So, you’re out of debt. What next?

I’ve been debt free now for 5 glorious months!

Surprisingly, I feel like that was probably the easy part. It took me about 18 months from when I decided get my shit together until I actually made the last credit card payment.

I forgot to to mention it in the last post but I used Dave Ramsey’s “Debt Snowball” https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/get-out-of-debt-with-the-debt-snowball-plan. It’s a really great method! Reaching each milestone was such amazing motivation.

Staying out of debt hasn’t been hard because not only do I have more money to play with than before, I also still remember the stress that came with it and I could never let myself go there again.

Saving, on the overhand, is proving a lot more challenging than I’d anticipated!

I’ve always been good at saving for travelling and stuff I want but I have a much harder time saving for things that are less tangible like emergencies or ‘rainy day’ savings or big things like a car, house or retirement.
My current savings goals are:

  1. Trip to Vancouver in July
  2. Full emergency fund of three months expenses
  3. A car
  4. Start saving for a house

Goal 1 is going really well for two reasons.

  • I fucking love travelling!
  • It has pretty clear ‘deadline’. If I don’t have the money by July, the trip can’t happen. And it’s definitely happening!

Goal 2 and 3, not so much. I’ve dipped into those pots a few times for non-essentials and am having a much harder time staying motivated. They feel a bit too big and too far away and also less exciting that a holiday or new clothes…..

Goal 4 honestly seems completely out of reach right now. And virtually impossible to make any real commitment towards. I am doing some research at the moment and trying to figure out my best option so this will definitely be a future post.

I’m a spender! I am an absolute sucker for new stuff. And while I’ve become a lot more conscious of the products I buy and where they come from, I still love spending. Instead of random fast fashion, I’m now splurging on house plants and rugs! Hello mid 30s!
I know my weak spots

  • Clothes
  • Food
  • House stuff

So, how do we stay focussed?

1.Use a ‘Zero-Based budget to ensure you’re saving as much as you can

2. Make is easy for yourself.
To get me into better habits, I’ve decided to automate my savings. They will now come straight out of my account a day or two after I get paid and go into an account I can’t easily access. Out of sight, out of mind!

3. Look at your balance
I can’t remember which podcast it was on it was but something the host said really resonated with me. Get used to and excited to see a big number in your bank account. I look at my bank account every morning and it does feel really good to see big numbers! I lived paycheck to paycheck my entire life and now I always have money in my account before payday.

4. Create some “rules” around your spending.
A good rule of thumb before purchases is to ask yourself a few questions. I love these from Money Saving Expert:

Skint? Ask:

  • Do I need it?
  • Can I afford it?

Not skint? Ask:

  • Will I use it?
  • Is it worth it?

5. If you really want it, earn extra money
Another tactic I use to stay on track with savings when I see something I really want to buy is to find a way to make some extra money to pay for it. Some of the ways to do this are similar to how to make extra money to throw at debts.

  • Have a clear out and see if you have anything worth selling
  • Use OhMyDosh to earn some extra cash
  • Get cashback – I’ve just signed up to Quidco to earn cashback on some of my purchases
  • See if you qualify for a “bank bribe” to switch your current account

Whether or not you can be bothered with the extra effort to find the money for something will tell you whether or not you really want it! It also helps to change your mindset when you have to work harder to get that shiny thing you saw and when you get it it feels so much more satisfying.

Lastly, if you do impulse buy you can return it! Don’t take the tags off right away. See if it really does “spark joy” and if not, take it back.

Changing your spending behaviours takes time and you will slip up. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Our relationship with money is deeply personal. It’s cultural. It’s gendered. It’s traditon.

We like to think we are rational beings, but we are more irrational than we realise. Advertisers know this. Marketing relies in behavioural science. They sell you a lifestyle, not a product. They tap into your emotions and insecurities and they are very, very good at it.

Keep an eye on those numbers, watch the debt decrease and the savings increase and your stress start to melt away.

