My goals for 2017 updated (and progress so far)

Hi Everybody,

At the start of the year the boy and I set individual goals and combined goals.

On our epic train journey back home yesterday I decided for s**** and giggles to have a look at them in my notebook and see how we are getting on.

I think the boy would be horrified if I posted his again, so lets just look at mine.

THESE ARE THE GOALS I SET FOR 2017 IN DECEMBER 2016

  1. Be able to fit into leopard print coat by Winter 2017.
  2. Pay off 2 credit cards or 1 credit card and £500 of my overdraft.
  3. Get a full time, permanent job.
  4. Take my health seriously.
  5. Blog consistently.
  6. (BONUS GOAL) Love the boy as much as humanly possible.

Let’s see how I am doing:

Be able to fit into leopard print coat by Winter 2017.

Well, I am not there yet. But I will be.

Pay off 2 credit cards or 1 credit card and £500 of my overdraft.

I think my aim here was to pay off £1000 of my debt this year. And my current debt repayment amount stands at £1196.15.

And the year isn’t even half way through.

Can I get a hooray?

Get a full time, permanent job.

Well, sort of. I have got a new job, one that I applied for and beat everyone else that was interview for, but, and I say this not to discredit it as it is a good job, but it is a fixed term contract job.

Take my health seriously.

I could do better at this. But I am trying.

Blog consistently.

Yep. There have been a few blips recently, but I’ve got this s*** covered.

(BONUS GOAL) Love the boy as much as humanly possible.

On the train I asked the boy how I was doing at this and he said I was failing miserably at it. He was joking. I hope.

If you had asked me how I was doing at achieving my goals I would have said I wasn’t doing very well at them, but look at what I’ve achieved! I’m going to smash the debt repayment total this year, and I’m making good strides in all the other areas.

Bring It On.

The Books That Are Helping Me (No Spend Year)

So as you all know I am doing a ‘No Spend Year’, which may seem like a noble pursuit but really when you are in debt you should put the plastic the f*** down and not buy anything as that is just common sense.

Like any good idea, mine was not original at all. In fact after a recent reading binge I can now tell you all about the books I have found on the subject, 3 are about proper ‘no spend years’ and 2 aren’t exactly but they fit the theme well.

My first instinct when I have a problem is always to go to a book store.

I have found five on the matter, let me know if you know of any more, I would love to hear about them.

#5 Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping – Judith Levine

This is both my ‘first’ and ‘last’ book.

It was the first book I had ever heard about on the subject of not buying anything, back in The Times Newspaper in 2006 in an article and interview after the book was released.

But it is also my ‘last’ book as I finished it yesterday (I bought it recently, with a voucher, and finished it yesterday, I didn’t start reading it in 2006, honest!)

Judith Levine decided to go a year without spending in late 2003 after what seemed like traumatic Christmas shopping, so she did for the whole of 2004 (ok, there were some slip ups, but in all the books I have read there have been some, we are human, prone to mistakes).

Her book is probably the most academic out of all the ones I have read, which is good, but probably the reason why I liked it at least, which makes me look a little thick. This might be the reason why you like it best of all.

I think she and her partner (who joined in on the challenge) go to great lengths to stick to their No Spend Year, even making their own beer, which is admirable. I think the book and Levine address the idea that people tie up so much of their identity in what they buy that when you remove that how do you know who you really are?

By that I mean this, Levine is political and everyday makes consumer choices based on what she believes in. With that removed is she being true to herself? Is she even being herself in the first place?

I guess I may struggle with that this year which is why I appreciated reading it.

#4 How I Lived A Year On Just A Pound A Day – Kath Kelly

I had seen this book doing the rounds on the Money Saving Expert website and also on my suggested results on Amazon, so recently I purchased it (again with a voucher!!!) for my Kindle.

So, not a No Spend Year, but it kinda fits the theme I think because even if all that money was spent on just her monthly food budget, that is still only £30ish a month, and me and the boy find it difficult enough keeping to £200 a month, so good on her.

