Friday, 29 May 2020

Budgeting for NYC Whilst in Debt


I decided last summer that Connor and I were going to go on holiday for our anniversary in January, because I wanted to work towards something exciting, and to truly celebrate our ten years together. At that moment I was still £2,000 in debt and owed my mum money for buying my car, when my old one was too expensive to fix. I knew I needed to knuckle down and come up with some numbers.

I started investigating holiday prices in the first place for trips in Europe and New York, I was trying to work out the best place to go for that time of the year. I worked out that we could get flights and a hotel for various destinations for around £400-£500 each for four to five nights. When I finally landed on the idea of New York, as it'd be quieter and cute if it snowed. I started to research affordable restaurants. I made a Pinterest board of things to do and places to eat that looked different and appealing, and made a document detailing rough prices of meals.

See, I love doing all of this research and budgeting (when I stick to it), my plan was to get out of my overdraft by January, and pay my mum off by February/March. I knew I couldn't overspend on our holiday if I still wanted to get fully out of debt. I had decided that I was not going to go shopping or get souvenirs (as I had already been to New York a few years ago and bought way too much, I did not want to do that again). I worked out when we were going to arrive, and how many meals we would need to buy each day. I had originally scrapped buying breakfast on day one, however we ended up buying it anyway! I put a budget of $10 per breakfast and lunch, and $30 for dinner. That's a total of $250 for just food for the holiday.

Then from my list of fun things to do I worked out what was free and what would cost me more dollars*:

Weekly unlimited subway card $34
Central Park Zoo $19.95
Pedicab Tour $30 each (if pre-booked through Facebook)
Empire State Building $42
Top of the Rock $38
Roosevelt Island Cable Car $3 each way

Total: $169.95

When we were planning what we wanted to do each day and if there were more things to do in that area, I looked into travel passes and saw that Groupon did a good deal. We got a three attraction pass that you can use at anytime during your holiday for £69 each ($83) and it includes so many attractions it's really worth it. This meant that we automatically saved money through this pass rather than exclusively buying tickets for the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, and we decided we'd pay the 9/11 Museum a visit as well. The one thing I'd recommend with the Groupon pass is make sure you do it before you go on holiday, as I had a delay in receiving my confirmation email as I booked it at the airport when we were about to leave...luckily, I got it later that day and could finish the confirmation. If you can, try and print the voucher as they will scan it at each attraction or exchange it for one of their tickets. Plus, you don't have to commit to what attraction you want to use the passes for, so it gives you flexibility if you change your mind.

We didn't end up doing all of the attractions on my list, so we saved in some areas and spent more on food in others. Each day I would assess my budget and move over my daily amounts to my Monzo card. I highly recommend Monzo, it's an app only bank of which you get a physical card and it's super easy to transfer money. One of my favourite components is that you can round up your spends to put the extra change into a savings pot, it also works out the exchange rate as soon as you've bought something.

I had about £130/$156 left in my spending account, which was great as that was then left as my savings whilst knowing that I was out of debt. I had about a maximum of $500 I could spend, but I wanted to make sure I came back with plenty leftover.

With regards to my addiction to spending and shopping, we did go into malls and the massive Macys and Bloomingdales just to have a look. To be honest there wasn't really anything I wanted or needed, it was just nice to get a feel of the place. I think I had been so strict on my thought process before we went that it stuck with me and I didn't stray. Except, when I got a little bag of pick and mix from M&M World which I allowed as it was only $7.99 and delicious.

This was the first holiday I'd been on where I had done all of this research and worked out budgets, and honestly it was the best thing I could've done. I really regret my previous trips where I would just flash my contactless card and worry about the amount I'd spent later. Having that daily budget was just great to help me keep me on track, and be smart about where we ate and what we did. Obviously, I didn't want to be in a position where I was worried about money whilst away for our anniversary, but that's why it helped to know that I had room in my budget. I had worked hard to make sure that I wouldn't be anxious about money.

I still can't believe that we actually went away on a holiday together, and I managed to scrape any extra pennies and birthday/Christmas money together to make it happen. I've added helpful links throughout this post, and if you have any other questions about budgeting drop me a comment below!

Other New York content will be coming soon...

*all prices were correct at the original publishing date, prices may vary due to inflation or different deals.
SHARE:

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

How I'm Managing My Money in 2020

Ok, so again I haven't posted much this year. It's not for lack of trying, or lack of ideas. Sometimes it's down to not having photo content yet (I find having at least one image per post is preferable, rather than having just a block of text), or sometimes I get a bit afraid of publishing my own words and my own opinions online for everyone to see, and judge.


