Preparing for Christmas In October

 

I know it’s only Autumn and Christmas is about 9 weeks away, but I always like to prepare for it ahead of time. While some people look at my early prep and roll their eyes, there are others who think that by starting in October, I’m leaving it too late.

There are several reasons why I plan ahead of time for Christmas, and why I think you should too.

 

  1. First, and most importantly, you need to make sure that you have enough money for Christmas. If you have Sinking Funds (see HERE for more info on Sinking Funds) then you are more than likely safe in the knowledge that you have exactly the right amount of money for your family to celebrate Christmas. If you don’t, then by the time October rolls around, you only have 2 paydays to pay for it.

Making Christmas a Debt-Free time of year is so important, you don’t want to be paying for Christmas 2018 in December 2019! If you don’t have Sinking Funds (and even if you do!) then its not too late to write a Christmas budget, but you’ll need to keep it realistic. Maybe scale back slightly, or only buy for the children in the family, for example.

 

 

  1. It means that you have time to find bargains. You don’t have to run around a week before Christmas, paying full price for everything because you don’t have time to look for bargains, coupons, vouchers or good quality second-hand items. You’ll also have time to make any handmade gifts and change them if a mistake is made. This really does help with the budgeting aspect of Christmas, and making sure that YOU are in control of Christmas, instead of the other way around.

  1. You have time to enjoy the festive season instead of being rushed and stressed. You can relax the week before Christmas Day, because you have bought and wrapped presents, cooked food ahead of time and planned everything that needs to be done. You can enjoy spending time with your friends and family, go to festive activities, spend quality time at home, because you know everything is taken care of.

So, those are all the reasons that I think EVERYONE should prepare for Christmas as early as possible. In 2019 I’ll be preparing as early as January!

When do you prepare for Christmas?

Till next time,

Claire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paying off Debt as a Single Parent.

 

If you are a Single Parent paying off your debt, you are no doubt already aware of some of the negative things about doing this by yourself. But there are also positive things too. As a Single Parent myself and having gone through my debt free journey as a Single Mum , paying off £12k over 2 years, I thought I’d share some of those positive points about being a single parent on a debt free journey. I’ll also share some things I did to help myself combat those negative things.

Positives of being a Single Parent when Paying off Debt

 

You don’t have to worry about anyone else being ‘on board ‘with your plans.

The only person you have to make sure is on plan, is yourself (and that can be hard enough!). This is one of the best parts of being a single parent is that once you decide to do something, you don’t really need to consult someone else. If you have older children, you might want to ask their views and opinions, or at least tell them that things will be changing. When I started getting serious about paying off my £12k debt, my children were 16 and 12. Up until that point, they had been used to getting toys, sweets, PlayStation games etc pretty much whenever they wanted. I explained to them that our money situation was changing and used it to teach them about why debt is bad, and how important it is to spend less that you are making. Luckily for me, my children were fine with this, and old enough to understand.

 

You have total control of the budget.

As a natural Control Freak, I love that there is nobody’s opinion to take into account, except mine. You don’t have someone telling you to put more/less money towards debt, less/more towards sinking funds, or to add new things into the budget. The only arguments you will have about the budget, is with yourself. Of course, this has its downsides too, but we will discuss this later.

 

You don’t have to be concerned about another person’s debt

This is hands down the biggest positive about being a single parent on a debt free journey. You won’t have unexpected or unknown about debt popping up! One of the main issues that I hear from married/co-habiting couples is the fact that they didn’t really know ALL debts that their partner had. As single parent, you don’t have to worry about that!

 

Generally, your expenses will be cheaper.

Things like Gas, Electricity, Water and Food bills should all be cheaper if there is only one parent in the house. Also, you will probably only have 1 car (so 1 monthly petrol amount, 1 insurance, MOT and Tax to worry about), 1 set of hobbies to pay for, 1 category for adult clothing. The list goes on!

 

Negatives of being a Single Parent when Paying off Debt

 

Now on to the not so positive aspects of being a single Parent and paying off debt. This is NOT meant to be a downer, but it is meant as a tool to keep us Single Parents on the ball, and aware of the pitfalls so we can avoid them or find ways around them.

 

You only have 1 income

This is the biggie, and the biggest barrier to Single Parents paying off their debt. We may only have 1 set of expenses and debt, but we also only have 1 income. Of course, this may not be the case if you have more than 1 job or have more than 1 income stream. But for the majority of us Single Parents, we only have 1 income. A great way around this is to add more sources of income. Things like Matched Betting, Freelance Writing, getting a 2nd job,

 

You may not have any real-life support

I found this one really hard. Nobody is as invested in your financial future as you are. Therefore, nobody wants to talk about it 24/7. If you are anything like me, you LIKE to talk about it 24/7 and are slightly obsessed. So, I set out to build that support, even if it wasn’t in ‘real life’ but online.

This is one of the reasons that I set up my own Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/744129762449972/)

Although it is a small group of approximately 780 at the time of writing this (May 2018), I love the support and accountability we give each other.