Unlike all the other people in the books I have read, she kept her challenge mostly a secret, she didn’t even tell her brother despite the fact he was the reason she decided to do it (he was going to get married and she wanted to save the money up for his wedding gift).

She lives in Bristol, so the book feels like a ‘local’ book to me, even though Bristol is in a different country to the one I live in.

The book is interesting as it takes her a little while to get her groove, at first she puts on weight because she is consuming any free food that comes her way as she is afraid her food might be scarce, she manages to go on holiday for free, she manages to get a free bike after hers is stolen. A bit like Judith Levine she makes the small consumer choices she makes based on sticking to her political beliefs and ethics. In fact if recycling and preventing waste are what you are into then this book is better than Levine’s as it does more to show you how to do that.

I think even with my limited spending power there is more I could do to keep my costs as low as possible and a re-read of this book will help a lot.

#3 Save Karyn – Karyn Bosnak

You may have heard of this one. Or like me you may not have until you started getting into debt and reducing your spending.

In the early noughties Karyn Bosnak moved to New York to ‘find herself’ and had a great job as a TV producer, but still managed to rack up £20k of debt trying to live the life she thought she should.

You can guess what happened next, she lost her job, and although she got another one it paid less than half and her debts were not going anywhere.

One day she realised if 20000 strangers gave her a dollar her debt would be cleared in no time. So she set up a website asking people to give her money to put towards her debt.

I don’t know how you all feel about this. Many, many people thought she was scum for doing what she did, many set up copy cat websites, or abusive ones and as she was doing it anonymously there were people trying to track her down and someone even published her address online.

I think it would be good to read the book before you make an opinion. She made mistakes, sure, but she is completely honest about what you would get in return for helping her (it was nothing, unless you liked her blog posts, you couldn’t even claim your donations on your taxes). She was working at the time, she had set up a debt management plan, she was selling all the items she had foolishly purchased before and she was living on such a tiny amount of money that she would go pretty much eat one packet of noodles a day.

I was interested in this book. I would not make the decision she did to ask strangers for money, even if I had thought of the idea first. Because, and I mean this as no disrespect to her, but I am kinda of the opinion ‘I got myself into this mess, I’ll get myself out of it’. For me getting out of debt is my own personal journey, but I loved her book, I could recognise all the terrible ways I wasted my money like she did, just because my tastes are more Primark then Prada doesn’t mean I am/was any better.

But, I feel it follows very closely to Amanda Palmer’s book ‘The Art of Asking’. If you need help, just ask.

#2 In The Red – Alexis Hall

This was the first book I read on the idea of ‘going a year without buying anything’, in late 2015, having borrowed it from my local library. I have had it out on loan for an extremely long time, as I can’t bear to part with it, I just keep renewing my hold on it. No one has any interest in reading it.

I’ll be honest, when I first read it I was a bit put out, as when I first read it I didn’t find Alexis Hall that likeable. She had racked up over £31k in debt through credit cards and loans to pay off the credit cards and then running up the credit cards again and again. Like me I think it is fair to say she was a t*** with money.

I then came back to the book last year, when my first thoughts about doing a no spend year where creeping into my mind. This is the book that inspired me to do it. Because after the second read I realised Alexis Hall had her problems and her choices may have been made as a result of bad times in her past. And at the end of the day she realised she had a problem, she did something major to solve it, and she learnt from it so don’t judge her.

She is a little obsessed with designer labels and the whole ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ way of thinking, which is why I didn’t instantly warm to her because I’m a cheap skate who is an ‘own brand snob’ in that if something is available as an own brand then I will buy it as that.

But I understand how stressed she becomes by not being able to shop, I understand how the small tokens of generosity from her family keep her going (her mum gives her money for her haircuts, her partner buys her token gifts).

Although I am a little jealous that she manages to pay off about a grand a month from her debt, if I had that sort of wage I would no longer be in this problem. But I guess it’s the whole thing of people match their expenditure to their income.

#1 The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More – Michelle McGagh

When I first told people I was doing a No Spend Year, they normally said ‘Oh isn’t there a book of that?’