Read: The Minimalists, Dave Ramsey
Listen: Money Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips, So Money with Farnoosh Torabi
Follow: @FiscalFemme @TheMinmalists

Anxiety

I was going to write about staying motivated to save this week but truth be told, I’m not feeling motivated to do anything at the moment thanks to my old pal, anxiety.

My anxiety is a real bitch because it keeps changing the way it manifests and catching me off guard. When I think I’ve figured out the best coping strategy and I’m feeling good, boom. Anxiety changes its strategy. It’s basically The Many-Faced God.

My anxiety is currently playing the role of Total Overwhelm.

I have felt constantly overwhelmed now for over a month and am really struggling to get a handle on it. It seems like there are never enough hours in the day and I always feel like I’m neglecting someone or something.

It’s especially frustrating because I enjoy all of the things I’m doing. I love my job, writing, dancing, seeing friends, travelling. The problem is that there is always so much going on and I constantly want to push the pause button to catch my breath.

My thoughts come in thick and fast and don’t stop so it’s difficult to focus. There are too many to sort through and organise. I end up with ‘task paralysis’ where everything seems equally important and daunting and I don’t know where to start so I just, don’t. Even the smallest “clutter” can tip me over the edge. Physical, mental and electronic. When my anxiety is heightened I notice dishes in the sink, emails that haven’t been filed, post that hasn’t been read, my podcast queue being too long, desktop unorganised, too many open tabs in my browser, laundry piling up. Somehow all manner of clutter affects me equally and I start to feel really claustrophobic.

I want to meditate more, cook more healthy meals, do more yoga, write more. But even these things that I do to reduce my stress are beginning to causing me stress because they are extra tasks and I feel pressure (from myself) to find extra time somewhere to do them. If you’re not an anxious person you probably think that sounds ridiculous but if you’re anything like me, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about!

It’s been building for weeks and now the other symptoms are creeping in. I feel impatient and short tempered. I’m tired. I want to retreat. My chest feels tight. I feel guilty. I feel inadequate. I feel crowded. I have butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat.

To reduce the overwhelm in general, I am on a mission to just simply my life wherever possible. At the moment, though, there are a couple of key things I know will make a significant difference.

  1. Telling someone – kinda covering this by default through this blog but ordinarily, I would reach out to a close friend and just say, I’m struggling a bit at the moment and need to vent. A problem shared and all that.
  2. Sleeping at least 8 hrs every night – anxiety knackers me! It always comes with physical symptoms for me and that just adds to the tiredness and makes it harder to get things back under control. I will be putting my ass to bed for 9.30 on school nights until further notice!
    3 . Taking a break from alcohol – I haven’t been drinking a lot (certainly a lot less than in my 20’s!) but I find that even one drink can exacerbate my anxiety the next morning. This is actually one of the things I expect to make the biggest difference
  3. Limit social media – the phone is going on aeroplane mode at 9 pm for a while.
  4. Swap TV for reading in the evening – I bloody love TV. So many amazing shows but the blue light from the screen definitely affects my ability to fall asleep and my sleep quality.
  5. Going for walks at lunch – the sun has finally graced us with its presence and London is looking buff. I will be making a huge effort to get out for at least mins at lunch every day to just enjoy and stretch my legs.
  6. Journalling – a few months ago, I started doing “Morning Pages”. It’s basically where you write first thing in the morning and just write whatever comes to mind, like a stream of consciousness. My anxiety is always worst in the morning so this really helps me to kind of unload a ton of my thoughts.

Anxiety is not only super common, but it’s also a bit of a chameleon and you may not even realise you have it or that it’s changed its tactics. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed all the time, even when you’re busy. Share how your feeling, ask for some help and take some steps to getting the rest and recuperation you need.

(The savings post is almost done, I just need to edit it, so I aim to have it up next week.)

How I Got Out of Debt

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

1.Essentials

Essentials are things you CANNOT avoid. Not Starbucks coffee on the way to the office 😂

Rent

Phone bill

Utility bills

Transport/car expenses

Loan payments

Medical bill or prescriptions

Groceries

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

2.Discretionary

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)

Eating out

Shopping

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

Earn more

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!