The stigma of money

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned on this debt journey is it becomes easier once you take away the stigma of money.

In general people are incredibly open about every other area of their lives, but when it comes to money that all changes. You’re not supposed to know how much your friends earn, you can’t know what debt they have, what they spend on things in their lives or what they have saved. It’s considered vulgar to talk about and rude to ask but, for us, it’s made it so much easier when we can talk about it!

We have great friends in our lives and the ones that we are closest too are the ones that we talk about money with. Just as it’s made our marriage even better by talking about money, it’s also made our friendships better as well. At the start it was a softly softly approach, the mention of a budget or a passing comment on paying off debt but then we realised how great it was to just lay out the numbers! We started telling people in detail what our numbers were. I started talking about how I was working on bringing areas of my budget down or started explaining why I was saying no to going out. All our friends know what we earn and it’s not to show off, it just gives a perspective on the debt payoff that we’re aiming for. The more I’ve talked about it the easier it’s got too talk about it.

Once we did start talking about it a fantastic thing happened- other people started talking to us about their finances as well. We realised that (although our numbers may be high) we’re not actually the only idiots in the world who didn’t know where their wages disappeared to!

It worked for us in three ways when we opened up about our money.
1- it’s easy to tell people that we can’t do something or suggest an alternative, free, plan of events
2- it took a bit of the guilt away for getting into this situation. We realised that everyone has debt in a varying degree and it didn’t make us terrible humans
3- it made us a bit more accountable for it. If you’re talking about it and being asked about it from people outside of your relationship then you want to keep on track that little bit more.

Peer pressure is a very real thing, it’s just changed now so that what we want to be doing well in is paying off debt, being self sufficient and planning for retirement ūüėā!

Have you found anything that’s made it easier to get debt free?

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The hardest thing to change

I wanted to put into words what has been hardest for me on our debt free journey. The simple answer is changing me-but most importantly giving.

I don’t actually class myself as a spender. Now obviously in some way I am or I wouldn’t have debt. However I’m not one to go to the shops to buy things for myself. A day in a shopping centre is not my ideal day at all, in fact I’d avoid it if I can. I live in clothes until I literally can’t wear them out the house because it would be indecent, crowds of people make me feel irate and I despise trying on clothes!

Where I do like spending my money though is on other people and on giving to other people. I was very lucky in my upbringing and have emotionally and financially generous parents. I saw them give to people constantly and offer things for people and I subconsciously learned to be the same. I’ve heard all my life that ‘its only money’, and while it was instilled in me that you need that and to work to get it, it also taught me to not need to hold onto it. I need enough to live but if there’s any ‘extra’ then I should use that for others. All my immediate family are the same. If you go out for dinner with us then you better be quick with your card or someone else will have paid it! We also don’t keep track of our debts to each other. You know the scenarios, you’re out and someone doesn’t have cash out so you pay for whatever the thing is as they cry ‘ I’ll give you the money back’ which you then decline so it turns into a never ending game of ‘I’ll get the next thing then’ to make up for it.. It was the thing I found weirdest about husbands (now my) family. They actually keep track of what they owe each other and pay it back! This isn’t to peg them as miserly in any fashion as I’ve married in to another exceptionally loving and extremely giving family, its just a different ethos. It’s maybe as well why husband found it easier to get on board with the debt plan than I did.

My problem comes with what counts as extra money. Prior to our debt journey extra to me just meant that I had the ability to provide that money. It didn’t matter to me if that was my overdraft or credit card because I was paying it off. The fact that I was getting in debt to do it barely registered. So without a doubt its the hardest habit I’ve had to break. 

When I want to do things with my friends or family I’ve had to accept that we may have to half the bill for what we’re doing. Alternatively I’ve even had to accept that they may pay for me…a horror I feel deep inside. I hate other people having/ offering to pay for me, it makes me feel like I shouldn’t have taken up their time or asked and accepted their offer to do something. I feel constrained in my giving because when someone’s sad or mad or happy or has their own money worries I can’t step in and fix that. I loved being able to surprise people or make their day with a wee tea and a cake or a tiny gift. I can’t do that at the moment because its not in the budget and its what’s left us in debt for such a long time because I wouldn’t change. We technically started this plan three years ago but because I wouldn’t commit, and both of us couldn’t say no, then that’s what’s kept us in debt. It is only since January that we’ve committed and surprise surprise its only this year we’ve made a difference. 

