Tuesday 31 December 2019

What I'm Thankful For This Year

I was thinking of doing a 2019 roundup post, or even thinking of a "highs and lows" of the year but in the end I didn't feel like it. I didn't want to pay too much attention to the darker patches of the year, so instead I thought I'd write about what I'm thankful for this past year. I'd rather try and look at the positives and write about what I'm grateful for.

by Connor Cleary
My parents

My family isn't very big so the fact that I'm really close to my Mum, Dad and Step Mum is amazing. Whenever I need advice or I'm struggling I turn to my parent panel for their verdict, and they always give their honest and supportive opinions. This past year hasn't been great for me in a lot of ways, but I'm so thankful to have my parents to guide me and just be there for me even if it's just to listen. I've been trying to be more open to my parents when I am having a bad turn. For example, as I don't live with my parents anymore I've stopped just responding to texts with "yeah I'm ok" or "not bad", I'll tell them I'm not doing well and this might prompt a nice little phone call to get me through until I next see them.


Music can be a big part of a lot of people's lives, but I've found in recent years since I learned to drive that having great music to listen to on drives can be essential. Time can go by quicker and you don't feel so ragey whilst sitting in traffic. I'm thankful for discovering Billie Eilish, Lewis Capaldi and Lizzo's music this year. I have had many loud singing sessions which have gotten me through a total of an hour and a half commute each day with motorway works thrown in. I was so happy to have seen Lewis at Victorious and sing at the top of my lungs with the thousands and thousands of people who flocked to Castle Stage (I had never seen that field SO full with people before). Also my lovely friend Charis recommended a true crime podcast; My Favorite Murder. I hadn't quite gotten into podcasts except when my boyfriend would listen to Harmon Town on long drives, but kept meaning to. I'm able to listen to podcasts at work and have been binge listening to MFM and I love it so much. It's such an engaging subject that keeps me alert whether I'm working or driving and the two women who created it; Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff are incredibly funny and down to earth. I love hearing about how listeners have taken on board their advice to "stay sexy and don't get murdered" which is the catch phrase for the end of each episode.

Let's Talk About Progress

This year has been more about progress than anything else in hindsight. I haven't really had many major career moves, a few films here and there and I've loved those experiences but I still don't have enough for it to be my regular income. On the sidelines I have upped my game with fitness and my weight loss, I didn't really realise until recently how much further I had come since the beginning of the year until I actually looked back (another post to come about this topic). I conquered running this year through the Couch to 5k app and even when I used to run back at school, I have exceeded my progress as I have a much healthier mindset now.

My Friends

Even though I have missed out on a few social functions this year due to all kinds of work, I really appreciate that they are still there when I need them, and the times we do get together. I don't think we really realised when we left school and college and became little adults how much it'd affect how much we'd see each other. I'm lucky that I have two groups of friends and then a handful of singular friends as well, and that most of these friendships have stuck since the beginning of secondary school.

My Boyfriend

I can't talk about this year and not mention Connor, throughout this years struggles he's always there (sort of) patiently listening, but he'll also tell me straight up how it is and his opinions. Although sometimes I hate this, it actually really helps when you want another perspective. Now that we're both trying to become official adults it's nice that we are there supporting each other as a team, being that we've nearly been together for ten years we've grown with each other in that time.

I hope you enjoyed a slightly different end of year post, I just didn't feel quite right doing the usual piece being that this past year has been so different and at times quite difficult.

Comment below the things or people you've been thankful for this year, I'd love to know!

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Why I haven't done christmas this year

You may have guessed what this post is about from the title. You read right, I'm not doing Christmas this year for the first time since I can remember.

I made the hard decision that I wasn't going to buy presents for anyone this year early October, because I just don't physically have the money. If you've read my recent post you'll have read that I've struggled with money since I had my first job at 17. I've tried budgeting for Christmas and failed. No matter how small the budget I simply can't afford to spend money I don't have. I went round and spoke to my family members and apologetically said I can't buy any presents; and I don't want or need any either. As well as trying to get myself out of debt I don't want my friends and family to do the same, and I genuinely don't need anything except to spend Christmas with the people I love and eat hella lot of food.

As also mentioned in my last post I am grabbing every penny I can earn as humanely possible so I'll be missing out on a lot of festive activities to stay on track to get out of my overdraft by the end of January. I've been having to get used to saying "no" and turning down invitations which has triggered my FOMO big time. Luckily I'm not the only one of my friends in a similar situation which makes me feel less alone and ashamed. It's nice to have that sense of camaraderie when you're in a bad place.

