I’ve got to hold on to what I’ve got

It is two days till Payday.

I have, in total:

£1 in my Bank Account

and

£10.50 in loose change in my purse.

Good news is today was a NSD (no spend day) and I only have two more expenses left till payday.

They are:

Train Fare to Football £3.90 

and

Milk for Work £1.10

Which clearly leaves me £6.50 and as I am doing a Spend Free Year it’s not like I am going to run off and spend it on gel pens, pogs, tamagotchi’s, yoyo’s or whatever the cool kids are buying these days (readers under the age of 27 may have to look up some of those archaic references, and don’t then ask me to explain why pogs were ever cool, even I don’t understand and I lived during that time)

As recently as late 2015 having ‘only’ £11.50 left two days before payday would have freaked me the hell out, because it would have meant I couldn’t freely indulge in buying posh coffees, canteen food, notebooks, nice pens or whatever was available to purchase at work.

I can honestly say my body cost me hundreds of pounds. It’s just it was all in pie and chips.

But now, £6.50 spare cash before payday makes me feel like I’m winning. That I can live within budget, that I have learnt an important lesson which is ‘CLOSE THE F****** WALLET’

I am up to 8 NSDs and hopefully I can make it to double digits by the end of the month.

It’s little achievements like that which keep me going.

Flip It

At the weekend I was chatting to my boyfriend. It was about my social anxiety.

I was saying how in 2015 my biggest problem was the fact I was a financial hell mouth and somehow haemorrhaged money each month (each day would be more accurate) and felt like a bottom feeder living off my boyfriend. And yet my social anxiety was barely noticeable. So it seemed unfair that I spent all of 2016 becoming ‘great’ (translation=better) with money and now have it pretty much covered, but my social anxiety has decided to rear it’s ugly head and take over my life.

Basically it comes down to “Why is there always something wrong with my life?”

Is it too much to expect a certain degree of ‘having my shit together’ at 27?

My boyfriend is a calm, reasonable and intelligent man. Despite not believing in self help ‘mumbo jumbo’ he could actually write a very good book about helping people as he has collected-through first and second hand experiences-a lot of wisdom and psychological based facts about lots of areas of life people need help with.

So I came to him and got a very good response.

He said that the fact was in 2015/16 I identified that I had a problem with money and decided to solve it by reading about it. Then I became obsessed with it and passionate about it and it changed my life, and now as a result I am very knowledgeable and clued up on the subject.

He said that I would have to approach combating social anxiety in the same way. That it was time to put down the personal finance/money saving/frugal tips/economics books and pick up the social anxiety ones.

I guess it’s true. Whilst someone with my credit rating-though greatly improved-could hardly be accurately described as an expert on money saving, I do have a good fountain of knowledge and get excited by how much I save, even if only pennies.

My debt situation isn’t a nice situation to be in, but it is stable (or as Penny in The Big Bang Theory would say, it’s ‘homoeostasis’ ) and as long as I don’t have too many gaps in my employment history between now and my 30th birthday I can reasonably pay it off in that time, probably before.

My finances are ok, well aside from the complete lack of savings, work contract coming to an end in April, terrible Broadband contract and debt equal to 1/3 of my post tax annual income. In all other ways it is ok.

So as Life Coach Michael Heppell would say (in his book of the same name) I need to ‘Flip It’

Put down the personal finances books and pick up the psychology books.

Learn about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy/Techniques.

Maybe as I play football I can look into sports psychology as well. So I can stop claiming it as my sole responsibility if my team loses.

I need to fall in love and become obsessed with making myself better. For my friends, my family, my boyfriend.

For me.

My Worst Moments of Anxiety # 5

Whilst I am usually in a state of mild anxiety, there have been 5 defining moments in my life where my anxiety reached monumental heights and really buggered things up.