You might be a bit bored of me going on and on about being in debt, and always trying to get out and failing. Well, I have some good news for you all. I am finally DEBT FREE. Yep, you heard me. In one of my last posts about my plans for this year, I mentioned that I had really made a difference to my bank account. For the past year I really dug my head in the sand and worked hard to earn the money I needed to pay bills, and made a few plans to pay off my overdraft and pay back my mum (who had kindly bought my car back in November 2018). I always had enough money for my bills, but I must admit I did sometimes struggle to complete my 'get out of debt' schemes. The reason for this (and I talk about my mindset with money when I talk about my addiction in a post late last year) is that I've had to completely retrain my brain when it comes to money. Ever since I earned my first pay packet in 2012 I had been going off the rails, financially. I had my own money to spend on whatever I wanted. This became a bit of a challenge though when I was having to borrow money from friends, my parents and eventually caving in and getting an interest free student overdraft; of which I just saw as more free money. Bad Saffron.

Last year I had decided that I was going to say "no" to more socials, or find the cheapest way to do that because getting out of debt and not having this anxiety everyday about my finances was my dream. A life I hadn't really lived since before I got my first job. On 17th January this year, I woke up to a notification from my bank that a bunch of money was deposited. I was confused. Who would just give me that much money? Turns out, I had forgotten it was payday. It was my pay check. When I clicked on my banking app and saw how many figures where in the pluses, YES PLUSES. I cried. It's hard to say what emotion this was exactly, because I was crying but it was about something good. Something I had achieved on my own. However, I was sad because I'd never felt this way before. In all the other times I had temporarily gotten out of debt, I didn't stick to it and fell right back to rock bottom. Rock bottom being at the end of my £2,000 overdraft, with my £2,300 Macbook to pay off (may have been a stupid idea at the time) and my £2,300 something debt to my mum.

Although I was out of my overdraft, I still had a significant amount to pay back to my mum. I had another plan for this, you see. I had this all worked out in advance since before Christmas. I was a woman with a plan. I earned enough to pay for my bills, and whatever was left over the next two months I paid to my mum to get that debt over and done with. I wanted a debt free 2020, and I was getting it. Only two big lump sums and it was all over. Flash forward to 9th April and I received my first lot of wages where I didn't have to pay off my overdraft, my Macbook or my mum. My money is mine. Even though it's been three or so months of technically being out of my overdraft, it still hasn't sunk in. I was able to put away some spare money after leaving enough for this months bills into my savings account and I can't believe that I'm someone right now, who has a good head start with a savings account. It's something that's been on numerous new years resolutions and goals lists, and has never happened until now. I just want to shout from the rooftops, because this is a big moment for me.

My other half; Connor, I think still doesn't completely believe me when I say I've changed and I'm going to work hard to stay out of debt. I don't blame him. I was lying to myself all of the other times I got out of debt. I guess that's part of being an addict? In the end you don't even know if you're lying to yourself, and believing your own lies. I kept my finances to myself for quite a few years, and would lie about how bad it was. I wanted to fix it myself, but being the spending addict I was it was so much worse bottling it up. The moment that I spoke more to Connor and my parents about my situation, I didn't feel as though I was living two lives anymore, and having to hide my payslips or banking information. A weight was lifted. All of them had at some point offered to help in one way or another, but it got to a point where I really didn't want to borrow any more money. Enough was enough. I'm an adult, I put myself in this mess and I need to learn to get myself out of it. It's been a huge learning curve, and I really hope that this is a new start.

I have started to track and manage my money using this awesome spreadsheet that Rhianna set up (she's got some banging posts all about getting out of debt, saving, and budgeting which I've found super helpful), she goes through each section on the spreadsheet to help you set up. I had already been pulling my hair out when trying to get out of debt, so it's been handy to customise this spreadsheet for my needs. I must admit I haven't been tracking my money that much, I've done a few months using it and it's so good if you stick to writing down your spends and what they were for. I started a section where I've written down all of the occasions this year where I will need to spend money, be it birthdays, hen do's and Christmas. I now have a set budget for how much I need to put aside to financially prepare for all of these events. I have never done this before. I've lived month by month for so long, I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before. I also created a tab where I've put down all of the monthly outgoings so I know for sure how much goes straight out of my account, so I can see what's left to play with each month.

