93 Days

I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and attended an online celebration of the 3 year anniversary of a running group I joined last year. I am still working on my social anxiety, though it is probably only about a tenth of what it was a few years ago.

It was nice. I like being less scared compared to how I used to live my life.

Today I decided that practically speaking I didn’t have enough time to get everything done unless I thought strategically. So I combined picking up my medication and posting some overseas letters with my daily run. The run commute probably only was about 1 mile in total, it was a near 11 minute run time and my pace is about 10.5 minutes a mile when running.

I spent a couple of pounds on the stamps, other than that there was no other spends today.

I made an interesting dish yesterday. Somewhere between a bubble and squeak and a tortilla. It was mashed potato, spinach and onion moulded into patties and then baked in the oven. Although I found it mighty tasty I am not sure of its wider appeal so I may hold off posting a recipe for it. But in terms of meeting my May goal of cooking 4 new recipes this month it will count towards that.

I am watching A Streetcar Named Desire on YouTube in instalments. I watched over an hour yesterday, and I plan on finishing it tonight.

Compared to how I felt last week I feel a lot better. Today was a productive day at work. I was able to focus and I got some good work done. I have still decided to take every Monday in June off work. I have had that approved.

In England they are looking to reopen shops on the 15th of June. The same is not happening in Wales, or at least hasn’t been announced yet, but still it makes me feel that things are beginning to change and that normal service might once again be resumed.

I have a colleague who started working for us in January, and as such has now spent longer working under lockdown at home than she did in the office.

Tomorrow I get my pay slip and I will be able to do my accounting for the next month. I have decided I will pay off the new debt on my credit card in full and then save less this month, and save more the following months.

If lockdown is eased that means it will become a necessity to look at finding somewhere new to live this autumn. I am not prepared for that. I love where I live, and I have a good set up with my flat mate, but my flat mate is my ex-boyfriend, who is in a new relationship, and there is little sense for us to continue living together. It certainly would impact my future dating prospects if I was interested in that. I can’t imagine many men who would be interested in romancing a new love in front of her former love.

So that raises a question of whether it is good to pay off the debt in full now and rebuild my savings, or accrue debt and then pay it back in installments. What is better for me is to pay off the debt in full, but that leaves me vulnerable financially in case of an emergency.

Ultimately no one knows what is going to happen next, this is uncharted waters. I must just do what I can to navigate safely.

 

94 Days

I think a lot of people are beginning to be annoyed at the large amount of bank holidays during lock down.

I am of course only pretending to be annoyed by this. In the grand scheme of things it is not important.

It is still nice to have some time off work. I am debating whether to take a full week off work as annual leave or to take 5 Mondays in a row off work. I am now leaning towards the later.

I am feeling a lot recovered from the long weekend and I feel perhaps I am over the worse of my lock down burn out.

I have looked over my ‘June 2020 Finances’ spreadsheet which is where I detail my money in versus my money out. It is not entirely up to date given that I won’t get my pay slip until tomorrow but the prognosis is next month isn’t going to be as bad as I initially feared. My savings are going to take a hit, and I am still in two minds as to whether I am doing the right thing prioritising paying off the debt over saving. In the book I am writing I did just go over why it is better to prioritise savings over everything else on a financial journey and I really don’t want to be a hypocrite. I will see what I can do. I might partially transfer some of my new debt on to my 0% balance transfer cards and pay off the rest in full, and then the amount on the balance transfer card I will pay off over four payments.

I shall investigate.

It is nice to spend time in the house and make the most of things. I think I will watch A Streetcar Named Desire on the National Theatre YouTube channel later. Or some Netflix. Who knows, the world is my lobster (I know that’s not the actual expression, it’s something my flat mate and I say).

I still have a decent amount of jam tarts left. Just like Grandma used to make, literally.

I have some batch cooked Tuna Pasta Bake to see me through to pay day, and some potatoes that need eating up. All is good really when you think about it. What I mean is I’m trying to make the most of a bad situation.

I really do wonder what life is going to be like when ‘normal’ service is resumed. They keep talking about the ‘new’ normal and I wonder what that will involve. What will we keep from lockdown and what will go.

I am happy in myself.

My diet has completely fallen apart. I used to religiously eat my five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. For the last week or so that has fallen apart. Boo hiss. I don’t want to come out of lock down looking like a diagram of the covid-19 cell, big, round and with spiky bits (my hair is a bit wild). Despite running daily it turns out if you eat a lot of cake and jam tarts you will still put on weight. Who would have thought it?