When I get home from a long day at work, I don’t have a partner to tell how I didn’t spend any money that day, how I stuck to my budget, or how I felt I had failed and needed encouragement. That’s where this Facebook Group comes in. We all support and encourage each other, and sometimes give each other a ‘nudge’ if we are going off plan.

 

I hope this post has shown you that Single Parents can pay off Debt too! It may take us slightly longer, but the end result is just the same.

 

 

How to Stop Spending When Paying Off your Debt.

 

When I was paying off my debt, it seemed that no matter where I looked, other people around me were buying all the things they wanted, whenever they wanted! Sometimes it really tempted me to splurge, or even worse, to get my credit card out and abandon my Debt Free Journey altogether. Especially as I knew this would continue for 2 years while I was working hard to get out of debt. Nobody has an iron will that lasts for 2 years, so it was inevitable that at some point I would crack!
It was pretty early on that I realised that I had to come up with some ways to avoid that temptation altogether, or I would end up spending more than I had and getting into even more debt.
So, I came up with these 10 rules on what to do to avoid temptation while paying off debt.
Know Your ‘Why’
This is probably the most important thing that you can do while you are paying off your debt. Unless you have a really good reason for doing this, you more than likely won’t be able to stick at it for long.
You may already think that you know your why, but maybe ask yourself what it is about your Why that motivates you to work towards being debt free? For example:
I want to get out of debt so that I have more money. Why do you want more money?
So that I can save it instead of using it to pay off debt. Why do you want to save it?
I want to save money so that I can buy a house. Why do you want to buy a house?
To have financial security…And the questioning continues.
What was originally ‘I want to have more money’ is developed further. Only then will you know your true ‘Why’.
Give yourself some fun money so you don’t feel deprived
Nobody can live without any sort of ‘treat’ long term.  Allow yourself some ‘fun money’. This an amount that you put in your budget every month that you get to spend on what the hell you want. I’m not talking £500 to buy a new armchair though! It’s more like £30 a month to buy a new lipstick, or go to the cinema, or £10 a month to spend on a new book every month.
How much you get to spend every month will be determined by how much your income is, how much debt you have and how quickly you want that debt gone.
If you need help working this out, you’ll need to write a budget. See my post ‘how to pay off debt while on a low income’ for information on how to do this.
Unsubscribe from newsletters or emails from your favourite stores
Personally, I could not cope with seeing all of the sales and offers that were on at my favourite shops. It felt like I couldn’t escape from being sold something, even in the comfort of my own home! So, I unsubscribed from every shop that tempted me, which was pretty much all of them.
As well as unsubscribing to these emails, I also deleted all the payment details that I had stored on all of the places I normally shopped online. From supermarkets (Tesco, I’m looking at you) to Amazon. I deleted all of my payment cards. While that doesn’t stop you from actually visiting the site, it makes checking out and paying for anything significantly more time-consuming. If you are anything like me, that will be enough to make you not bother spending.
Don’t visit the shops!
This is a fairly obvious one, but if you don’t want to spend any money, then don’t go to the places where spending is not only easy, but pretty much encouraged. For some of you (and I speak from experience here!) going to the local Mall or High Street has become part of your weekend routine.
 I used to head to my local Mall, go straight to Starbucks, grab a coffee, then walk around the shops. I’d easily spend upwards of £70 and come away with not much to show for it.
These days I find something else to do, preferably something with no cost attached. In the nicer weather I’ll head out into the garden and potter about, or I’ll take my dog on a nice long walk.
Just find a free activity to replace that Saturday morning routine and save the Mall trips for when you actually NEED something.
Hopefully these tips will help you as much as they helped me. It can be so hard to resist the urge to spend, especially when your friends and family are spending money without worrying about it.
But just keep your eyes on the prize, it’s worth it. I promise!

How I meal Plan.

One of the main things I’ve always struggled with, even while working towards getting out of debt, is keeping the food budget in check.
I have 2 teenage boys, and as anyone with teenagers will tell you, they are expensive to feed!

I could (and often did) easily spend £500+ a month on food. But when trying to become debt free I knew I had to tackle this, as it was my biggest expense every month and I hated seeing so much money being spent on it, while food was also being wasted.

So I did what I suspect anyone does in this situation, I had a look on YouTube and watched what everyone else was doing. But to be honest, I didn’t find many meal planners that I could relate to, and definitely none who had dietary issues ( my older son has smell and texture issues with food).

So I needed to come up with a way that worked for me and my family. I developed these really simple steps, and I hope they help you too.

1. Work out how much you want to spend

The first thing I did was work out what was a acceptable monthly food budget for the 3 of us, taking into account how much I wanted to put towards debt, how much my monthly expenses were, and how much food we normally wasted.
I settled on spending £100 per person, per month. So £300 a month. Over time I’ve managed to get this lower, but just concentrate on spending £20 less than you were each month.
This may be more or less than what other people are spending for their families, but as long as it’s less than what YOU have been spending, that’s all you need to think about. There will always be people spending less than you, but comparisons don’t help anyone.

2. Do an inventory.

To avoid food waste, I always try and start by using up what is already in the cupboards, pantry, fridge and freezer before. Not only does this avoid food waste but it saves you money too. I go through the kitchen and write down every bit of food that I have.

