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This week’s blog comes from the lovely Miss Penny Money! She is on a journey to become debt-free, and blogs about what she is doing to achieve it. It’s an honest and humbling account of a reality that a lot of us face – there is DEFINITELY no “fake news” about her debt story (unlike others that I have written about!).
I hope it gives you the inspiration to continue on your own debt-free journey. It is not easy, but you absolutely can.
Hi, thank you Dr Nikki for inviting me here to share my debt-free journey with you and your readers. It’s probably a situation that many people can relate to; and hopefully my story below might give others the confidence they need to realise it IS possible to climb out of a debt hole. It’s not a quick fix, it does take hard work, but it’s totally do-able. So, here’s my story so far:
How did I get into this mess?
I used to be blissfully unaware of how much debt I was in. I had a ball park figure in my mind, and as we could “afford” the monthly repayments, the potential of it becoming unmanageable never really occurred to me. My husband was receiving regular pay increases, and after years of watching the pennies, we began to splash out. Two new phone contracts here, a new car there, and a new sofa suite – hey, we deserved it! (There was nothing wrong with the old one, other than the fact we’d had it 6 years, it was a bit saggy, and the cushions had lost their support. And, actually, I miss my old squishy sofa, but that’s irrelevant here.)
Before long, I had credit agreements all over the place and it was beginning to make me feel a little edgy.
I’d also been working full time on a FTC (fixed-term contract), and with all the extra money coming in, we’d been massively overspending. Takeaways here, meals out there. A mini-break in the country. Some new clothes (this was actually pretty essential as I hadn’t bought any in years). However, once the contract came to an end, I sat down MSE-style to draw up a budget and logged ALL of our expenditure over the past three months. When I saw how much we’d been spending, frantic butterflies slammed against my insides.
Cue a strict budget – complete with spending cuts – and a Dave Ramsey book later, and our debt-free journey was born.
It took a while to get hubby on board, but he’s there (mostly).
As of today, our total debt (not including the mortgage) looks a bit like this:
Credit card: £6,361
Car loan: £4,119 (£3675 current settlement figure)
Credit card: £3,962
Credit card: £2,840
Sofa finance: £2,290
Mobile phone device plan: £392
Mobile phone device plan: £350PAID!
Gas and Electric bill: £290PAID!
I have a little secret to confess. You see that credit card amount up there that’s written in bold? That’s actually an addition to our debt-free journey (facepalm), and one that I deeply regret. Hubby desperately needed a new car, and it was supposed to be a work-horse for him to use — not only for commuting to work and back, but also to do some courier work. Unfortunately, the courier work never actually came off, so we’re now looking at selling it. Of course, this will mean managing with only one car for a while. Which means my independence will disappear along with the extra transport. But it’s a case of needs must (we’ve done it before, and it’s no fun, but it’s worth the saving both in terms of fuel and repayments).
How we’re paying our debts off
I have to be honest, I’m not the most organised of individuals. I feel as though I should focus on one income stream at a time, but instead I’m doing lots of bits here and there. I am, however, determined, and when faced with a situation I desperately want to resolve, I do what I can to make it happen. We’ve had a car boot sale (and need to do another one, really), sold most of our DVDs, sold some kids’ stuff through Facebook Marketplace and I’ve sold a few high-value items (a designer dress, a baby-carrier) on eBay and locally.
Our biggest earners so far have been the overtime hubby has been putting in, a nice tax rebate I received after my FTC at the beginning of the year, and some mystery shopping jobs I’ve completed here and there. Other sources of income have included surveys, task apps, cashback apps/sites and, believe it or not, my bank account. I bank with NatWest and for £2 per month I receive cash rewards (using their reward account) for paying my bills via direct debit through them, and I earn an average of £9 a month. Once the kids are back at school, it’s all systems go; we’re pulling out all the stops to get earning where we can.