My next plan, is to open a Lifetime ISA to help save up for a house. I think it will really help putting my money into a dedicated account that I can't just transfer in and out of. Plus, if I reach the maximum £4,000 a year (which according to my plan I could hit that target by the end of this year) the government give you an extra £1000 into that account. There's more information in this article by Money Saving Expert, which I've found really helpful. I'm really serious about Connor and I moving out and getting our own place. I've moved around and lived in other people's houses for so long, I just really want a place of our own. Our own four walls with a sturdy roof. I really don't see the benefit of moving out to just rent, (unless I had to move away for work) because it just costs so much and I really don't earn enough to be able to pay rent and save up for a deposit.

In summary; all of my money is now my own, I use a bad ass spreadsheet to monitor my incomings and outgoings with forecasts for each month and the year, and essentially putting as much leftover wages into a savings account. This is how I'm managing my money in 2020. No more unnecessary shops and hauls, and smart spending not blind spending.

Let me know if you have had enough of my little rants about money, I hope it's not too bad now that I'm out on the other side! Also pop me a message if you would like to see any posts in the future updating you all on my progress.

Thank you for reading, this has felt like the longest journey.
SHARE:

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

I am a Key Worker


This year has been absolutely crazy. I started off the year by paying off my overdraft (finally), and celebrating ten years together with my boyfriend. Just before we went away to New York, China had been broadcasting that a potentially lethal virus originated in Wuhan. We didn't know very much about this virus at the time, and there were no cases in either the UK or America, and airline companies only had warnings for people who had recently travelled to Asia or Wuhan directly. I was taking this seriously in January, and I'm taking it seriously now. I equipped myself with hand sanitiser everywhere I went, especially in public places.

I did not imagine that life would come to this. For over a month we've been in lockdown. I've lived through Bird Flu and Swine Flu, my mum even reckons that I may have caught a mild strand of swine flu. Back then, we were all still working and going to school, so the fact that on Monday 23rd March, a national lockdown was put in place was scary. I saw this coming, but seeing it at the same time as everyone else in the country; I had goosebumps.

Prior to this, when everyone was gossiping and spreading rumours because they know someone who knows someone, and "the military are getting involved" I knew that I was still going to have to work in a global pandemic. The past year has been tough for me, I've been working in the hospitality and retail sectors to pay my bills whilst I still try and work my way into my dream career. I never would've imagined that whilst people are self isolating and social distancing, that I was still stacking shelves in a supermarket where numerous members of the public come in each day. Of course I knew that during a lockdown a supermarket was going to be open in one way or another, people need food to eat. It was just really odd to be called a "key worker" and have a letter giving permission to leave the house in case I'm stopped by police.

I feel lucky (in a sense), that I am still able to go to work and earn my regular income. All of my previous jobs, retail or otherwise have ceased to let people work. I would've been out of work and essentially screwed if I was still in my last job, a zero hour seasonal role. I'm not someone who has existing conditions so I'm still healthy enough to work, let's ignore the fact that my immune system is shocking at the best of times. I've got a lot of friends around me who have begun to work from home, have been furloughed, and I know a lot of people who are completely out of work and who will be hoping to get that government grant in June. It's a strange time, to see that when the chips fall down which people still need to go to work to keep society moving.

I don't feel like a key worker. Yes, I turn up to work knowing the risks. I use my sleeves or feet to open doors, and sanitise and wash my hands regularly and before eating. We have social distancing measures in place, and have altered the times that customers enter the store. I work night shifts between 9pm - 7am, so I don't really see customers anymore which takes out part of the risk. However, it is a HUGE place to work. You have no idea who's touched something before you, if they are being as cautious as you.

Yet, I constantly know how much worse other people have it. Walking into a building where you know patients or people have Covid-19 symptoms, or confirmed cases. I have had friends and even strangers outside of my work thanking me, for what? I appreciate the sentiment but I'm just doing my job, which I'm grateful for. I imagine there are some people that work in the care sector and hospitals that feel the same, they signed up to a job they wanted to do - albeit take out the pandemic we're having and most of them probably enjoy it to some extent, or just want to do good and look after people.