The big words that I keep repeating to myself are both Dave classics. The first is biblical and says to get your own house in order. Unsurprisingly I got into trouble here as well. My house to me includes my family and I want to give to them. So the first thing I had to do was understand that my house is my marriage and I need to show respect there first before I try to sort out anyone else. The second is to live like no one else so that later we can live (and give) like no one else. Whenever I waiver, and it is at least weekly, I think of how I’m going to be able to give and provide in the future. If I can just get through these last few months then I’ll be able to see the difference. I’ll also be able to resume some of my previous giving habits but this time tempered with what we can afford. I’ll hopefully have learned balance like I think I have. 

So that’s it, the one debt problem that I struggle with every day. Its good to write it down and talk about it so that it doesn’t become an area of continued weakness. I look forward to being financially secure in the future so I can give. 

K xx

Meal planning and budget

Its the end of the month for us and so the budget has been done ready to go into August. This means that there’s one big thing left for me to do- our meal planning!

I am trying to be a lot stricter with this in terms of budget and also look for more ways to save. Roughly a year ago I did a big over haul of our eating and food spending habits. At that point I cut down our monthly food budget from around ¬£210 per month to on average ¬£130 (that’s for 2 adults, 3 meals a day). After that initial cut I feel I’ve plateaued, the saving was great but I still feel like there has to be so many other ways I can cut the budget even more. So that’s what I’m trying to plan for and do!

My mantra for this year is definitely ‘can I make it myself’. Therefore every meal we make, if we’ve had to buy any ready made ingredients, I want to know if I can do it instead.

The first thing to go was shop bought pasta sauces- this one for me was purely a laziness factor. It initially felt a lot easier to just open a jar than to make one up. I have now stopped being lazy though and started making my own (FYI it takes roughly 1 minute more to make my own basic tomato sauce). This has saved me from spending up to ¬£2 on jarred sauce and instead only costs me 60p for my home sauce ingredients. The eventual dream is that I’ll get good at growing tomatoes and be able to make my own passata base as well. ¬†The next thing that has saved us some money is that I am now mainly vegetarian – much to husbands disgust! It means that our meat order goes twice as far because its just husband eating the meat and I use pulses or meat substitutes instead which are a lot cheaper.

The other area where we’ve saved a lot of money is by me getting a good pizza base recipe. We committed in June that we would stop getting takeout. It was our Saturday night treat to order in pizza. A treat for me that I didn’t have to Cook and a treat for husband cause he loves pizza. However, because he dislikes sharing pizza, it was costing us around ¬£60/¬£70 per month just on 4 meals. That 50% of our entire months food budget. An absolutely ridiculous waste of money when we’re trying to clear debt. So instead I’ve been making the bases and we’re having delicious cheesy pizza for pennies instead.

Aside from this we also chose a cheaper supermarket to shop in which has helped as well. Although due to the nature of that shop it doesn’t always have everything we need so we do still go to another store once a month for bits and pieces!

How I actually meal plan is simple. I take an inventory of the freezer and pantry first of all. I have a good rough idea so its really just firming up that I have what I think I have. Then I print out a blank monthly calendar and write in all my shifts that I know. That then just leaves me to match food to days. We have a basic ‘bank’ of meals that we eat with the occasional experiment meal thrown in so I try to cycle through them as I go. I usually start with the nights I won’t be in for dinner as these have to be meals husband can make himself which limits the possibilities. Then I choose what days I want lazy meals so ones I can quickly prep or shove in the oven. That just leaves my days off when I have time to make more elaborate meals so they go in as well. That gives me my full months dinners and I make my shopping list on a weekly basis for the fill in ingredients from the planner. The calendar gets stuck up on the fridge and that’s it all done =)

TOP TIPS

– don’t be swayed by brands: own brand is normally just as good. There’s only one or two things we still prefer branded.