#5

PARIS, FRANCE 2010

When I was in University most of my closest friends were doing one of the Photography courses whereas I did Film. To cut a long story short, their class trip to the Paris Photo Biennial in 2010 suddenly had a free space available which any one from any course with the money to pay could fill. Since 2 people on that course lived with me and one was my best friend they alerted me to this straight away.

I should also explain that on that trip was a guy I had a small, tiny, little crush on.

Ok, I really liked him.

I dealt with this in typical Flo fashion which was to avoid him at all costs. Unfortunately on that trip all my friends were friends with him and I ended up spending most of the time with him, which was enough to make the most composed girl a little bit nervous and stressed.

One night we were all in a bar when some guys joined us. The new guests at the table were pretty blatant about trying to get the ladies of the table to come back to where they were staying. Most of the ladies at the table were not slutty enough to actually go through with this, but weren’t exactly saying no to the attention.

Despite having spent most of my sexually awakened years single and a bit desperate to rectify this I have a pretty bad reaction to male attention. In that I hate it.

I was the classic ‘wanting the one I can’t have’ because it was safer to live in a dream world then face reality.

Whenever a man paid attention to me I would usually have one or more of the following thoughts:

  1. You must think I’m really ugly and would be so pathetically grateful for any attention that I will jump straight into bed with you. Well I won’t.
  2. You only think I am good looking because we are in bad lighting conditions and if you saw me in daylight you would run away, so we may as well not start something. (I did once put a stopper on a guy’s attention because I thought this)
  3. You like me? What the hell is wrong with you? You must be a bigger freak than I am.

Yes I subscribed to the Groucho Marx train of thought, where he didn’t want to belong to any club that would have him as a member, I didn’t want to go out with anyone who liked me. Why? Because then I would have to admit to myself that I might be likeable after all. And I couldn’t do that.

So anyhow, hot guys in Paris paying attention to me, and I was doing anything to put them off, including saying I had a boyfriend, which wasn’t true and didn’t put them off.

We all eventually left. I had been in a state of panic for a while, not because I thought the guys were bad or evil or that something bad was going to happen, but because I just wanted out of there. I found it exhausting. I wanted out of that situation and had been planning on walking back to the Hotel on my own.

I was walking ahead of everyone when the guy I fancied came up to me and tried to talk to me.  I was in my ‘shutters have come down’ state and wasn’t really making much sense. Then he said what every girl hopes to hear uttered by the boy she likes in the most romantic city in the world.

‘You’re a bit odd, you are.’

Needless to say we never went out.

This moment was defining because it explains why I get stressed in social situations. Because when you’re in a big group of friends it is hard to leave without drawing lots of attention to yourself. In fact nearly all of the stories I will eventually share with you are about me being stuck in a social situation where the average person will be having the time of their life, and I am in a state. I will tell you about my Prom night, My Graduation and My Friend’s Weddings. Then I will tell you the most event because it wasn’t a one day event, it was a prolonged period of time.

But for now, that was me, in Paris, with a hot guy, being odd.

Financial Review of Week 3

Hi everybody, it is time again for a weekly review:

I have to quickly add some expenses that occurred last Sunday after I posted a review, and they were:

SUNDAY

SOCIAL

£3.10 Coffee and small cake with Boyfriend

£3 Chips with boyfriend and two other friends whilst watching a WWE British Wrestling tournament.

On to this week:

SOCIAL

£1.95 Coffee with Coffee buddy at work (work has a coffee buddy scheme where you get paired up randomly with another member of staff each month and you meet and get to know each other)

£44.45 Weekend with Brother

£24.50 Finally paying for the ticket to see Stewart Lee in March that my Boyfriend bought ages ago.

WORK EXPENSE

£1.10 Milk

GIFT

£1 Card for Mother’s day

TOTAL

£79.10 An expensive week that hopefully won’t be repeated all too often. Does include the Sunday expenses though.

On to the food budget expenses:

My boyfriend had this week off as annual leave from work, so he was in charge of picking up the groceries, which is probably why I had to increase the budget 🙂

FOOD

£7.19 Milk, Orange Juice, Bread, Crisps, Chocolate Bars, Pasty and Baguette.

