Wednesday 29 April 2020

How I'm Managing My Money in 2020

Ok, so again I haven't posted much this year. It's not for lack of trying, or lack of ideas. Sometimes it's down to not having photo content yet (I find having at least one image per post is preferable, rather than having just a block of text), or sometimes I get a bit afraid of publishing my own words and my own opinions online for everyone to see, and judge.

You might be a bit bored of me going on and on about being in debt, and always trying to get out and failing. Well, I have some good news for you all. I am finally DEBT FREE. Yep, you heard me. In one of my last posts about my plans for this year, I mentioned that I had really made a difference to my bank account. For the past year I really dug my head in the sand and worked hard to earn the money I needed to pay bills, and made a few plans to pay off my overdraft and pay back my mum (who had kindly bought my car back in November 2018). I always had enough money for my bills, but I must admit I did sometimes struggle to complete my 'get out of debt' schemes. The reason for this (and I talk about my mindset with money when I talk about my addiction in a post late last year) is that I've had to completely retrain my brain when it comes to money. Ever since I earned my first pay packet in 2012 I had been going off the rails, financially. I had my own money to spend on whatever I wanted. This became a bit of a challenge though when I was having to borrow money from friends, my parents and eventually caving in and getting an interest free student overdraft; of which I just saw as more free money. Bad Saffron.

Last year I had decided that I was going to say "no" to more socials, or find the cheapest way to do that because getting out of debt and not having this anxiety everyday about my finances was my dream. A life I hadn't really lived since before I got my first job. On 17th January this year, I woke up to a notification from my bank that a bunch of money was deposited. I was confused. Who would just give me that much money? Turns out, I had forgotten it was payday. It was my pay check. When I clicked on my banking app and saw how many figures where in the pluses, YES PLUSES. I cried. It's hard to say what emotion this was exactly, because I was crying but it was about something good. Something I had achieved on my own. However, I was sad because I'd never felt this way before. In all the other times I had temporarily gotten out of debt, I didn't stick to it and fell right back to rock bottom. Rock bottom being at the end of my £2,000 overdraft, with my £2,300 Macbook to pay off (may have been a stupid idea at the time) and my £2,300 something debt to my mum.

Although I was out of my overdraft, I still had a significant amount to pay back to my mum. I had another plan for this, you see. I had this all worked out in advance since before Christmas. I was a woman with a plan. I earned enough to pay for my bills, and whatever was left over the next two months I paid to my mum to get that debt over and done with. I wanted a debt free 2020, and I was getting it. Only two big lump sums and it was all over. Flash forward to 9th April and I received my first lot of wages where I didn't have to pay off my overdraft, my Macbook or my mum. My money is mine. Even though it's been three or so months of technically being out of my overdraft, it still hasn't sunk in. I was able to put away some spare money after leaving enough for this months bills into my savings account and I can't believe that I'm someone right now, who has a good head start with a savings account. It's something that's been on numerous new years resolutions and goals lists, and has never happened until now. I just want to shout from the rooftops, because this is a big moment for me.

My other half; Connor, I think still doesn't completely believe me when I say I've changed and I'm going to work hard to stay out of debt. I don't blame him. I was lying to myself all of the other times I got out of debt. I guess that's part of being an addict? In the end you don't even know if you're lying to yourself, and believing your own lies. I kept my finances to myself for quite a few years, and would lie about how bad it was. I wanted to fix it myself, but being the spending addict I was it was so much worse bottling it up. The moment that I spoke more to Connor and my parents about my situation, I didn't feel as though I was living two lives anymore, and having to hide my payslips or banking information. A weight was lifted. All of them had at some point offered to help in one way or another, but it got to a point where I really didn't want to borrow any more money. Enough was enough. I'm an adult, I put myself in this mess and I need to learn to get myself out of it. It's been a huge learning curve, and I really hope that this is a new start.