– plan round how tired you think you’ll be: I used to be terrible for not taking into account what I was working. I would plan in a meal that took time to prepare and then be to tired and hangry to cook. When that happened we would end up buying takeaway…

– always label the extra portions that go into the freezer. I have too many mystery boxes in the freezer that I was convinced at the time I’d remember what they were.

– weigh your ingredients. I weigh out our pasta and rice portions and cheese etc. Its good for a not being fat point of view but also saves on waste.

– make use of your freezer. I buy frozen instead of fresh for what I don’t grow generally. For mushrooms and peppers I buy, chop and freeze on the day. ¬†For our big meat order I spend a couple of hours on delivery day portioning and wrapping it and then put it in the freezer.

– plan in advance to use any leftovers from dinner and change them into something for lunch the next day.

 

 

Debt journey …

Its been a long while once I wrote about our debt journey. We have still been working on it but have been having various amounts of success and setbacks.

As I’d previously said in November we very stupidly booked to go to Florida again which we did in June. This cost us a lot of money and we did put money on a credit card while out there so that was the biggest setback…we have made good inroads since coming back though and we’re really determined to still get this done by the start of next year. 

Our debt as it stands is a loan for ¬£6695 and the credit card with ¬£1135 so combined debt total of ¬£7830 excluding our mortgage. 

We sat down and did a paper budget this month. As we’ve been decorating then the computer is dismantled so no spreadsheets! It was actually good to sit and write everything down although it is slightly depressing to realise that currently i work purely to pay our debt. However that won’t change till we get rid of it! Since we came back from holiday mid June we have so far managed to pay ¬£1210 back off the debt. If we could continue this then we would make our final debt payment in February 2018. That’s against a final payment projection of September 2020 if we had continued with just our standard payments. So really it is good but its not good enough! My absolute ideal is to make our final payment in December of this year but unless one of us has an unexpected pay increase or bonus then I don’t think that’s realistic.

I get paid this week so we still have one final overpayment to make. It should be for £243 if I get paid what I expect too. Then based on our predicted monies for next month we should pay another £1100 to debt which would put us to just over £6700 left to pay. The figures are definitely going in the right direction.

I am also in the mood to sell everything (or a lot of things anyway) to try and make December a more feasible target for clearing debt. I’m currently just trying to figure out the best way to do it. I’m using marketplace and shpock app because they’re free to list but not having much success yet. So the next option is car boot sales I think, looking around for the best value ones to go to. I have also tried ebay but again nothing seems to be selling yet. 

That’s where we are just now, we both need to try and use our other skills to get it cleared faster and stay focused!

Beeswrap 

The phenomenon of beeswrap is one that I’ve only come across very recently. Over the past few years I’ve been trying to become a more ethical buyer and more environmental as well.I have a passion for marine mammals and this has led me to research more and see the damage that is done to them through our waste. I have noticed more and more the abundance of single use plastics and have started to cringe when I need to throwaway clingfilm.

Up until recently I, perhaps stupidly, didn’t realise there was a simple alternative. I heard about beeswrap and wanted to get my hands on some! As with most areas if you buy it pre made then it seems to be expensive but you can make your own for a reasonable cost. 

I’ve followed a very basic ‘recipe’ for my first attempt which is made just using beeswax and cloth. When I’ve looked into it further a lot of recipes seem to add pine resin and jojoba oil. From what I can discern this is to give added flexibility and anti-fungicidal. However plain beeswrap seems to work just as well but is perhaps slightly less long wearing.

I bought myself some fat quarters of cotton (mainly because I wanted pretty patterns) and had previously purchased beeswax. You are best to use pinking shears to cut the fabric as this stops it fraying. I couldn’t find mine so scissors it was! For my first lot I followed online and grated my beeswax. That does though take a long time and a lot of arm power. I made a second lot and for that I just cut the beeswax into small thin strips to lay it on. Just lay your fabric on a baking sheet, sprinkle with beeswax and put in a low heat oven. You wait a few minutes till the beeswax melts and then use a clean paintbrush to ensure the wax has coated the cotton evenly. Then just hand it up for another 5/10 minutes and voil√† you have beeswrap! 