Since having my revelation about my spending habits it's proved really difficult to not spend money in a variety of situations. Whether it's buying some lunch or dinner and getting carried away with sides and extras, or receiving emails and notifications of deals/discounts and only having a "quick" look and before you know it I've created a £170 basket of stuff I just don't need. If I walk anywhere near a shop it's like I can hear it calling me. I have to physically not even look at shops, or if I'm out with friends or family I'll say to them "don't let me buy anything, I don't need it" and generally it's worked. They'll help me talk myself out of a purchase which is so helpful because I can actually talk about it out loud, whereas on my own it's a bit harder to do that.

It sounds easy, to just not spend money but actually the world revolves around it. The constant incessant adverts drawing you in and telling you what you have to buy, scrolling through social media and seeing what your peers can afford and comparing yourself to them. I think that's been part of the turning point, seeing what others have and what I don't. I want to be able to share the good news of getting my own place with my other half and going on nice holidays to have quality time together (instead of over working just to get by).

I can't say that getting through this festive season not buying anything has been easy, it's been nice for my bank balance but so hard not to get anything for anyone. I have this permanent guilt that I can't give back to all of my friends and family, and especially since everyone has said they are getting me things, despite me clearly saying I really don't want anything. I appreciate that they want to get me presents, but I really don't need anything. I'm happy with nothing, especially struggling with squeezing into my boyfriends bedroom with all of the things I've already bought over the years. I really hate feeling claustrophobic by the things I own, I keep trying to have clear outs to feel less like I'm drowning in belongings - and I'm sure Connor would appreciate me being more minimalist as well!

By not getting involved in Christmas shopping it really has made me think about the season in a less commercial way, and I'm purely excited to just spend the day with my family and Connor's. I'm going to try and start saving for next Christmas so that it's less taxing on my bank account. I hope that wherever you are at in life that you don't feel like you have to get in debt to show your friends and family that you love them.

Merry Christmas x

My Addiction

Before I get right into this, I just want to say I'm not an addict in the traditional drug or alcohol using sense. I mean I probably have potential that it could go that way, but thank goodness it never has.

photo by Connor Cleary
I believe I have an addictive personality or can be a very addictive person, I can get easily hooked on the slightest thing. I've been trying to trace back what it is that makes me want to fill this void. I didn't have much growing up, my parents worked really hard to keep a roof over my head but we didn't have a lot of luxuries (I mean compared to their childhood I had a lot more, but not on the same level as some of my peers, y'know living in big houses, parents had nice cars, holidays galore and of course just your usual luxury toys...or even having the trendiest item when it wasn't their birthday or Christmas).

If there were things I wanted they were birthday and Christmas presents, and I really appreciated them when the time came. I would only get new clothes when I grew out of them - I occasionally had "ankle swingers" at school, where you'd grown and the hem of my trousers sat above my ankles. I'm in no way knocking my parents, as previously mentioned I'm so grateful for what my parents did for me. They fought for the best childhood they could give me. This is an account of what I remember, and again a comparison of what I felt my peers had.

I think in light of not having much "stuff" when I was younger, it turned me into somewhat of a hoarder. We would go to army and navy shows and I would go to all of the stalls collecting pointless freebies just so I had things. I wasn't very good at throwing things away and often kept a very messy room (I'm still to this day trying to learn to be a tidier person). I had some pocket money each week, about £2 a week which allowed me to get my favourite magazine of which I'd usually read by the time we had done the weekly shopping. I never saved that money or had any goals to save up for things (boy do I wish I had saved it) I think I was so happy to choose what I could buy and I just wanted to spend it. I liked the feeling of spending money.

When I got my first job delivering leaflets for a supermarket, it felt so good to be able to fund my travels to see my friends and boyfriend who lived a bus and train journey away. I had begun to save up any pennies left over from public transport.

Then at 17 I got my first proper part-time job. I worked a lot of overtime to learn the protocols and how the place runs. I started saving half of my wages into a separate account - all was going swimmingly well. That is until I started to go shopping. I realised I could buy my own clothes and I always loved fashion and began making regular trips to New Look (other retailers are available). After all what's a little purchase here and there? Well, it's how my £700 savings disappeared with not much to show for where it went.

This way of life continued when I went to university, I'll also have to admit that the summer before this I was having to borrow money secretly from a close friend to get by and couldn't pay the deposit for my student house so my parents helped there. I have a lot of pride and it's very hard for me to admit when I'm struggling, because you feel like a failure when you can't look after your own money. Throughout uni I would borrow money from my parents but I'd always pay it back - this was always important to me. I needed to fulfil the illusion of being an independent young adult. Even with maintenance loans and grants it was just more money to play with. More money for going out with friends, for Primark hauls, holidays and fancy new gadgets. It really didn't take much for me to spend £50 - £100 in one sitting...multiple times.