£0.95 Bleach

£1 Broccoli

£1.50 Listerine

£2.80 Coffee

£2.63 3 packets of cous cous, pilau rice, Fajita Mix sachet and tortilla wraps.

£0.99 Profiteroles and Milk

£4.89 Cereal Bars, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Cucumber and Face Scrub.

TOTAL

£21.95

Today was my 7th No Spend Day (NSD) of the month. I hope to reach double digits before February.

I transferred £10 surplus money into my savings account today, that leaves me with £13.50 until payday, which is the 27th.

I have one guaranteed expense before payday of my train fare to Football which is £3.90.

I will have to buy milk at some point this week for work, and my boyfriend and I may go to a Jazz club on Tuesday to see a friend’s dad play with his band.

It will be a squeeze but can be achieved.

 

 

BONUS FUN TIME WEEKEND CHALLENGE PART TWO

Hello everybody,

I left you yesterday with the Flo’s-Brother-Has-Come-To-Stay-Weekend-Budget at £20.80/£50.

Here are today’s expenses:

BREAKFAST £6.50 (I took my brother to a local greasy spoon that due to its huge portion sizes and cheap prices is something that has to be experienced)

TRAIN FARE £2.60 

DRINKS ROUND 1 £9.25  (2 for me, 1 for Boyfriend)

DRINKS ROUND 2 £5.30 (1 for me, 1 for bro)

TOTAL SPENDS = £23.65

£23.65 + £20.80 = £44.45

£44.45/£50 = £5.55 under budget!

Maybe I could have been a bit more frugal, but I had a great time, got to be a tourist in my own city and see familiar sights in a new light, went to an Art Gallery I had never been to before and generally had a great catch up with my brother about my anxiety.

I would say all my siblings and I have suffered from mental health problems in some form or to a certain degree at times in our life so I felt like I could talk freely. We even started comparing anti depressants and beta blockers we had been on at different points. I might look into whether switching my medication would be a good move for my anxiety.

I think I have said this before, but I describe my anxiety as being ‘high functioning’ in that I can do a good impression of a ‘normal’ person in my day to day life even though I look a bit like a rabbit in the headlights whenever someone talks to me. That’s not to say my anxiety isn’t a problem because in many ways I actually think it is quite severe, but I can disguise it.

My ambition in life is to draw as little attention to myself as possible.

I guess disguising the problem is doing very little to solve it.

I am fine around my friends, family, colleagues, people I know, it is just the rest of humanity I am afraid of.

I think my problems stems down to the fact that as I don’t think much of myself I can’t comprehend that anyone else will like me, and I avoid talking to people because I feel the more they know me the more they will hate me.

It takes me a long time to feel comfortable around people, but when I do I am a completely different person and it is like a light has gone on in me and I come alive. I can act extremely extroverted. In fact on one occasion in University I was at my good friend’s house acting the way I do when I am truly comfortable. Her flatmates would occasionally come into the kitchen and hang out, but they didn’t really know me or I them. When I left they turned to my friend and said ‘Wow, Flo was really drunk’. My friend explained that I had been sober and in general rarely drink. They were thoroughly confused.

I feel like I have a split personality. I have the one side of me that wants to do nothing more than be open with people, to help people, to talk to them, to get to know them, to be the life and soul of the party.

But she is usually smothered by the side of me that freaks out if a stranger says hello to me.

As someone who has spent the last 11 years of her life working exclusively in customer service, you can appreciate why I am perpetually stressed to the max.

Do my friends and family love me?

Yes.

Do they think I am awesome, and fantastic, and cool, and great?

Yes (though the anxious part of me wonders why)

Have I successfully been in a relationship for nearly 6 years with a hot, awesome, talented, sexy, kind, funny and loving guy, who had the freedom to leave at any point and yet chose to be with me?

Yes.

