It’s Done..

I’m at the end of one long road and at the start of another!

As of the 20th March 2015, 00:01, I am debt free.

The last £265 went whizzing over to my mother and I got a text saying ‘thank you for the money, that’s it now then isn’t it?’ No fireworks, just a simple acknowledgement and a sigh of relief.

I’ve learned so much from being in debt. I’ve yo-yo’d in and out of debt for all of my adult life, mostly being rescued by my darling mother when everything went wrong. But in a way that was worse, it never taught me the lesson.

I can say to a certain extent that I don’t wholly regret getting in to debt.

I know that sounds crazy to say but a large portion of it was spent making sure my dear Roger got the care he needed, and I don’t regret that.

What I do regret though…

Car finance over five years. Oh. My. God. That was like a huge millstone around my neck and I’m so glad to finally be rid of it. I’m now looking into selling my car and buying something more sensible, because Fiat 500 and two big dogs? Not gonna happen.

Frittering. Using my credit card for impulse purchases. At FAST FOOD PLACES of all things. Seriously, I used my credit card at McDonalds more than once. I have remedied this by completely and utterly forgetting my PIN number so I can’t fritter with money that’s not even mine.

I’ve decided to embark on a Fiscal Fast for the next seven days, so let’s see how I get on with that!

Thank you for sticking with me dear readers :)

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Thinking about goals

I was reading a blog post by Notes from the Frugal Trenches the other day and she had such a simple yet brilliant idea for goal setting – first, then. I really like this idea…a fairly quick, short term goal, followed by a more medium term goal. At the moment, my weight loss goal is looking like – first, get into the hundreds (lose 4lb). Then, drop my BMI out of the obese category for my height (lose 7lb). Which sounds far more achievable than ‘lose 42lb’ which is the long term goal.

When I first started this blog I sort of had this idea in the back of my head that I had the blog, I knew what to do, I was accountable to my blog audience, this will now go off perfectly without a hitch. I read a great many personal finance blogs and some days, I forget that they’re usually a great deal further into their journey than I am. My need for perfection, immediately, has a lot to do with scuppering my plans. I also have a huge self-destruct switch in my head; when something in my day goes wrong I tend to throw myself under the bus, so to speak. My weight and spending are two of those things that get squashed on a bad day.

What I need to remember is that even if work feels awful; if I have an argument with Mr AF or my family; if the dog head-butts me (surprisingly painful) or any of the other myriad of things that can go wrong in a day… I can still not go out and spend loads of money, digging into my overdraft. Or eat loads, and put weight on. I can still end on a no spend day, a triumph. I can still stick to my eating plan and end the day knowing I will have lost a bit of weight.

So in the spirit of first, then- my finance goal is:

First, make it to payday solvent (including not having to ‘borrow’ money from other savings accounts except in the case of emergency). Then, get to payday with £20 left. (Don’t get me wrong – my debt payment comes out on payday and the rest of my spending comes from whatever is left. It would be nice to have extra left over to start a little emergency fund though!)

P.S- my debt figure is down from around £3300 to £1680. And that is worth celebrating!

Oh yeahhhhh

Guess who paid off her final credit card today?

Me! That’s who!

I honestly feel like a weight has been lifted even though I have a sizeable debt to pay back to my mother.

Today was payday and I’m feeling a lot more in control. The budget is in place and the purse is locked away. Everything is in that budget, even our trip to alton towers in a couple of weeks which could be quite money hungry if I’m not careful. I’m aiming for no spends from my bank account until the 4th October which gets me a good third of the way through the month.

Things are starting to look up a little :)

Last Month’s Totals and Trying not to Go Loopy on Payday

Hello hello hello :) well, I guess this marks the end of the first month (of many) of concentrating on being more frugal. Without further ado, here’s the totals-

Groceries – £191.77/£250. I’m SO pleased with this, especially as it has been a five week month for me. This month I’m going to give the grocery budget another little squeeze as I feel that there’s still room for improvement; recipes could have been more frugal, portion sizes could have been better, my shopping could have been more prepared (I had several forgetful moments leading to another trip to the shops). One thing that I’m very proud of is that my food waste is going down! This is another thing I need to focus on. On Sunday I did a big cook up because I do have issues with my energy levels dropping dramatically without warning due to my illness. So on Sunday, I made two meals for the freezer, one for the fridge and the dinner for that evening. These weren’t complex meals but they were meals requiring more energy than I ever have mid week and will help me to avoid splurging on ready meals. The remaining meals are low energy, quick cooks like fajitas and fish and chips.

Fuel – £39.89/£90. Another big win here! I have focused on driving more efficiently, and have set my car up to beep furiously at me if I go over 50mph. On my usual journey to and from work I have no need to go over this speed, and I’ getting used to driving in a more sensible fashion. Of course, this helps not only fuel economy but it reduces the risk of accidents and speeding fines. Win, win, win, all round. This budget will be getting a tickle as well next month.