I really took the term "retail therapy" too literally. I know that when I was younger I had underlying mental health issues that hadn't been addressed or treated and these started to get worse when I started University, sometimes living in an unstable and sometimes volatile house. In my second year I believe my spending truly peaked. I had gotten a student overdraft "just in case"...well just in case turned into everyday. Going on Amazon and ordering lots of books I'd never read, attempting to get into make up and therefor buying lots of different bits to try, becoming obsessed with Bloggers and Youtubers and buying things they recommended or buying their merchandise and products they released. I wish I had an intervention, although I know I can get extremely defensive when loved ones try and interfere sometimes, so maybe it might not have worked anyway. Maybe this was something I had to find out on my own.

I hate to admit that in the worst of my anxiety and depression before it was diagnosed and somewhat treated, I turned to playing mobile games. It started with just regular games, then it turned to story type games where you could do better and improve by doing in app purchases. I used these games as a form of escapism, and probably didn't even think that much about what I was spending on something that holds no value in real life (I mean, pick up a book if you want escapism).

I would say that 2015 and 2016 were probably the worst two years of my life. I was trying to keep up various pretences and juggling work, university work, housemates, social life, family life, both of my grandmothers passing away,  and a long term relationship...oh and not forgetting the spiralling Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Depression, with both of those in the mix I was a permanent ticking time bomb. That is a reason why I would shop for "retail therapy" on a daily basis.

In total I believe I've gotten out of debt about three times since having my overdraft, once I even put myself on a spending ban but somehow always slid back in whether it was something like car trouble that I couldn't help, or not being able to resist my shopping habits. One significant event was when my bedroom caught fire and I lost the majority of my belongings. I was trying to fix things and buy replacements for the things I'd lost. I was moving back to my mum's anyway for my third year and it felt so empty. I've never liked the feeling of emptiness and I think this made some of my shopping sky rocket, plus I really needed that dopamine hit.

I started to write this post at the beginning of the year, as I had sort of an epiphany about my behaviour - remember how earlier I was sort of in denial and wanted an intervention but wasn't sure how that would go down? Coming to terms with my spending all by myself was like the clouds clearing to reveal a clear blue sky. I couldn't believe it, it feels like you're in a trance that you can't snap out of. I was aware that I was going to be made redundant in April and I wasn't sure what I was going to do work wise so I needed to start thinking sensibly and store away money to pay for my bills and rent. I have found that I've always had enough money for my bills, so at the core I know what's important.

Of course this past year I've faltered on occasion, but I quickly came to and realised my actions. I'm not getting any younger and I need to change my spending to cater for the priorities in my life, like saving for a house, going on holidays with my boyfriend; Connor (we've not been able to go on a proper holiday together in the nearly ten years we've been together), I've got friends weddings and hen do's coming up next year and I don't want to miss out on important events like that or feel guilty spending money to go to those events.

I started a new job in October which I could have more hours than my previous job, meaning more money to sort out my financial situation. The main message that I've been trying to get into my pea sized brain is to get my head down and work hard to sort my life out. If my plan works I'll be out of debt by the end of January next year, and hopefully out of debt to my mum by the end of March for buying my car last year. I just want to wipe clean my debts and start over, so if I need work done to my car I can pay for it, and by the end of 2020 I want to have a decent sized starter pot for a house. I know it'll take a few years for this pot to grow into a substantial amount but patience is a virtue. When Connor and I get our own place it'll all be worth it and I will cherish every single room.

In essence I've realised all of the different branches of what an addiction can be. I first started to cotton on to my issues when I read a leaflet I picked up during my complimentary visit to Grosvenor Casino about gambling addictions; I never thought I'd be on the same level as someone gambling money but I really related to the points in that leaflet and it was scary. I'm trying to conquer the "oh just in case", "that's a bargain" and "why not treat yourself". I'm sorry, but I can't treat myself every single day when I've done nothing to receive a reward. I loved this post by Beth Sandland about the "treat yourself" mentality way back and definitely recommend giving it a read.

I am so close to developing the tools I need to actually grow up and be sensible with my money, and finally be out of debt for good I hope! I've even been contemplating seeking out a therapist to see every once in a while to help keep my mental health in check.

This post has been in progress for a long time and I'm so happy to finally have it out in the world, I think a lot of us can relate and probably should learn how to be more careful with money. I'm not saying to can't spend a penny at all, but we shouldn't buy things purely to be the key of our happiness.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you for reading,

Saffron x
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