I base my day around a to do list, it gives me an enormous sense of achievement though how much of that is actually real? I mean, putting ‘Hoover’ on the to do list takes 10 minutes if that, and is an easy win, but it contains the same real estate on a to do list as ‘write 3000 words’ which will take significantly longer. So it is important to do what I call the ‘Macro’ tasks first. I live my life by thinking macro over micro. What I mean by that is I prioritise the things that will give me the biggest pay off, the 20% of effort that produces the 80% of results. It doesn’t always happen but that’s what I work to in theory.

I have the urge to spend money. This is because it is a hormonal time for me and for people who know what I’m on about a little known fact is that people who menstruate tend to feel the urge to go shopping around ‘their time’. So be nicer to your significant other if they come back with half of Primark during their time. I am aware of this so I am quite good at ignoring this, or again I tend to go for purchases that will give me an investment rather than a bunch of tat.

Anyway, I’ve waffled on enough. I wish you all a pleasant Monday.

 

95 Days

Today has been a good day.

I did my longest run in lock down of 6.68km. It’s nothing like the distance I used to run before lock down, but these aren’t the same times.

I made jam tarts, as you know.

I haven’t spent any money today.

I have been trying out the beauty products that arrived in the post. I am not by most descriptions a typical girl. I rarely wear make-up. Surprisingly it takes a lot of money for me to look as scruffy as I do.  I will try and learn more in lock down.

I originally planned on doing a 300 day countdown to my debt free date, but I couldn’t find the time to commit to it.

It only took a global pandemic.

In the end does it matter that I paid off my debt? Does any of this matter in the grand scheme of things? People’s lives have been forever changed by what has happened globally.

I am still focusing on paying off my debts. It’s still my goal. It is still something to be proud of and to work towards. But it does seem less important in this landscape.

Flo’s Nostalgia Jam Tarts

Hi everybody,

Lock down has made me appreciate a more frugal and old style way of life. I have been thinking about my grandparent’s generation a lot, they knew how to survive things. My last living grandparent is in his 90s. His kitchen is filled with old coffee jars that are used to store things like biscuits. He has a small larder which as a girl I thought was cool and as an adult I am deeply envious of.

I too reuse old coffee jars to store things. I currently have nuts, dried fruit, sugar and rice in old Kenco and Douwe Egberts jars. I find them delightful to look at and they always make me think of my Grandpa when I see them.

I first cooked with my Grandma. That’s not to say no other grandparent or parent played a part in my culinary journey, because they all did, but my earliest cooking related memory is making jam tarts with my Grandma.

This particular set of grandparents lived next door to me growing up. Now it is my Dad and Step Mum who live in my childhood home and my Grandpa is still next door. That reassures me during this time.

Since lock down started I have been craving making jam tarts. And to be clear, although I do like jam tarts from a taste point of view, my craving was to make them and remember my Grandma and my first cooking experiences.

This isn’t really a recipe, most people could make this and probably many people have a much more sophisticated recipe than me. But just in case you don’t here is mine.

INGREDIENTS

2 ‘Parts’ Plain Flour

1 ‘Part’ Butter

Jam

Flour for dusting

Butter for greasing

1 – 2 x Muffin Trays

Large circular cookie cutter

Iced/cold water

METHOD

So why parts? It is simply because you can scale up or down this recipe according to your needs. I used 130g Butter and 260g Plain Flour. This made about 17 jam tarts, though the 17th was a bit ‘rustic’ and cobbled together from scraps. If you want fewer jam tarts than half the recipe, if you want twice as many scale it up.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4

Mix the butter and flour together till it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add a tablespoon of cold water one at a time, mixing the breadcrumbs together each time. It is very easy to make the dough far too wet. About 5 tablespoons was all it took to bind my dough together.

Knead the dough, then roll out. If you don’t have a rolling pin, and I didn’t for ages, then use a wine bottle.

Cut out circles using the cookie cutter then line them in the greased muffin tray.

Place one heaped teaspoon of jam in each centre. You don’t need much.

Bake in the oven for around about 12-20 minutes until golden brown. Keep checking.

LEAVE TO COOL FIRST BEFORE EATING! – Hot jam is like lava in your mouth. Don’t do it.

 

 

Spending Diary 18th to 24th May 2020

Hi everybody,

I wonder what this week brings for me spending wise. Hopefully not a lot!