3. Write a list of as many meals as you can think of

The next thing I did was to write down on paper as many meals as I could think of that I knew everyone in the family liked. I was aiming for 20, but ended up with 30. When doing this, you want to refer to the Inventory you did, starting with meals you can make from what you have on this list.
This may be something that you need to leave and come back to throughout the day, as I found it quite hard to think of 20 meals just off the top of my head.

4. Look at your schedule for the month/week.

When meal planning, it’s essential to take into account what you are going to be doing for the month/week. On the nights when you are working late, you don’t want to have planned a meal that takes 45 minutes to cook. So what I do is make the quickest meals ( or eat leftovers) on the nights when I don’t get home until late, and make the meals than need  more time and effort of my days off, or on the days when I finish work early.

5. Assign each day a meal

To make this as easy as possible, I make most meals stretch 2 days. So I only have to make 4 meals a week. Any leftovers can be assigned to the days when you don’t get home until late and need to nuke something in the microwave. For example, you could make a Chilli on Monday and have it with rice. Then on Wednesday you could get home from work at 10pm and heat it up in the microwave with a jacket potato and dinner will be ready in less than 10 minutes. Or you can make fish pie on Tuesday and use it to make fishcakes on Thursday. 
 

6. Go shopping

Don’t be afraid to tweak your meal plan slightly if you see good deals. If you planned to make a roast chicken on a Sunday but once you get to the supermarket you find that Turkey is on offer for cheaper, it makes sense to change it. If you planned to have white potatoes but find that sweet potatoes are on offer and work out cheaper, get them instead.
 
 
 
Another way that you could help yourself when it comes to super quick meals, is to batch cook. 
Batch  cooking is where you make extra portions and then freeze. This means you’ll always have home made ‘ready meals’ available for you. Or you can do this with parts of meals, like home made chicken nuggets. I do this quite a lot with mainly mince based meals but need to restock my freezer as I’ve been slacking on this recently! 
 
My favourite meals to batch cook are:
Chilli
Spaghetti Bolognese
Lasagna 
Curry
Stews
Cottage/Shepherds Pie
Hotpot
Pasties
Sausage Rolls
Meatballs
Fishcakes
Nutloaf
Pizza Bases
Cookie dough
 
 
Finally, the main thing thing to remember with batch cooking is to cook, cool, freeze and reheat according to food safety standards. Foods like rice can be tricky when cooling and reheating, so make sure you know the guidelines around items like these.
Nicola, over at mumonabudget also has a wonderful blog post on Meal planning, and I particularly love her use of transparent fridge magnets to organise her meal plan. Read her blog post  to see her tips on meal planning too.
See you next time!
C.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

How to Stay Motivated on your Debt Free Journey.

When people find out that it took 2 years for me to complete my Debt Free Journey, 1 of the most common questions I get asked is ‘How Did You Stay Motivated For 2 Years?’.

The truth is, I wasn’t 100% motivated all of the time. I think motivation is something we have to work on and accept that it wont always be easy.

Find your ‘Why’. 

I would say that for the first 6 months of my Debt Free Journey, I found it quite easy to stay motivated. The novelty hadn’t yet worn off and paying off debt felt great!
I had a very strong list of Why’s

In my experience, keeping your ‘Why’ in mind at all times is really important. It helps to keep you focused and in turn keeps you motivated.

Get Support

Shortly after the 6 month mark, I started to feel deflated. My friends were booking holidays, redecorating their houses and generally doing all the things that I wanted to do but couldn’t afford.
I could have just said ‘Screw it, I’m going on holiday’ but instead, I used this as a lesson in self-discipline and motivation.

It was DIFFICULT! But I carried on. At that time, I joined some Facebook groups dedicated to people paying off debt and following Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps. These groups really became my lifeline in the following months. In the end, I started my own Facebook group. This has been so helpful for me to stay accountable, complain when I’m feeling sorry for myself, get advice and share tips.

Mark your progress

This isn’t something that I personally did regularly, but I’ve heard that it can help spur a lot of people on. Many people I follow on Instagram (you can find me at www.instagram.com/the_money_freak ) use Debt Free charts to track how much debt they’ve paid off, and how much they have left to pay. You could make your own very easily if you prefer that.

 

Make Plans

When it killed me to see the majority of my money going towards paying off my debt, I made plans for what I was going to do with that money once I was debt free.
I researched holidays, made lists of household furniture that I wanted to buy, and those plans got me through some pretty tough times!

Some other ways you can make plans are to write down how things will change in your life when you become debt free.
Maybe you’ll be able to work part time, or be a stay at home mum, or be able to save money in the bank for the first time in your life (this was and still is my plan). Whatever it is, focus on that and let it motivate you.

The truth of the matter is, you wont be motivated every single day. I had weeks and months where I just carried on my journey towards debt freedom because I knew that I’d kick myself if i gave up. I carried on despite hating it. I moaned to my Facebook group…but I just carried on. The frustrating times where I lacked motivation always passed, and so will yours.

I hope this helps someone who is struggling with motivation like i was,
Till next time,
C.