When I moved to London, I had some savings but not very much and I quickly burned through what I had.
Up to that point, I hadn’t learned very good habits with money but I had also never needed much for what I wanted to do. I travelled a lot and the cost of living was always affordable wherever I landed.
Getting into almost £10k debt was a combination of learned behaviours and a big change in living situation. I’d just spent four years in Taiwan, city with a low cost of living and great wages (for foreigners), and arrived in London which has pretty terrible pay comparatively and a sky high cost of living.
I had a number of core beliefs about money and about how I ‘should’ be living. To me l, money was never abundant and the lack of it a constant source of stress. My belief was that there would never be enough of it and making ends meet would always be a challenge.
When I arrived in London, I was about to turn 30 and wanted to to appear to be living a lifestyle of a 30 year old and not of a broke student. In Taiwan, I’d lived comfortably and still been able to afford to go on holidays and go out every weekend. In London, my first job was as a temp and I wasn’t even making enough for rent!
I had to buy winter clothes when I arrived because I didn’t have any and quickly developed a shopping habit I couldn’t afford. In hindsight, I think I believed looking the part of a 30 year old who has it all together would help me get it together!
On top of that, I didn’t have many friends and was struggling with loneliness missing my friends in Taiwan so I had to get out and about. I felt like I had very few choices; I could stay in and save money alone and depressed or I could go out and try to make friends and end up in debt and also be depressed. I opted for the latter because being depressed and lonely is worse than being depressed and broke but with some friends and fun included!
It was all an absolute shit storm for my mental health and I had worse anxiety and depression than Id ever experienced. I felt trapped in my job, trapped in my living situation and full of resentment towards anyone and everyone who appeared to be thriving in London.
Before I knew it I’d managed to get myself over £9k in debt and also needed a dental implant that was going to cost me over £2k. 😮
I had a maxed out credit card, a maxed out overdraft and two loans I’d taken out in attempts to consolidate the debt. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing!
So how was I going to get myself out of it?
I first had to admit that my relationship with money wasn’t healthy and that it needed to change. Second, I needed to get really focussed and disciplined about cutting back and living well within my means.
I had to admit that one of my main problems was that I bought too many clothes and I couldn’t blame everything on London prices or charity work being relatively lower pay.
I had to earn more money and spend less.
So I made it my business to learn as much about money as I could. As soon as I started reading, I realised how little I knew and how empowering getting my finances under control could be. I read blogs and articles, followed IG accounts and listened to podcasts. I probably became really annoying because once I’m interested in something, I get a bit obsessed!
My anxiety reduced almost immediately when I realised that I did have the power to get myself out of the situation I’d put myself in. There were lots of resources and groups out there to help me and there were 100s of things I could do to save money and make extra cash.
How I did it……
First things first- Get a full picture of your finances
Write everything down!
Calculate your total debt
It can be scary but if you are going to pay it off, you need to know what you are working with.
Calculate all your income
Salary + any additional income you have coming in
Calculate all your expenditure
Every penny. You need to know how much you spend on every single category so you can see where you can easily cut back. There may be some really easy ones to get you started like daily coffees and other little things that add up fast.
Spend less – Cut back where you can
Separate your expenditure into two categories: Essential and Discretionary
Essentials are things you CANNOT avoid. Not Starbucks coffee on the way to the office 😂
Medical bill or prescriptions
Can you save on any of these?
Could you move to a smaller place and save on rent?
Could you save by selling your car and downsizing to a cheaper model?
Are you getting the best deal on your utility bills? Or phone provider? (I saved £20 a month on my bill AND got a new phone by finding a better deal through moneysavingexpert.com and switching providers).
You can save a lot on your groceries by planning ahead what you are going to cook and what you need, making a list (and sticking to it!), swapping name brands for supermarket own brands, going to the shops with a full stomach
Discretionary spending is all non-essentials. If you are in a lot of debt and struggling to make ends meet, you might have to cut most of these back for a couple of months to get yourself to a more stable place. If that sounds scary, don’t worry I will be posting lots of tips on how to look after your mental health for zero cost to get you through!
Memberships/subscriptions (Spotify, Netflix, gym)
Donations (help yourself first and then you can help others!)
Make your budget.
Your income – your essential expenditure = what you have left to pay off your debt/save/have fun
If this is all new to you, you won’t go far wrong with Dave Ramsey! I also use his Zero Based Budget https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/how-to-make-a-zero-based-budget
Once you are cutting back and throwing as much as you can at you debt, you can start to think about ways to earn more and get it paid off even quicker.
Could you get a new job with a better salary?
Are you due for a promotion?
Do you have a spare room you can rent out?
Do you have a car?
Can you teach online?
This is a list of the things I did to make more money and pay off my debts quicker
- Sold some clothes and other items at home that I was no longer using. I used Schpock and Facebook market place as both platforms are free and for local use. Instead of posting things, I arranged to meet with people and exchange the items. I have also used both to buy some second hand things.
- Matched betting – I read about matched betting in a couple of blogs and decided to give it a go. Matched betting is a way of taking advantage of the free credits that online gambling websites give you. It’s totally legal and a great way to make money. It takes a bit of getting used to and you will definitely need a tool to help you in the beginning. I use Profit Accumulator www.profitaccumulator.co.uk/, which had tutorial videos, software to help you choose best and calculate your profit. I made £1,800 in two months which was a MASSIVE help! I took a break for a couple of months but went back to it recently to earn some extra money for travelling in 2019.
- Switched bank accounts to earn a ‘bribe’ of £200 (check out moneysavingexpert.con for up to date bank bribes.)
- Moved my credit card balance to a 0% card to reduce the interest. At the time, I was also awarded £25 cashback for switching. (moneysavingexpert.com is a great resource for keeping up to date with the best offers)
- OhMyDosh – is a website where you can take surveys, sign up for free trail to earn money- so far, I’ve made over £100 on there doing free trials.
- YouGov – through surveys on YouGov I earned £50. It did take about 6 months though so this is not a fast cash option! I did the surveys mostly during my commute to kill time and was delighted to learn that you can keep going to earn another £50. I have also done some YouGov focus groups which oten pay up to £60 for a two hour session
I did have a few challenges on the way – I had to move house (for the 6th time in 3.5 years….) and on top of moving costs, my rent increased as well. I also burned my leg really badly in the summer and spent over £200 on taxis to hospital and doctors appointments as well as a considerable amount ordering in food and buying medication and bandages because I had just moved in, had no food in the house and wasn’t able to walk. The combination of these two things burned through the majority of my emergency savings, which was disheartening but it was an emergency and that is exactly what I needed it for! It was a shame that it was spent almost immediately after it was saved but I was so glad it was there and for the first time, I wasn’t using credit to cover an unexpected event. I’ve since replenished my £1,000 emergency fund and now I’m working on having 2-3 months of expenses.
Living within or below your means isn’t always fun when you don’t make a lot of money but it’s honestly reduced my stress so much that’s it worth it! I would love to travel more, have nicer clothes, go out to dinner more, buy a house, go to more concerts but I can’t afford that lifestyle right now and the only way I will is by finding ways to make more money. That’s the next step!