So why do I find it so unfathomable that a stranger could feel the same?

I don’t really have any other anxiety, it’s all social/people based. I no longer freak out about my career as I believe my goals will come true. I don’t believe in an apocalyptic end of the world as we know it event will happen (despite what is happening in the world at the moment). I don’t wonder ‘Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality’ (Sorry, I am obsessed with the band Queen, I couldn’t resist)

Yes I have had plenty of bad moments in my life. There have been points when I have been treated badly by strangers, so called friends, colleagues and family members, I have had men sexually harass me verbally and physically, I have been followed home, I have been called ugly to my face, I was bullied in one job and had it end in the worst way imaginable. I first got into debt due to being screwed over by a fraudulent company. I have lost too many loved ones too young.

But I don’t believe my life is any worse than anyone else’s. I don’t think I have suffered more than anyone else, and for the most part I feel like I have been supremely blessed in my life. I genuinely have so much to be grateful for. The thing I want least in life is for people to feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself. If I have given you that impression I am very sorry and may go and do a frantic re-write to get rid of that idea. At the end of the day I am trying to focus on solving my problems-my social anxiety, my debts, my extra baggage (weight wise)-and as writing is as essential to me as oxygen is, I felt like this was the best way to work things out.

In other news I have increased the household grocery budget to £200 and I exchanged the ‘Free Dessert’ coupon from ‘Shopping Mission’ for Profiteroles for my Boyfriend (I am a weirdo and hate profiteroles, yes I know I am freak, I keep saying that, this is why I think people dislike me, because I have weird profiterole hatred).

Join me tomorrow for the weekly review.

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus Fun Time Weekend Challenge

As previously mentioned one of my many brothers has come to visit briefly.

I originally set a budget of £60 for the weekend (to tell the truth it is less than 24 hours, from 5.30pm today till 3pm tomorrow) but decided to reduce it to £50 because I need to learn to budget on less.

Here are the stats so far:

BUDGET £50

FRIDAY

Dinner (and my goodness it was lush) £15

Beer with dinner £0 (My Boyfriend bought us a round)

Beer at sweet and tiny microbrewery we wanted to check out £2.80

Taxi ride home (January is COLD!!!) £3 (£8 and my brother and boyfriend gave me £2.50 each)

TOTAL SO FAR £20.80/£50

£29.20 remains.

Tomorrow we have biggish plans so it won’t be too easy to stay under, I will give it a go though.

 

The Overdraft Has 10 Months To Live

Hey everybody,

I had a brain wave today.

3/4 of my credit card debts are on 0% interest cards, with a smallish balance left on the remainder.

I also have a £1000 overdraft.

And it gets worse.

I pay interest and bank charges on being in my overdraft (Ok, truth is I live in my overdraft) but whereas on the credit card that charges interest some of the payments I make go on clearing the balance, with the charges I pay for the overdraft absolutely none of it contributes to clearing that debt.

I am paying the bank for being in debt, and the bank gives nothing back.

This is sort of fair, I mean I used the bank’s money to buy things, so why should the bank help me pay that money back, and banks are a business after all.

But it means I am paying a bill that gives me nothing back, I am going nowhere with that debt.

So I have decided that instead of focusing on the 0% cards (for the moment at least) I will be paying £100 towards my overdraft each month that I can so I can clear that debt.

And once it is clear I can then use the money I was paying in charges and in clearing the debt towards the 0% cards.

There are a few methods of clearing debts that experts recommend but it tends to boil down to two, Avalanche and Snowball.

Snowball is where you pay off the debt with the lowest balance first, focusing on one at a time and getting a mood boost when you clear a debt.

Avalanche is where you pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, which saves you money in the long run.

I spent most of 2016 doing a mixture of Avalanche and a very ineffective method called ‘Shotgun’ (which is where you pay a little bit extra to all your debts) which I didn’t know was a bad move until I learnt about it in Peter Dunn’s book ‘Your Money Life: Your 20’s’ .