Miscellaneous – £149.22/£0. This wasn’t specifically in my budget but I still wanted to track what I was spending. This total…is rubbish, let’s be frank, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it has been previously. This will be given focus in next month’s budget.

Debt – £241.71/£170! Win! Win win win! I wanted to wrap this up on a high and I’m so pleased with this total. This month I have paid off my last interest earning debt (apart from the mortgage) and have started working on the ‘institutional debt’ kindly held by Halifax (the remaining debt is to a family member). This is now under £1000, and my aim this month was to pay off the balance transfer fee, and I’ve done that plus a little bit. It meant a lot to me to get it under £1000, and while I’m not on the home stretch with it yet, I can feel momentum building. Making payments to my debt gives me a huge thrill!

So the budgets I’m focussing on this month are as follows:

Groceries – £200. Judging by this month this should be fairly easily doable, as I will be in a four weeker for grocery shopping. It’s turning in to how low can you go whilst still feeding people!

Petrol – £75. Just a little squeeze on this one, I didn’t want to go too radical as I have a week off in this pay period and I’m looking to drive to spend some time with my mother. Still, should be doable.

Miscellaneous – £199. Still far, far more than I want to spend, but if I come in under this it will be an improvement, and that’s what we’re all about! After seeing what I spent last month in this category I felt making a budget for it was sensible, using that as a benchmark.

Debt – at least £200 paid to debt. Hoping with all the odds and ends left over from various budgets I’ll be able to smash this as so as payday! £170 is the automatic amount my debt gets, so raising this by £30 is just the beginning this month really.

Okay, well, that’s all from me tonight! Oh, and one last thing…

I’m still in the black

Another Payday? Really?

So, last month went a little bit pear shaped when I realised my budgets were so far out of whack it was untrue. Careless and more mindless spending when I felt low defeated the parts I did have in budget and I am indebted to savings pots, but luckily my debt is no higher than it was last month and I haven’t gone into the overdraft that I cleared last month, so there’s one triumph. One down, three to go.

So, the money came in and has now been sent winging on it’s way to savings pots, debts, and other accounts. I have scrutinised my budgets more closely this month and am hoping to be a whole lot more accurate but I have read somewhere (probably on MSE) that it does take time to get budgets right. I’m not giving up, that’s the important thing. Here are the main, trouble causing budgets:

Groceries and household – still sitting at £250 this month, however my meal planning and online shopping was so effective last month that I’m keeping a very close eye on this one via a spreadsheet and I should realistically be able to slash this, perhaps even by half. I’m pathetically excited by this.

Petrol – again, still sitting at £90 for this month but as this is my current budget focus again it has an entry on my spreadsheet. I am at the end of my “normal” driving week to set a benchmark for my mpg figures and will update this weekly. That figure is the cost of me filling my tank twice in a month; under normal circumstances I fill up every three weeks or so.

Dogs – £100 which covers food and Roger’s medication. Hoping to have a little of this left as his jabs are due (handy hint, you get an extra bit of time from the jab due date!) so I’m saving up for that.

Debt minimum – £170 is the minimum I want to pay to my debt this month, which has already been paid plus a bit as I made a rounding payment to get rid of a pesky odd number. I have OCD. Leave me alone.

The rest of my wages covers the bills, amounts into spending pots for annual bills and car related expenses, and a bit of spare money. My budget spreadsheet is currently a marvellous thing, colour coded and everything. I am so tired of being on this roller coaster of increase debt, pay off debt, increase it again plus a bit, pay it off, increase, etc etc. I have such a great role model in my mother for how to manage money, that woman is a force of nature she really is. Time to be more like her and less like what I’ve become!

Payday…it’s been and gone

That most blessed of days, payday, has been and gone. Standing orders have sent my money here, there and everywhere and a money blunder has left my contingency fund, wistfully named ‘spare cash’.

Lesson learned folks, don’t online bank when you’re tired.

Basically I have four debts to service; two are interest free, one a moderate interest rate and one overdraft whose charges are about to rocket. The plan originally was to clear the overdraft, make minimum payments on everything and to move anything left from the debt fund over to the moderate interest rate debt. Good plan, yes?

The blunder came when I was making the payment to the moderate interest rate card; instead of entering the amount I wished to pay, I entered my debit card security code and paid £150 too much, taking me down to a £60 contingency for the month.

Oh crap.

Well, on the bright side, at least the money went to my debt rather than into a black hole where I would never get it back. I’m seeing the silver lining in this and hoping to clear this card this month through my newly acquired frugal habits!

Check back next time for my frugal experiments with the grocery bill!