I have started to track and manage my money using this awesome spreadsheet that Rhianna set up (she's got some banging posts all about getting out of debt, saving, and budgeting which I've found super helpful), she goes through each section on the spreadsheet to help you set up. I had already been pulling my hair out when trying to get out of debt, so it's been handy to customise this spreadsheet for my needs. I must admit I haven't been tracking my money that much, I've done a few months using it and it's so good if you stick to writing down your spends and what they were for. I started a section where I've written down all of the occasions this year where I will need to spend money, be it birthdays, hen do's and Christmas. I now have a set budget for how much I need to put aside to financially prepare for all of these events. I have never done this before. I've lived month by month for so long, I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before. I also created a tab where I've put down all of the monthly outgoings so I know for sure how much goes straight out of my account, so I can see what's left to play with each month.

My next plan, is to open a Lifetime ISA to help save up for a house. I think it will really help putting my money into a dedicated account that I can't just transfer in and out of. Plus, if I reach the maximum £4,000 a year (which according to my plan I could hit that target by the end of this year) the government give you an extra £1000 into that account. There's more information in this article by Money Saving Expert, which I've found really helpful. I'm really serious about Connor and I moving out and getting our own place. I've moved around and lived in other people's houses for so long, I just really want a place of our own. Our own four walls with a sturdy roof. I really don't see the benefit of moving out to just rent, (unless I had to move away for work) because it just costs so much and I really don't earn enough to be able to pay rent and save up for a deposit.

In summary; all of my money is now my own, I use a bad ass spreadsheet to monitor my incomings and outgoings with forecasts for each month and the year, and essentially putting as much leftover wages into a savings account. This is how I'm managing my money in 2020. No more unnecessary shops and hauls, and smart spending not blind spending.

Let me know if you have had enough of my little rants about money, I hope it's not too bad now that I'm out on the other side! Also pop me a message if you would like to see any posts in the future updating you all on my progress.

Thank you for reading, this has felt like the longest journey.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

I am a Key Worker

This year has been absolutely crazy. I started off the year by paying off my overdraft (finally), and celebrating ten years together with my boyfriend. Just before we went away to New York, China had been broadcasting that a potentially lethal virus originated in Wuhan. We didn't know very much about this virus at the time, and there were no cases in either the UK or America, and airline companies only had warnings for people who had recently travelled to Asia or Wuhan directly. I was taking this seriously in January, and I'm taking it seriously now. I equipped myself with hand sanitiser everywhere I went, especially in public places.

I did not imagine that life would come to this. For over a month we've been in lockdown. I've lived through Bird Flu and Swine Flu, my mum even reckons that I may have caught a mild strand of swine flu. Back then, we were all still working and going to school, so the fact that on Monday 23rd March, a national lockdown was put in place was scary. I saw this coming, but seeing it at the same time as everyone else in the country; I had goosebumps.

Prior to this, when everyone was gossiping and spreading rumours because they know someone who knows someone, and "the military are getting involved" I knew that I was still going to have to work in a global pandemic. The past year has been tough for me, I've been working in the hospitality and retail sectors to pay my bills whilst I still try and work my way into my dream career. I never would've imagined that whilst people are self isolating and social distancing, that I was still stacking shelves in a supermarket where numerous members of the public come in each day. Of course I knew that during a lockdown a supermarket was going to be open in one way or another, people need food to eat. It was just really odd to be called a "key worker" and have a letter giving permission to leave the house in case I'm stopped by police.

I feel lucky (in a sense), that I am still able to go to work and earn my regular income. All of my previous jobs, retail or otherwise have ceased to let people work. I would've been out of work and essentially screwed if I was still in my last job, a zero hour seasonal role. I'm not someone who has existing conditions so I'm still healthy enough to work, let's ignore the fact that my immune system is shocking at the best of times. I've got a lot of friends around me who have begun to work from home, have been furloughed, and I know a lot of people who are completely out of work and who will be hoping to get that government grant in June. It's a strange time, to see that when the chips fall down which people still need to go to work to keep society moving.

I don't feel like a key worker. Yes, I turn up to work knowing the risks. I use my sleeves or feet to open doors, and sanitise and wash my hands regularly and before eating. We have social distancing measures in place, and have altered the times that customers enter the store. I work night shifts between 9pm - 7am, so I don't really see customers anymore which takes out part of the risk. However, it is a HUGE place to work. You have no idea who's touched something before you, if they are being as cautious as you.