And I was confused as to how popular Alexis Hall’s book actually was, but then it turns out in late 2016 Michelle McGagh completed her No Spend Year, and in very early 2017 her book came out (so basically when I first had the idea and when I started my year).

So there goes my book deal 🙂

So it was a mixture of curiosity and jealousy that made me want to read her book, but after reading some reviews on Amazon which said things along the lines of ‘You can get the same financial advice on the Money Saving Expert website’ I decided that I would borrow it from my local library like a good money saver.

I can tell you it is my favourite book I have read this year.

Michelle McGagh goes hardcore no spending. No bus travel (she cycles everywhere, and I mean everywhere), no gifts (she tells people she won’t be giving or receiving during that year), only a weekly budget for two people of £30 on food and no visiting her elderly Granddad in Ireland.

And yes, she ‘technically’ spends on banned items, but in both cases I think you would agree she had no choice, and the combined total is less than £55.

The book appealed to me as it alternates between one chapter about an aspect of her no spend year, and one chapter with financial advice. So it made me happy as I got a human story, and I also learnt a little bit more about finance.

I really loved this book, and I think anyone could learn something from it.

She had no debt to speak of, other than her mortgage, and in the duration of the No Spend Year she paid off nearly 10% of her mortgage extra, which is her motivation throughout the book.

I know that as soon as I can I will own a copy of this book as I want to always have a copy to refer to. I loved it.

So here you go, the books that are guiding me and that inspired me. Let me know if you have read any others like these.

The ‘Non Essential Spends Only’ Birthday Money

For my birthday at the end of March the boy gave me £40 spending money with the instructions that it was for ‘Non Essential Purchases’ only.

Initially I was doing quite well, getting books for 37p (after vouchers), clothes for 38p (after vouchers) and hair bands because I needed hairbands, but I have decided to be strict with myself.

Because if I am honest, some non essential purchases have slipped in before and after my birthday that I hadn’t declared on the birthday money. Things which I could ‘sort of’ justify, but really at the end of the day I couldn’t in all fairness declare a No Spend Year if I allowed them.

For instance I recently bought some drinking glasses. I know I had allowed myself a small ‘Homeware’ budget as I don’t think the boy would be too impressed if, say, our tin opener broke and I refused to buy one before January 1st 2018, but I definitely was prohibiting mugs as a purchase this year (I have a mug addiction).

Drinking glasses which were definitely more style than substance are not an essential purchases.

So I clawed my way through my monthly expenses spreadsheets, looking for any purchases that made me feel guilty. Luckily because I have bought so little outside of social costs I knew where to find these expenses.

So my total birthday money spending goes like this:

Hairbands £1

Jeans and Shirt £0.38 (after voucher cost)

2 x Books on Amazon £0.37 (after voucher cost)

E Book on Amazon £1.08 

Coffee in January when I arrived early meeting the boy at his art class £3.10

Tea on my own in a cafe at Bristol Station a couple of weeks ago when I was seeing my brothers and mum £1.90

Baguette on my own at Bristol station that same weekend £3.49 (It’s gone up by 50p since last year, I blame Brexit)

Coffee in town on my own just because I had to hang around for the train station to open £2.60

Lunch at work one day when I had messed up my timings and had to buy something £3.44

2 x Mason jars to make my grown up vodka jelly look pretty and a glass tumblr to make my Friday Gin and Tonic pretty £1.50

4 x books, Vegetable scrubbing brush and a gift for my niece £1.36 (after voucher cost)

And finally today on my train journey travelling to my family home I bought a coffee £2.50. AND the train drink man tried to give me an old five pound note when they stopped being legal tender LAST WEEK. I wasn’t having any of it. I did have to say about five times ‘Could you swap it for one of the new five pound notes’ and naturally I found this really difficult, and I know that I could have taken the old five pound note to the bank to swap it but I couldn’t be bothered.

So total spends that I have deducted from the birthday money were £22.72 so I have £17.28 left.