I have had to watch as customers panic bought "essential" items, and changed their buying behaviours just because everyone else was buying those products. The sign says they can have five; so they will take five. It has been jarring to have been on the "front line" to that extent. Our company joining together with other supermarkets to Feed the Nation. Quite often I would feel anger towards customers for being selfish and acting like a herd of sheep. I had recently been making donations to my local food bank, and the minute the panic buying started I feared for what stock would be left for those less fortunate. When I had finished my ten hour night shift I'd make a list of the items I wanted to get for the food bank, and I even went home on a Sunday morning and came back at 9.30am to be able to get some toilet roll and hand wash. I could feel people look at me when I had five of each item, but I didn't care. I was doing this for others. I didn't care about myself, I wanted to help the community, and I wanted others to see that and do the same. I would walk around the store and each day the panic buying got worse, it would move around the aisles. As if customers couldn't get one thing, they would panic buy whatever else was available. It's taken a while for the store to keep up with the demand of customers buying multiples of EVERYTHING. People just didn't understand that they couldn't buy in lots of one product as they were trying to replenish everything, and customers would buy it all within seconds as soon as the store opened. Every time I saw more empty shelves, my heart sank for the vulnerable, the elderly and the less fortunate.

Luckily, the supply levels are doing much better now. I guess people realised they spent too much money, didn't have any more space in their house and that there was no reason to panic buy in the first place. Things aren't perfect, but an improvement. There's more online shopping available, and you would have seen the priority shopping times for NHS/Care Workers and elderly customers on the news. It's still an odd sight to see these customers start queuing at 7am when they can't enter the store until 7.30am/8am. Even though my local food bank had to shut due to lack of staff available to work, and they couldn't keep everyone safe. Acts of Kindness have been able to take donations from multiple drop off sites, and you can arrange collections. Through this, I have joined a few Facebook groups for my community for food banks and the homeless. If there's anything I can do to help, I will do it.

Through this crazy and horrible experience, I have learned what truly matters. I generally try to be a kind and thoughtful person, but I have made more of an effort. I reached out to friends, family and nearby neighbours. If they needed something I would get it for them, I had the opportunity to get things as soon as they came into the store (I just want to make it clear, I'm not taking advantage of my position, I would only buy the bare minimum so there'd be plenty left for other customers). As I had everything I needed, I wanted to make sure others could have what they needed. I check in on those closest to me, as some are self isolating I want to check how they are doing. It's a hard time for a lot of us, and I wanted to let people know if they need to talk to someone; I'm always here. It's important to talk to one another and message your friends and family, but considering it can be hard holed up and away from friends and family, we need to give people space to process and reply when they feel like it.

We lived in such a fast paced, instant and prejudiced society. Now that we've all had to slow down, we can really assess our behaviours. Everyone moves at a different pace, if you want to do home DIY projects then do it. If you want to binge watch TV and films, then do it. Do what makes you happy, and what makes you feel better mentally. We don't know how much longer lockdown has to go on for, but also how long certain restrictions and social distancing will go on for. I know people are getting impatient and frustrated, but for most people all you have to do is sit at home and protect others lives. We're all missing our old lives and our families, I don't know when I'll be able to see my mum and step mum and hug them again, as they both work in the NHS. Even though I still leave the house to work around four nights a week, I'm starting to go a bit Lockdown Loco.

I thought that this was an important topic to post on my blog, as I have been very private about my work life for the past year. I use this blog to talk about and document parts of my life, and well it would be a missed opportunity to not write about these crazy times. I also wanted to be honest with my readers about what I'm going through, but also to think about what other's are having to go through.

Please be patient, be kind and most importantly stay home.
SHARE:

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Rise of the bodysuit | Lust List*

This past year I managed to lose a bit of weight and attempted (at times) to keep it off. Upon seeing more of my figure underneath the extra pounds I decided I wanted to alter my wardrobe to show that I don't still have my unwanted flubber.

I kept saying to myself that I'd never be the girl who could wear a bodysuit. One day I muted that voice and just go and try some on and see for myself. And actually, they didn't look too bad. Yes, I still have a belly I probably always will have one but I could actually feel comfortable in my own skin in something tight fitting. Who am I??

My mum and I went for a little window shopping the other day and I found myself looking at some gorgeous bodysuits, and there were quite a few pieces that made their way into my camera roll...So, I thought a little lust list had formed itself, why not share my finds with you lot?

Let me know your thoughts, or if you're as obsessed as me with a certain style of clothing!


From left to right:

Grey Ribbed Long Sleeve Bodysuit

Burgundy Ruffle Plunge Neck Bodysuit

Rust Ribbed Crew Neck Bodysuit

Black Leopard Flocked Bustier Bodysuit

Purple Velvet Glitter Wrap Bodysuit


*this post contains affiliate links of which I can make a small commission
SHARE:

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

My Plans for 2020

Happy New Year readers! I know it's a smidge late, but I have a little post for you all about how I want to spend my 2020.