18/05/2020

I woke up late today, I’ve been having trouble sleeping recently. I struggle to fall asleep at night which means I sleep in late the next morning which I hate. I guess the lucky thing about working from home is there is no commute so I was still able to begin work on time.

I had a few tricky issues to sort out at work, and things took a further turn for the worse when the Flat mate said he had seen ants in the dishwasher! Grim! I put a dishwasher cleaning pot in the dishwasher and ran it on a hot cycle and hopefully that will help the problem. I can’t wait for the ant killer to arrive. I tried to find some in another shop yesterday but there was none to be had.

After work I went on Duolingo for about an hour to ‘parle francais’ and was able to finish another section on it which felt good. Then the flat mate and I went for a short 2.5km run around the neighbourhood. I’ve taken to running on residential streets as opposed to the nearby park and it is so much better and quieter making me feel much safer. We had falafel and hummus wraps when we got hot with sweet chilli sauce, lush.

For the last week I’ve been doing a challenge run by author and life coach Michael Heppell called ‘Write That Book’. It ended today with a live webinar on zoom, there were prizes to be had, but I didn’t win anything, but I was expecting that and it wasn’t my motivation for joining the challenge anyway. I’m under no illusions that most of this was to promote his masterclass which he was launching after the challenge. He previously said the course would be around £1500 which I knew there was no way I could afford so I wasn’t going to do it, but then in the webinar he said he had an early bird discount making it just £495. I had a budget in my mind of around that price which if the course was that much then I would sign up for it. Now I had to make some decisions, because I don’t just jump into things without thinking about them. So I got out my computer and the spreadsheets of my monthly budgets and did an analysis to see how I was going to pay for it, and only when I knew I could pay for it and not have it delay any of my other financial goals did I pay for it. I have never spent £495 or even anything remotely near that for a course before, but I know it will be worth every penny. Plus, I could put this on my self-assessment tax return as a training cost. I’m not sure I will bother but it’s good to know I’ve got that as an option.

19/05/2020

I woke up to the bad news of finding out my payment for my subscription to a ground coffee company had been declined. I had been meaning to swap the card I make that payment on around as I had been charging it to my Monzo card when I would prefer for it to be my main account. I tend to keep the card balance at ‘zero’ on Monzo and keep everything in the pots until I need to spend that money, so it wasn’t a case of I didn’t have the money, but I still take payment declines quite badly. I took this opportunity to change the payment cards around on my account and they will try the payment again tomorrow.

It is a work colleague’s birthday soon and one of the team had organised gifts and let us know that each person’s share was £3.50, so I transferred that to them through Monzo. The gifts are amazing, the birthday colleague is going to love them!

I had a good working day. It is Mental Health Awareness Week at work as part of a wider Health and Wellbeing campaign, so I attended a MS Teams talk on sleep. Mine has got all out of sorts recently but I’m making a concentrated effort to get better at it. I’ve been trying to enforce my digital detox from 9pm and go to bed at a sensible time. I’m slowly getting there.

I had to go to the shops after work. I can’t believe how fast we’re getting through food. I’m definitely going to increase the food budget next month going forward. I’d rather end the month in budget then try and scramble to find the money to pay for groceries. The shopping contained a mixture of fresh, frozen, store cupboard and toiletries. It came to £26.65, so £13.33 for my half. No surprises if I tell you that we have gone over the food budget already. I’m really going to have to watch that.

20/05/2020

The coffee subscription payment came out, so that was £7.95 (£3.97 between me and the flat mate). No payments declined this time!

I was given a new task to do at work so that kept me busy. I went for a run after work and found it really difficult. They did say on the news that today was the hottest day of the year so maybe that was why. I had some toiletries I had ordered online arrive in the post so that will keep my skin in check for a while. I have adult cystic acne and a lot of acne scars so I try to look after my skin as much as I can. The acne has mostly cleared up over the years but I still have the old acne scars remaining.

Luckily I didn’t spend any other money today, woo hoo!

21/05/2020

I had my subscription to a sustainable and environmentally friendly dishwasher tablet producer come out today, £4.50 (£2.25 each).

It’s my last working day of the week as I have tomorrow off work and it’s the bank holiday the following Monday. I obviously have no plans due to lockdown, so I think I’ll just do a lot of tidying up and admin tasks I’ve been putting off.

As you know from my daily post on this day I was in a bad way mentally today. I did manage to do a small run but I just felt awful like I was going to burst into tears or scream or have a full blown panic attack at any moment. My flat mate suggested that my lack of sleep this week may have been playing a big part, so I decided to not set my alarm for the next day and just allow myself to wake up after I had had enough sleep.