The money had been sitting in its original envelope at home so earlier this week I took £20 of it, paid it into the bank and paid it off my credit card bill. I have a spreadsheet keeping track of the running total. OF COURSE I HAVE A SPREADSHEET FOR IT, I HAVE A SPREADSHEET FOR EVERYTHING!

So in full honesty and disclosure of naughtiness that is it this year in terms of spending that didn’t fit my predetermined ‘allowed’ categories and were very much ‘unessential’ purchases. So just over £20 has been frittered away this year so far, not bad. I used to do that in a 30 minute lunch break in 2015.

I have made £6 this week by doing surveys. I don’t use many survey sites, but there is one I like because you fill out lots of preliminary questions which means when you get sent a survey you won’t be screened out of it half way through as you have been pre-selected. This does mean you do less surveys than other sites might offer but it pays higher as well. I have enough points to exchange for a £5 Amazon voucher but I going to hold off till I reach £15 in points.

I have paid off £500 from my overdraft this year so far, which means it is half what it was in January, and thanks to that £20 payment earlier this week one of my 0% balance transfer cards is now under £1400, and my overall credit card/overdraft debt is under £5000 for the first time in, well, at least a year. I think I had been doing quite well initially in 2016 before the summer of the great unemployment.

I am about to enter a new chapter of my life. One where I am going to have to dig deep to pay back the boy, clear my overdraft, make my credit card payments AND save for Christmas (I have to save for Christmas as far in advance as I can).

I have been doing some prep by re-reading Michelle McGagh’s ‘The No Spend Year: How I Spent Less and Lived More’ on the train, which in true money saving style I borrowed from the Library.

I’ll be honest, I borrowed this book from the Library because it had some quite bad reviews on Amazon, but I really like it and I will own my own copy one day. I definitely would recommend it.

Last Friday I started a little mini challenge where I was aiming to spend less than £10 on household shopping for a week. It ended yesterday and I was 64p in credit! Huzzah.

My only plan this long weekend is to relax and maybe binge repeat watch Shop Well For Less and Save Money Good Food. My sister has told me she is getting rid of some cook books and if I wanted them and I was like ‘The f*** yes!’ So I hope to be coming back with some inspirational cook books.

Sayonara

690 Days

There are 690 days left before I turn 30.

I want my debt cleared by then.

Currently my Credit Card and Overdraft debt stands at £4920.83

I owe the boy £1011.75

Total = £5932.58

Divide that amount by 690 and it comes to about £8.60 a day.

If I could pay that everyday then my debt would be cleared by the time I am 30 which is my target date.

Trouble is that amount a day seems impossible.

I’m going to have to dig deep and use every money saving skill I have to clear the debt by that time.

I hope I can do it.

Just Like The Characters in Arrested Development, I Have Made a Huge Mistake

As a result of being hormonal, I am feeling pretty all over the place emotionally this week and the main feeling is S T R E S S.

I am feeling quite consumed by stress. The sad thing is I have anti anxiety pills which I can take up to three times a day, and recently that hasn’t been enough.

I don’t know why but I can’t shake the feeling that I have made a huge mistake. That I have flipped a coin and called heads when it should have been tails. That I am somehow on a path to devastation and my choices are irreversible. And not even doing my best Gob Bluth impression is improving things.

This is, of course, bull s***.

Most people would suck it up. If you have a debt to repay you should do everything in your power to pay it back. Suck it up. Make the sacrifices.

The truth is I haven’t made a terrible mistake recently. I have made a whole series of terrible mistakes in the past. All the times I spent my wages in the first day before I paid my bills. I have no excuses, I can’t really justify any of my terrible ways with money, I know this is sort of my catch phrase but I WAS A T***

I have told the boy I never want to borrow money off him again. This is it. When I have a bill to pay in the future I will solve it off my own back. I can’t keep being bailed out. I am 28. I only have 1 year left in my 20’s. I am officially old enough to know better. Most of my friends are married/getting married, own their own homes, are doing masters, own their own business, drive or at the very least have a pet, whereas all I have to show for my 28 years on earth is I have completed Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Zelda: Majora’s Mask on the N64. TWICE!

