standing debt on that card (which was one of five).

My minimum payment for that card alone soon reached nearly £200.

I had reached rock bottom finally. In debt there is the point of no return. The point when things are too late. The point when you have screwed everything up and things are almost irreversible.

I was thankfully about 1 month away from having a financial catastrophe. I stopped myself just in time before I would have had negative income. And it coincided with a new year, so yes, it was a cheesy ‘new beginning’.

Since January I have done a complete 180 on my financial situation.

I used to almost be turned on by the things I bought. Now I get excited by what I save, even if it is just a matter of pennies.

Getting into debt is so easy. Credit card companies don’t exactly make it hard, because here’s the big secret.

They want you to get into debt with them. As long as you can make the minimum payments each month they will have you for life. They will have your money each month. They will take you for everything you’ve got.

Please do not think for one minute I am blaming the credit card companies for my mistakes. I made them wholly on my own. No one exactly forced me or tricked me into getting into debt. I knew the risks. I dived in anyway.

I will tell you more about what I’ve achieved this year. I will teach you how to save money. I will show you there is a way out.

But just remember, getting into debt is easy. Getting out of it? That’s the achievement.