22/05/2020

I read an article on Women’s Health website about lock down burnout being a condition at the moment, and based on how I was feeling yesterday I could have answered yes to all 5 of the symptoms of lock down burnout, such as having a low mood, not being able to concentrate and having little motivation. After a good night’s sleep I felt a lot better compared to yesterday but I think I need to take some time off work. I previously didn’t see the point in taking any time off work during lockdown as it seemed a waste of annual leave, but if it makes me feel better it can’t be a bad thing. I think I will ask my line manager about that when I return to work after the bank holiday weekend.

The flat mate and I did a 6km run, he also had today off work, it went a lot better than last time I did this route so that cheered me up as well.

Other than that I just pottered about the flat and did things like spend a long time on Duolingo learning French and watching Netflix. I went to bed at a late time which wasn’t good, but I still have a bit of time to sort out my sleep.

23/05/2020

I woke up at 5:30am originally and did manage to finish a book I’ve been reading for a while and back up my work on my laptop, but then I just kept falling asleep on the sofa. Silly Flo.

I’m debating whether to go to the shops and buy some food or make do with what I have left in stock in the house. Financially I could benefit from spending less money, but I would like to have more options for cooking over the next week. It’s just such a bugger going to the shops, I really try and put it off as much as possible.

In the end I caved and did go to the shops. Fruit, dairy, frozen. I still don’t get why people aren’t social distancing in the shops. It’s not that hard.

I spent £27.82 (£13.91 my half) at the shops. I’m really not going to try and go to the shops again before payday. I did look into my food stores and I could have lasted without going to the shops, but I wanted to make nice things and maybe some treats too, and some of the things we needed.

It was my only spends of the day, though I did get tempted by some notebooks as I am fast running out of my supplies.

24/05/2020

Today I plan on making jam tarts, spending time on Duolingo, watching Netflix, doing a long exercise bike cycle and doing my daily run.

I don’t plan on spending any money today, though I believe I also said that last week and then went to the shops. I certainly intend to stay in today.

I have just made 17 jam tarts and they are cooling, I will post about them and the recipe, though it’s not really a recipe as such, or at least not a complex one, but still that’s part of my ethos. I will spend some time on Duolingo whilst they are cooling as I am quite close to topping the leader board of my league and that seems like something to care about in lockdown.

Life really isn’t too bad. Some days I struggle, other days I’m on top of the world. I guess that’s the way of life. It is all ok.

TOTAL SPENDS

PERSONAL SPENDS = £498.50

FOOD SPENDS = £33.46

TOTAL SPENDS = £531.96

96 Days

I am suffering from lock down burn out. Funnily enough realising this is the reason behind my recent extreme low mood and my inability to focus, concentrate or produce good work has made me feel happier. If I have a diagnosis I can find a cure. If I identify the problem I can be fixed.

I have decided when I return to work after the bank holiday I will be looking to take some time off as annual leave. Before I felt like it was a waste of annual leave. Taking time off when I could neither go anywhere nor do anything. But to be honest, I don’t think we are going to come out of this any time soon. I am beginning to think we could be looking at the things I took for granted last year like an office Christmas party not happening this year. I think taking a few days annual leave now to drink tea, read, write and watch Netflix undisturbed will be good.

Please don’t take this to mean I am trying to panic people, or I have inside knowledge. I am not trying to panic people, I do not have insider knowledge. I am speculating, and I choose to speculate on a worst case scenario basis as it makes me feel better protected in case the worst does happen. That is how I work. But it might not be what is best for you, in which case feel free to disregard my choices.

I am over budget on the food budget by nearly 33%. The food budget is £300 a month, it currently stands at £388. From next month onwards my food budget will be £400. There is a lack of deals in the supermarkets in the UK as they are getting rid of multibuy offers to prevent food waste and also to make sure there is enough stock for everyone. There is a lack of basic, entry level, economy buys in the stores. Tesco Every Day, Morrison’s Savers, Sainsbury’s Basics, you know these names as what they call their economy ranges. They are not available in stores at the frequency they once were.

My energy bill went up. We are in a deficit of about £335 so have to look to pay that back during the time of our contract. The flat mate and I might be moving out of this property in September. It depends what the landscape for moving houses is like then. Logically as a couple that split up we can’t live together any longer than we have to. But it might not be possible to move out in September when our tenancy agreement is up for renewal, so we may be stuck for another year. Or the landlord could kick us out as soon as normal service is resumed. I don’t know, so I must be prepared for what could happen.