I will continue to experiment as I am sure there is a more efficient way to wax my cloth. I’m trying to figure out the best way to just melt the beeswax and spread it on with the paintbrush. This would make it far easier to achieve a uniform coating and also to make larger sheets of the wrap. 

I have been using it successfully since making it though and want to make myself a bigger stockpile. If anyone has made it and can give me tips then I’m all ears!
K xx

Old skills, new skills, lost skills…

This year I’ve been dwelling on skills that I would like to have that I don’t. Now that encompasses a very wide array- from metal working to speaking another language- there’s loads of things I would like to be able to do. My problem is always just picking one thing. When I get in the mood to learn something new then I start trying to do it all! As you can imagine this very quickly descends into me learning nothing.

I’m also fairly terrible at teaching myself anything. I’m not one of these glorious people who can turn their hand to anything. In fact I’ve yet to find a single thing in my life that I have been able to quickly pick up. Anything I learn is hard won and normally encompasses endless hours of extra practice compared to anyone else and a book or five on the subject to understand the theory of what I’m doing. This means that when I’m trying to pick up something I have to try and find a teacher. For me a YouTube tutorial just won’t cut it, I need someone there to hold my hand.

Now that’s not to say that I’m stupid or that I don’t understand what I’m supposed to be doing. However in reality I like to be able to ask many many incessant questions and write notes (on paper as well, I don’t do well with typed notes) on the steps I should be taking. As well as being able to watch them do the thing first and then copy it.

This is in complete contrast to the wonderful husband. I have never met someone more hands on and practically minded than he is. Also he is one of these blessedly annoying people who picks everything up quickly and makes it look damn easy doing it! In fact this idea of him is so ingrained in me that I now find it difficult to believe if I ask him to do something practical and he tells me he can’t. (On occasion I do think this is just because he doesn’t want to do what I’m asking…). This is a man who taught himself to wire our house, plumb in our bathroom and heating system, has built garages and kit cars and many other jobs mainly¬†by watching a couple of videos on it and then getting started. It’s a skill I envy and admire and one that I definitely do not have!

I’ve also found that the older I get the more I feel I should have a certain skill level. I can do the basics of life: cook, clean, washing etc but I want to be able to do more.

Based on all that, I wanted to pick a skill for this year to get to grips with. To me, out of my long list, the most useful skill I could acquire was how to use a sewing machine. This is a totally foreign area to me. I was ill for most of my childhood so I didn’t do home economics classes and have never been near a sewing machine in my house either. I do however love the idea of being able to make and alter things. The opportunity to take it up seemed like a good choice when I saw a Singer machine on offer in the local supermarket. So I bought it and went from there.

Now for the teaching part. As I said I can’t teach myself so I needed to rope someone in to teach me the basics. That’s where my mother in law comes in. I’m extremely lucky and I get along really well with my MIL. I’m also lucky that she has all the skills of a perfect 1950’s housewife and is willing to pass them onto me! So we’ve currently started lessons- just basic using my machine, threading it, different stitches, adjusting tension etc. I was duped by her into making a cushion cover as well. (This was stressful as it’s to go in her room, I thought I was working on a practice one with spare material, it turned out that it was the good one- not impressed!). It’s now time for me to try and make an actual legitimate item from start to end though…

Yesterday was a day of shopping. For the first time I bought a pattern and fabric- yay. This was a myriad of complications though that I didn’t know about. For a start I didn’t realise that you look through a pattern book and then take a number up to the counter to actually get the pattern. I had assumed that you would just have all the patterns hanging on a wall and pick from there. That’s not the case I see! Then there’s all the numbers on the pattern- I still don’t know what they mean. Due to my MIL knowledge we seem to have come away with the right pattern but who knows?! I also got far too overexcited in the fabric shop. I’m just making a basic pair of jogging bottoms but that involves boring coloured, plain jersey fabric. Whereas what I actually want to make clothes out off is all the material with tiny pirates, fabric that is super soft and looks like dragon scales or is off a completely lurid pattern involving giant flowers or little stars… ¬†I got dark grey jersey material though as is appropriate for the moment! So now I just have to get on and make it. I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going once I get started.