For younger millenial’s who wonder what the hell a N64 is it is Pure Happiness!

I have an interview for a weekend admin job this week. And I have discovered I can smash my stress by doing 40 minutes on the hardest setting of the exercise bike.

I may have to put my life on hold for a few months to clear the debt. But if I get to see Queen at the end of it then that will be worth it. If I can pay back the boy so I don’t feel like a parasite then that will be great too.

 

 

 

I have written a cheque I can’t cash

So do you remember how on Sunday I was talking about the Queen and Adam Lambert tour?

And how it would be more than a dream come true to go?

Well……..

The boy and I have tickets.

And in the spirit of generosity I kindly/stupidly said that if the boy temporarily paid for the tickets and hotel, I would pay back every cent for both of us as well as the train tickets, so that he wouldn’t be out of pocket seeing a band he sort of despises for being the opposite of punk.

I was so caught up in the moment and the utter ‘WE MUST BUY NOW BEFORE THEY AND ALL THE HOTELS IN THE UK SELL OUT’ that I didn’t shop around and just bought bought bought.

I also said that the other condition would be I couldn’t pay him back at the expense of not paying off my debts, so this has put me even more in a pickle.

The fact was I was going to become strict and pay off my overdraft quickly with as much money as possible, so that I could then throw all the money I was spending on clearing the overdraft towards saving for Christmas. So that I could have my second debt free Christmas in a row.

Plus I have come to like my social life.

So, lets look at this way. There is a triangle and each corner is labelled with either ‘Queen’, ‘Christmas’ or ‘Social Life’ . These are my three biggest cost centres between now and the end of the year.

Cover one corner. I can have two at the expense of one.

I can have 2 out of 3. And that’s bad.

Queen has to happen as everything has been bought. Also I think I would be forever disappointed with the rest of my life if I didn’t see them. Although I felt the same about the stage show ‘We Will Rock You’ and I couldn’t have been more disappointed.

Christmas has to happen as I get ridiculously excited about Christmas and I can’t stop myself buying presents for people or sending cards.

So…..that means I will have to curb my enthusiasm for my social life until the debt is cleared.

I will also be selling as much of my excess crap as I can in order to clear the debt.

I shall go to the ball.

Life After Debt

There is a forum I go on quite a lot and they were instrumental in helping me first getting cracking with my debt.

I was lurking around a different area of the forum and I found that someone who used to run a thread had started a new one. They closed the old one, which was their Debt Free Diary, when they became debt free in January this year.

Their new thread was about how after they became debt free they had suddenly started experiencing huge anxiety over money, about saving, and feeling immense guilt whenever they spent any money even though they had actual money to spend.

This has got me thinking because I wonder what will happen after I become free from my credit card and overdraft debt.

The truth is I won’t become debt free even when that is clear, as I will still have a student loan, and I still owe my boyfriend money. All it means is I will be free from the highest accruing interest debts.

But I know that I want to live on the same reduced disposable income, as I want to put what I am spending on debt clearance each month towards my savings. Because I want to learn to drive. I want a car. I want to travel. And I want a home of my own. Which means the debt tackling journey will begin all over again.

A mistake people make (I certainly made this mistake) is they say ‘Oh if only I had a pay rise, then everything would be ok!’

The trouble is people match their spending to their income. So if you get a 20% pay increase you will soon increase your spending by 20%.

So I want to make sure when I have paid off my credit card debt and overdraft that I put all that money towards my savings.

Another popular money management term is ‘Pay Yourself First’

Sounds fun doesn’t it? I like the sound of paying myself money.

But what it means is you transfer the money from your paycheck to your savings before you even get a chance to register it being there in your account.

Some companies will do this for you, they’ll split your wage between two accounts. I know that my employer does this.

So getting out of debt is one hurdle. What you do afterwards is the real challenge.

You know there is that statistic of x% of people who lose weight put it all back on PLUS MORE within a year?

I’m not sure if anyone has ever done a similar stat for debt but I don’t want to be in that group.

The sad thing is I have a long way to go before I worry about this.