Again, I like to prepare for the worst.

I am going to dip into my savings to make sure I pay off the debt of the writing masterclass as soon as I get paid this month. I have a huge aversion to debt, I mean, I kind of have to given that this is a blog about my debt free journey. I can hardly preach but not practice. This would leave me vulnerable to a potential emergency, which isn’t unlikely given that we are in a risky time and things we never thought would happen are happening left right and centre.

If I can, as an aside, recommend a book, it would be ‘The Black Swan’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I definitely recommend having a look at it. I predict this book will be rereleased in a few years’ time to include notes on the pandemic.

I feel good currently. I need to reduce my drinking. I tracked what was a typical lock down week for me of at least one can of beer most days, a bottle of prosecco on a Saturday, and wine on a Sunday, and it came to 21 units. A woman’s weekly guideline is 14 units. I was over by 50%, and worryingly I didn’t see this as bad.

So my rule is Monday to Thursday I won’t drink, and then I will only drink at the weekend. I include Friday evening as a weekend day. And this isn’t an excuse to drink 14 units across 3 days. I can’t do that. I will be good.

There’s no way to deny it. Financially I am benefitting from lock down by not spending money on going out, work canteen lunches, and random crap. I am having to analyse every single purchase, and I am really making the most of every last drop of product.

This week I had 3 tube lip balms down to their stubs. I used a skewer to pull out the remainder of each of the three tubes, and I put it in an empty Vaseline tin, mixed. This will give me an extended lip balm product. I did this because in the old days I would just go to Boots or Superdrug on my way home from work and buy some lip balms. But I can’t do that now. I can’t just leave the house for one purchase. I am really trying to leave the house as infrequently as possible.

Another reason why food shopping is costing more is I tend to just go to the one store. I used to shop around. I used to go to multiple stores on a weekly shopping excursion. I don’t want to do that anymore. It is too difficult.

Getting out of debt is just one aspect of my financial journey. I will also be looking to get my credit rating as high as it can be. I am looking to save to buy my own property. My goal for buying property is not as an asset. It is simply so I can have a pet freely and without restraint. I want to have a fully funded emergency fund. £1000 isn’t enough. 3 months expenses isn’t enough. 6 months isn’t enough. I want to have an emergency fund that has my annual salary in it. After that I can have fun spending freely.

So Flo’s Debt Free Diary isn’t going to end in 96 days’ time. It will continue. I will still be on my financial journey. I still have much to learn and much to teach and I will do what I can.

97 Days

I am writing a book about my debt free journey.

I am due to be debt free on the 27th August. It is a journey that will have taken me 1727 days, or 4 years, 8 months, 22 days. It was on the 6th December 2015 that I realised I couldn’t carry on with the way I had been living my life at that point. That is the date I began to take control of my finances rather than have them control me. Sorry for the cliché.

About 50% of my total debt was from being a bit silly with my money. Buying things I didn’t need, buying things I couldn’t afford, and buying things I neither needed nor could afford. However, the other 50% of my debt was from literally, and I do use that term correctly, not having any other option to survive.

At the beginning of my journey I kept it a secret. My partner at the time had an inkling as to what was going on but I was giving him an edited version of the full picture and I think to an extent he was too afraid to ask.

Now I tell anyone and everyone about my debt. I’ll talk about it to anyone who shows an interest, and probably to people even if they didn’t show an interest.

Getting into debt understandably changed my life for the worse. But getting out of it has ultimately changed my life for the better.

I am not the same person who got into debt. 10 years from now my financial journey will also likely take me away from the person I am now.

The most important thing I’ve learnt in life is you should never underestimate your capacity to change. You can change. You can make mistakes, but then you can fix them.

I have made countless mistakes with money, you name it I’ve done it. But I will never make them again and my financial past does not determine my financial future.

So I’m being a bit bolder and a bit more public about what I want in life. You all know that I’ve invested in a book writing course, so let’s hope that it will be worth my money (I’m sure it will be). Ultimately I will only get out of it what I put in. So I will do my best.

I am about 20000 words into the book, or two dissertations worth. I mean, I might as well write, it’s not like I’m going anywhere or doing anything else during lockdown. Might as well keep busy.

I didn’t spend any money today, which is always good. I did a run, which is always good, and I’m doing some writing. Good times.

See you tomorrow.