When I was looking at skills though it did make me think a lot about the potential for skills to be lost. I don’t know many people my age who can use a sewing machine, knit, make jam, make home remedies, grow their own food or re-purpose and re-use what they own. It could be that I just don’t know the right subset of people for this but I do have a broad range of friends. To them I am viewed as a practical person and someone who can do a lot and has a lot of ‘old’ housewife-esque skills. This is blatantly untrue but it’s because they buy everything and would never consider making their own. It makes me even more determined to master what skills I start, I want to help carry these on for new generations. Hopefully that’ll give me enough incentive to learn new things each year.

Are there any skills that are in danger of dying that you know? I’d love to hear about them.

Kimmy x

Sewing Machine

Debt update- March

Another month has flown by and it’s payday again (yay!). This meant we had our final budget meeting of the month last night. We learned a couple of lessons from the month as there were some unexpected monies that we had to pay out and silly things we hadn’t considered.

The first of which was because our hoover packed in. Not ideal when you’re decorating and have an extremely fluffy dog who sheds everywhere! So we had to buy a new one. Now we do put aside money for the house each month as we’re still in the middle of decorating it. However we have that currently earmarked for finishing the downstairs. So we decided to use our ‘spare’ council tax money for the month instead and buy a new hoover. This took away some of the over-payment we’d been intending to make to the debt.

The second lesson we learned (which realistically we should have thought off before) is to take into account the number of weeks in a month. As husband gets paid on the last day of the month, it does make a difference to our monthly budgeting. March was a 5 week month for us and this means that we should have increased our food and petrol allowance. We didn’t so that of course meant we overspent. It was a good lesson to learn and will help us going forward.

We’ve also spent a bit of time organising all our paperwork that just seems to pile up… I was horrified to realise that off the 5K a year we pay to our mortgage, only 1.5K off that actually gets removed from the capital amount. That’s a depressingly small amount! We’ve discussed it and the aim is for us to be debt free by the time we’re both 30 and mortgage free by the time we’re 40. That means that we need to make a massive change or we’ll never achieve it. So… In order to do that and also to help with the debt we’ve cancelled our last sharesave. That gave us a couple of grand back in cash to pay to debt and also frees up ¬£110 per month. That ¬£110 is now going to be an overpayment to the mortgage each month. That’ll start from the beginning of April. One of the reasons for that is we’ll have a lower LTV ratio when it comes time to re-mortgage next year at the end of our fixed rate term. In order to achieve being mortgage free by 40 we will need to start paying 1K a month to our mortgage so we are even more desperate to get rid of this debt so we can do that!

Ok now debt figures… We started the month at ¬£9918, our standard payment of ¬£300 has come off so now to figure out the over-payment! It turns out that we were slightly over enthusiastic last month when it came to paying extra money, we actually put our holiday money to the debt as we’d forgotten it was holiday money… Nevermind! It does mean that we can’t pay as much as we’d thought we could this month though. Our extra payment this month will be ¬£1600. This will take us to ¬£8018. We’ve also managed to sell my old car and I have a couple of makeup jobs which will bring in an extra ¬£400 that can go straight to debt. Also in April my pay rise starts so we will have another ¬£100 per month that can again go to debt each month.

The last thing we have in favour of our debt is that 1K of it isn’t actually our debt. When we were consolidating our debt into a loan we included ¬£1500 to give to one of our friends. (There was a very good reason for doing it). This is paid off at ¬£50 per month and will continue to be. So if we don’t include it then we are down to ¬£6618 that we have left to pay. That works out at just ¬£735 per month for the rest of this year and we’d be done! It is an amazing thought that we could finally be rid of this by 2018. I am desperate for it to become a reality…

Love, Kimmy x