Yet, I constantly know how much worse other people have it. Walking into a building where you know patients or people have Covid-19 symptoms, or confirmed cases. I have had friends and even strangers outside of my work thanking me, for what? I appreciate the sentiment but I'm just doing my job, which I'm grateful for. I imagine there are some people that work in the care sector and hospitals that feel the same, they signed up to a job they wanted to do - albeit take out the pandemic we're having and most of them probably enjoy it to some extent, or just want to do good and look after people.

I have had to watch as customers panic bought "essential" items, and changed their buying behaviours just because everyone else was buying those products. The sign says they can have five; so they will take five. It has been jarring to have been on the "front line" to that extent. Our company joining together with other supermarkets to Feed the Nation. Quite often I would feel anger towards customers for being selfish and acting like a herd of sheep. I had recently been making donations to my local food bank, and the minute the panic buying started I feared for what stock would be left for those less fortunate. When I had finished my ten hour night shift I'd make a list of the items I wanted to get for the food bank, and I even went home on a Sunday morning and came back at 9.30am to be able to get some toilet roll and hand wash. I could feel people look at me when I had five of each item, but I didn't care. I was doing this for others. I didn't care about myself, I wanted to help the community, and I wanted others to see that and do the same. I would walk around the store and each day the panic buying got worse, it would move around the aisles. As if customers couldn't get one thing, they would panic buy whatever else was available. It's taken a while for the store to keep up with the demand of customers buying multiples of EVERYTHING. People just didn't understand that they couldn't buy in lots of one product as they were trying to replenish everything, and customers would buy it all within seconds as soon as the store opened. Every time I saw more empty shelves, my heart sank for the vulnerable, the elderly and the less fortunate.

Luckily, the supply levels are doing much better now. I guess people realised they spent too much money, didn't have any more space in their house and that there was no reason to panic buy in the first place. Things aren't perfect, but an improvement. There's more online shopping available, and you would have seen the priority shopping times for NHS/Care Workers and elderly customers on the news. It's still an odd sight to see these customers start queuing at 7am when they can't enter the store until 7.30am/8am. Even though my local food bank had to shut due to lack of staff available to work, and they couldn't keep everyone safe. Acts of Kindness have been able to take donations from multiple drop off sites, and you can arrange collections. Through this, I have joined a few Facebook groups for my community for food banks and the homeless. If there's anything I can do to help, I will do it.

Through this crazy and horrible experience, I have learned what truly matters. I generally try to be a kind and thoughtful person, but I have made more of an effort. I reached out to friends, family and nearby neighbours. If they needed something I would get it for them, I had the opportunity to get things as soon as they came into the store (I just want to make it clear, I'm not taking advantage of my position, I would only buy the bare minimum so there'd be plenty left for other customers). As I had everything I needed, I wanted to make sure others could have what they needed. I check in on those closest to me, as some are self isolating I want to check how they are doing. It's a hard time for a lot of us, and I wanted to let people know if they need to talk to someone; I'm always here. It's important to talk to one another and message your friends and family, but considering it can be hard holed up and away from friends and family, we need to give people space to process and reply when they feel like it.

We lived in such a fast paced, instant and prejudiced society. Now that we've all had to slow down, we can really assess our behaviours. Everyone moves at a different pace, if you want to do home DIY projects then do it. If you want to binge watch TV and films, then do it. Do what makes you happy, and what makes you feel better mentally. We don't know how much longer lockdown has to go on for, but also how long certain restrictions and social distancing will go on for. I know people are getting impatient and frustrated, but for most people all you have to do is sit at home and protect others lives. We're all missing our old lives and our families, I don't know when I'll be able to see my mum and step mum and hug them again, as they both work in the NHS. Even though I still leave the house to work around four nights a week, I'm starting to go a bit Lockdown Loco.

I thought that this was an important topic to post on my blog, as I have been very private about my work life for the past year. I use this blog to talk about and document parts of my life, and well it would be a missed opportunity to not write about these crazy times. I also wanted to be honest with my readers about what I'm going through, but also to think about what other's are having to go through.

Please be patient, be kind and most importantly stay home.
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