In theory Avalanche is the best method, but after reading Peter Dunn’s book I switched to Snowball as I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for a sense of achievement.

Now I am switching back, just temporarily, to Avalanche.

I have wanted to leave my bank for a very long time and now that I have transferred the credit card debt I had with them to one of the 0% cards, it is just the overdraft I need to clear.

I had a bad moment late last year. I wasn’t sure if just part of my overdraft charged interest or whether it was all of it (once upon a time part of it was interest free), so I went to the bank based at my work to ask.

It was clear that the counter assistant didn’t quite grasp what I was saying and asked a probing question ‘Are you living in your overdraft? Because we can arrange for you to see a financial counsellor’

And I just panicked as this was the bank based at my work, so it wasn’t outside the realms of possibility that someone I worked with would be behind me in the queue, and I thought this was a very personal question (though well meaning).

When I reach a state of anxiety, my boyfriend says it’s like ‘the shutters come down’. Meaning I go into an unreachable place. I panic. I get ‘Fight or Flight’ and mine is always flight. You can try to ask me what’s up and I will just look at you and not speak for a very long time, not because I’m trying to be a dick or because I don’t know what to say, but because a million and one thoughts are going through my head and I have frozen because I’m trying to compute what to do next.

So I basically stammered my way out of there, leaving very swiftly, and I’m pretty sure I stress ate a giant chocolate bar or something (I’m a stress eater, hence me being overweight as I am perpetually stressed by my anxiety)

So ever since then I have been determined to clear it.

Wish me luck.

Shopping Mission

Today I sent my boyfriend on a shopping mission as he is on annual leave and I was working.

It was a very detailed shopping mission even though it only involved going into two shops and buying one item in each. But I had to send him instructions in a text.

The shopping mission was as follows.

STEP ONE

Go to Iceland. Take Iceland Bonus Card. Pick up Frozen Broccoli (we need frozen broccoli, this is not the exciting and dangerous part of the mission). Then head to till. When paying hand over the bonus card. This should generate a ‘Free Frozen Dessert’ voucher as a reward for being a bonus card holder. BUT WE MUST DO IT TODAY! TIME IS RUNNING OUT! TICK TOCK TICK TOCK

STEP TWO

Go to Tesco. Select 500ml bottle of Listerine (We need Listerine, this is not the Exciting and Dangerous part of the mission). Head to till. Hand over the £1 off voucher that you downloaded from the Everyday Caring website which you have registered with. AND WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T FORGET TO COLLECT POINTS ON THE CLUBCARD! AND THE VOUCHER EXPIRES SOON. TICK TOCK TICK TOCK.

This little mission will have resulted in gaining a voucher worth £2 and getting £1 off my shopping, which will come in very handy when before the shopping trip I had £3.75 remaining of the shopping budget, with 8 days still to go before payday.

Ok, so maybe I have oversold how exciting and dangerous this mission was. But it made my boyfriend chuckle.

When I got home from work my Boyfriend had lots to show me. Not only did I get the deals listed above but also Tesco’s gave my Boyfriend a ‘150 clubcard points bonus on your next shop’ voucher (which equals £1.50 in points) but we also received a £1 off the Financial Times Newspaper. The irony is I can’t use that voucher to buy it as Newspapers are a banned purchase. And I love the Financial Times!

So yes, despite my best intentions I will most likely end the first month of the year over budget. I am ok with this though, because in December I was paid on the 20th instead of my usual date of the 27th, which meant I had nearly a week extra that I would have to buy groceries for until the next payday.

I am determined to remain as close to the budget as possible, which is why a few vouchers will go a long way to achieving this. What I go over by I will deduct from next month’s shopping budget. Despite the fact that my payday dates will change nothing, psychologically because February is a short month I feel like it will be easier to come under a reduced budget.

And if I don’t I have all year to claw it back.

I ended the 2016 Food Budget year 37p under the year’s budget, so it is possible for me to dig deep and claw it back.