I also earn by saving money
I’m pretty good at being frugal (even if I do say so myself), despite my tendency to overspend. When I was in my early twenties, I had a similar situation where I had got myself into debt (you’d think I’d have learned by now, really?!) and had sorted out a repayment plan with my creditors. I think there were only two at the time. Oh, how times have changed! Except not only was I in debt, I also lived on my own. And the result was £50 a week to live on. That included my food, petrol, clothing, and social life. And we’re talking the (very) late nineties here! So, I know what it is to make meals out of next-to-nothing, to plan the thriftiest dinners possible using what change I happened to have in my purse that night.
I now use that approach when planning our family meals, although I’m a little less tight these days, given that I have two small children to feed as well as a hungry husband, and being aware of the importance of nutrition, I want to make sure we have as balanced a diet as possible. But it’s not always about the grocery shopping; I regularly ensure we’re getting the best deal and saving our money on all of our bills, insurances and utilities. I also tend to utilise cashback sites like Quidco and Top Cashback, so that I can earn money at the same time as saving it.
Lesson learned? A proper budget!
Over the years I’ve routinely drawn up a budget. Usually about once a year when I feel like our finances are getting a little out of control. The problem was, I wasn’t including everything in the budget. It had all of our regular outgoings: mortgage, bills, insurance, car tax etc. But it didn’t include things like nights out, clothes, birthdays, haircuts (the list is not exhaustive). Even now, I still notice things I haven’t budgeted for properly. For example, I’ve allowed a budget of £10 per month for birthdays, but this month there are four people to consider when it comes to cards and gifts.
You might think it’s not important to include clothes and haircuts (I never did, and often thought of clothes and haircuts as luxuries when food is more important), but when you have kids it’s pretty much a necessity. Their clothes seem to shrink while they wear them, and they outgrow their shoes faster than cress out of cotton wool. And then there’s the car maintenance, the annual memberships that come out when you least expect it because you’ve forgotten them, and of course the biggies: Christmas and Holidays.
A pot for everything
I’ve not got as far as using envelopes for each budgeted item, but I need to. Knowing exactly how much you’ve got available for the weekly food shop really makes you more conscious of what you’re putting in your basket, and knowing you’ve only got £15 worth of petrol per week will stop you from making unnecessary journeys; making the extra effort instead to carry out all of your errands in one hit.
But I do have a savings account for car maintenance, one for holidays and Christmas, and one for school trips (yes, those come up unexpectedly, too!). I also have a separate instant access savings account that I use solely for our debt repayments. Every little bit of money earned/saved/squeezed gets put away in here until the current debt of focus reaches the total required in order to pay it off.
As you’ll see from the list above, we’re using the debt snowball method to tackle these debts (you make the minimum payments on each outstanding debt while tackling the debt with the lowest amount, in order to see results more quickly and keep you motivated), and it feels great to be able to cross them off. It’s really encouraging; and knowing that we’re taking charge of our own finances is so empowering. It’s also made me really determined to live a life without credit once it’s all paid off; you begin to realise that you never actually own anything and all you’re doing is throwing money away to live a lifestyle that you thought you wanted, only to feel trapped in a prison of your own making.
For me, it’ll be about saving up for something that I really want, and relish that feeling of knowing I’ve worked hard for something and will appreciate it that much more. It’s so easy to let money rule our lives, but ultimately, it’s up to us to make sure we manage our own money. It’s time to regain control. Because after all, every penny counts.
You can find out more about me and my money-saving/debt-free journey here. Thanks for reading, and thank you once again to The Female Money Doctor for having me here! ☺
I really hope you enjoyed Miss Penny Money’s post, and it has given you the inspiration to pay off your debt once and for all! It certainly makes me feel better about mine!
She’s absolutely right in that it takes all the effort and focus you have to achieve this, and it does take time. Start plotting your net worth and you’ll see how it improves as you pay off debt! Feel free to join my free and private Facebook group for more awesome support from an amazing community.
Have a fab weekend!
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