I had written a 2019 goals list in my notes app on my phone, but I guess I was a bit unsure of what I could actually do last year. With the redundancy and financial issues I felt a bit limited. I was a bit over ambitious with jobs and writing in those goals. The only things I'd say I had accomplished from that list was my "size" for Connor's uncle's wedding in August (which I felt so glam for), and eventually towards the end of the year made more progress with getting out of debt.

This years list I feel is more of a follow on from what I've already achieved, and maybe to push the boat out and try more things. Especially, now that I may have a bit more time on my hands as I won't have to completely work my socks off to be in a better financial situation.

Fitness

If you've been following my social media, you'll have seen that in May I started the Couch to 5k app to ease me back into running. I used to love running when I was at school and would enter into a lot of the races at sports day - although I enjoyed it, I wouldn't say I was that good because I wouldn't train that much and had an unhealthy mindset. Using the app was just a godsend, I'm planning to do more of an in depth post about my fitness and the tools I used to help me soon - let me know if you would be interested in reading about this! As well as running and gym sessions I had very active jobs last year which has helped my weight shift and show a bit more of a figure which I didn't know existed beneath the extra pounds.

On to this year, I'm going to keep running 5k's and get my time back down until I start upping the distance. I'd love to do the Race for Life for real this year, whether it's the 5k/10k I think it'll be good to get involved in a proper run, I also want to achieve The Great South Run. My Dad is a veteran of this run and it'd mean the world to me to train alongside him and both be in the same race. If I stay on track I have plenty of time to get up to running 10 miles.

I don't really have a set weight or dress size that I want to be, from the weight loss already I feel so much more me and more confident in my skin. I want to keep up this mindset and just become more toned and powerful, there's nothing like the feeling of lifting a heavier weight or running even faster and feeling the strength in your body.

Reading

In 2018 and the beginning of 2019 I really got back into reading, and having the Kindle app on my phone helped me read wherever I was. With being so busy with work and exercise already I dropped the ball on keeping up with it. I think a reading goal is a bit too much pressure, so my plan is to make a short list of books I want to read first and set aside time each week to have a reading session and see how I get on. I love the escapism of reading, and I feel that I have so much to explore in the literary world. I'd love some recommendations of books you've loved reading, I'm not fussy on genre!

Writing

As you may have seen, I haven't published much on here in the last year. I believe it's been my quietest year...she admits shamefully. I have lots of ideas and plans for posts on here and writing off of the internet and potentially into book form. My blog is my space, my corner of the interwebs to write whatever I want. I like the lack of pressure on here, although I'd love to be commissioned for collaborations and perhaps look into monetising my blog, as it wouldn't hurt to earn a few more pennies on the side! However, I am looking into pitching ideas to magazines both online and print which would just make my life.

Money

Yes, yes everyone always talks about money in these things. BUT and a big but at that, I made so much progress last year and have firm dates to be completely debt free and I actually have faith in myself this time. Plus, I want to stay that way. I will get rid of my planned overdraft when the time is right to get rid of temptation and make sure I check my finances on a regular basis. Being that this year I will be 25 in August (a very adult looking age) I don't have much to show for the life I've lived. I don't really have a career and no home of my own. Whilst I've picked a rather tricky industry to get into I will keep at it. With the house side of things; once I'm out of debt I'm going to start up a Lifetime ISA to help buy a house. I know I sound so grown up! We will probably have to save up for a couple of years to achieve this but as it's my next priority I will try and really grow that pot of money.

Tidy Room, Tidy Mind

For most of my life my bedrooms have been somewhat messy, untidy and unorganised (sorry Mum). In the past year I have tried to make my drawers and wardrobe more organised rather than just shoving things into drawers, but the tops of drawers and sides are still looking rather messy and it's just an eye sore. I want to really work at being more minimalist and only buy things I need or have actually run out of, rather than bulk buying and more or less hoarding. It's not a healthy lifestyle.

Plan Plan Plan

I already have a few exciting things planned this year, but the severe lack of things I had planned last year definitely contributed to me feeling depressed. Usually each year I'll start to pencil or book things in and then pop them on a countdown app. I find this really helps when each year passes. This also involves planning my money to be comfortable to pay for or have spending money for these plans.

I'd like to think this is a fairly simple guide to how I'd want my 2020 to turn out, yet it's still a big question mark. I am very excited to see what this year holds, especially after a relatively tough one last year.

Do you have any goals or plans for 2020?
SHARE:
Blogger Template Created by pipdig