Are You Experienced?

One of my simple pleasures in 2016 was going to the City Centre library-usually each Saturday morning-and picking out new books to read from the money management and economics sections.

Whilst I did still buy books in 2016 it was at a much reduced rate. In 2015 I would use the minimum payment on my credit cards to buy a selection of second hand books on Amazon each month. The cards would be at 90% capacity. I would make the minimum payment, then immediately spend it. The concept of paying off my debts didn’t seem to occur to me.

This year will be like Boot Camp. To be more militant. To have tunnel vision about achieving my goals. So no more books.

Luckily I work in a Library, and have several in my home city to indulge in. This should help me get my fix of books.

I do have about 100 unread books in my house as well, but that’s a whole other story.

The book I have just started reading is called “Happy Money: The New Science of Smarter Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, and although I am only one chapter in I have already learnt a lot.

The first chapter is called “Buy Experiences” which explains through numerous examples of studies that people value experiences, and experiential purchases, more than they do their material possessions. Not only that but people who spend a bigger percentage of their disposable income on experiences compared to those who spend more on material possessions report to be happier as people.

Which, when you think about it, is what I want to do this year.

The book has just explained to me what I seemed to have stumbled on but wasn’t able to describe.

Last year I bought things. Because I bought things I couldn’t afford to socialise as much as I wanted. I would have to turn things down frequently, or do some sort of convoluted ‘paying for a gig ticket across several months in installments’ deal with my boyfriend.

Yes I did have the anxiety. That was a major problem, and actually still is. However my lack of funds was still very much a major concern, and maybe I did use it as an easy excuse.

I very much am intrigued by the whole ‘spending money on experiences makes you happier’ train of thought that Dunn and Norton argue for in the first chapter. I mean, I am willing to try anything to cure my mental health difficulties. I even take cold showers after reading a report that they can boost your mood…

So it is reassuring to discover that I have decided to do something that has the potential to help ease my anxiety and depression. I am happy to report that at this moment in time I am happy, that my anxiety flares up but isn’t all consuming like it has been at certain points in the past, that I do feel that the Universe is being kind to me.

Of course I have the typical anxious thought of feeling like I’m tempting fate if I dare say I am having a good time, that I’m happy, that I’m ok. I guess I should just be a little bit more trusting.

Two statements I live by are ‘It is what it is’ and ‘This too shall pass’. If I trust in them I should be ok.

Today’s gonna be a good day

Even though today is a day off work for me, when I woke up naturally at 6am, I decided to get up.

I checked all my credit card statements as it is the point in the month when they get released and I crunched the numbers on one of my many, many spreadsheets and from December statements to now I have paid off.

£166.37

I also did a little bit of data work to compile the money I have available to me before payday-going through every wallet and ‘category envelope’ (I put my Football training expenses in a separate envelope after I withdraw it on payday to keep the money safe)-and then compare it against the expenses I still have between now and payday.

As mentioned my brother is coming to stay so I made a little budget for that, and then I saw what I had left.

I had enough to clear my credit card with the smallest balance (£86.47) with £30 left over.

You may think, what is so great about £30? That can barely buy you a sock in a fancy shop.

The £30 seems like a fortune to me, because whereas before I would have run straight to the nearest clothes shop and bought something, anything, now that I can’t buy material possessions and can only buy experiential things, this means I have £30 to add to my savings for the next big gig, or holiday or theatre/cinema trip.

I think I have finally twigged that when you save, you have money for the future.

So if you include clearing my smallest balance card today then my total debt payments since December are now:

£252.84

Which means by debt is no longer £5996.12

It is £5743.28

A small but powerful deduction.

Today I want to call one of my credit cards that after a balance transfer actually sees me 38p in CREDIT on it and close it.

I also want to go for a jog after a weekend of indulgent food.

Right now I am watching a NFL Highlights show, and then I will do update my spreadsheet about February’s Expenses vs Income.

I feel good.