Autumn Bucket List

 

 

As much as I love Summer, there is something magical and cosy about Autumn, and I just adore the change in season! Especially because Summer in England this year has been SO HOT, it’s refreshing to have some cooler weather. Crunchy Autumn Leaves, misty breath, crisp early mornings, there are so many things about Autumn that I love. No wonder it’s my favourite season!

 

When Sue from suefoster.info asked me to come up with an Autumn Bucket List, the only struggle was keeping it short enough!

So here are 5 things that I am doing this Autumn

 

  1. Hygge

I’ve spent a lot of time watching YouTube Videos and reading blog posts about Hygge. Essentially, this is the Danish word for ‘Cosiness and Comfort’. What better time to do this, than Autumn! For me, Hygge activities are things like reading a book while snuggled up on the sofa with the dogs, hot chocolate in hand. Or practicing meditation by candlelight, while its raining outside. Just the thought of doing these things makes me feel all snug and cosy.

  1. Save more money

I always feel it’s easier to save money in Autumn! I love warming stews, curries, 1 pot dinners, basically anything easy. Luckily enough, these are all relatively cheap to make.  Meal Planning is also easier because meals like stews can be made in huge vats, and then spread over 2 or 3 days if you like. There is nothing like mopping up the last bits of stew with a large chunk of crusty bread.

  1. Blog/Vlog more

I have a LOT of blog post ideas and am determined to break my habit of not posting because I worry my content isn’t good enough or provides enough of what people want to read. The same with my YouTube Channel (LINK). So, I want to redesign my blog and write more about things that I’m interested in. I want to make videos and blog about my dogs, my home, and of course, money!

  1. Get out more with the dogs

Living in Cornwall, I have a lot of beautiful places to go walking with the dogs. At this time of the year, many of the beaches open to dogs again, after being restricted during the holiday season. There are lovely National Trust houses that we can walk around the grounds (some allow dogs, some don’t. Always check first). And of course, we also have the South West Coast Path. I am aiming to take the dogs to at least 2 of these places in Autumn. Normally we walk around town, or walk at the local lake, but I really want to get us all exploring new areas.

  1. Be more social

With the shorter days approaching, its so easy to hibernate during the colder, darker months! I am guilty of doing this a lot and it can really affect my mood. This year I’m making a conscious effort to get out and meet friends more. Not only that, but to meet new people and join more social groups. I’ve recently joined a new Church, so I am going to be seeing what social groups they offer, plus our local council run a lot of walking groups (and who knows, I might even take my dogs and kill 2 birds with 1 stone!).

 

So those are just a few of the things on my Autumn bucket list. I’d love to hear yours, so let me know either here on the blog, or over on Instagram

You can also look at more Autumn Bucket Lists by checking out Sue’s Post Here

 

 

 

Debt and Mental Health (UK)

 

 

 

I really want to preface this blog post by saying that everybody experiences mental health issues differently. People with exactly the same diagnoses can have polar opposite experiences.

Also, if you are struggling with Mental Health issues, please reach out for help. I have linked some mental health resources and helplines at the end of the post.

 

 

We all know that managing our money can be difficult, even when we are healthy and our lives are calm and running smoothly. So it makes sense that it gets even more difficult when we experience mental health problems, and approximately 1 in 4 of us do.

 

Issues like depression can make us blow the budget as we aim to try and make ourselves feel better, and problems such as bipolar disorder can find us spending like a millionaire when we are in a manic phase.

 

It is no coincidence that poor mental health is very strongly correlated with high levels of debt (Approx 50% of people with debt, also have mental health difficulties).But the opposite can also be true, that high levels of debt (or ANY level of debt) can cause mental health issues.

 

66M people live in the U.K.  That means that 16M of us currently have some sort of mental health issue. And out of that 16M, 8M are in debt.

 

BUT I FEEL ITS CRUCIAL TO NOTE THAT DEBT IS ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS SOLVABLE. The solution may not be a quick or easy one, but it is still possible. There are plenty of charities and organisations that can help you if you are struggling with debt and you have a mental health issue.

 

Sources of help (This list was taken from The Royal College of Psychiatrists);

 

National

The MoneySavingExpert website also has a wonderful FREE booklet to download which explains the topic in more detail. You can read and download it here https://images6.moneysavingexpert.com/images/documents/mentalhealthguide_new_march_2018.pdf?_ga=2.42162853.1413502628.1535804009-1252977763.1534859923

And there is a wonderful blog post on Debt and Mental Health that is well worth a read,over on My Debt Diary

 

Until next time,Claire.

Sinking Funds- How to save for large expenses

When sticking to a budget (If you need help writing a budget, you can find that here ) my biggest priority after paying for my fixed expenses, is to contribute to my Sinking Funds (SFs). This is because SFs stop me from acquiring more debt.

In this blog post, I’m going to talk all abut SFs, what they are and how I use them.

What are Sinking Funds?

Essentially, all of the things that you expect will happen at some point, are covered with small amounts of money that you put away into an account every month.

I like to think of Sinking Funds as lifeboats on a sinking ship. All is going well, you are sailing along quite happily on your debt free journey, your budget is running smoothly, you are paying off your debts using your Debt Snowball (or Avalanche), when BAM! All of a sudden, you hit an Iceberg. That Iceberg may be a broken down car, or School Uniform costs, or whatever the case may be.

What Sinking Funds do is take away that panic of hitting the iceberg. So you aren’t left panicking about how you are going to cover that expense. In reality we know these things WILL happen at some point. Its unheard of for you to buy a car and NEVER spend a single penny on it and then sell it 10 years later. All cars need money spent on them, whether its expected or unexpected. The same goes for lots different categories.

Some examples are:

Christmas- It’s on the 25th December every year, plan for it!

Birthdays-Similar to Christmas, birthdays are

School Uniform Costs

Car Maintenance/M.O.T

Pet Expenses

Home Repairs

Clothing.

 

How to start Sinking Funds

The general rule of thumb is to work out what Sinking Funds you need, then work out how much you’ll need for each fund, divide by 12 and save that amount every month.

So, if you’ll need £250 a year for car repairs, you’ll divide that by 12 (approx.£20.80) and save that amount every month throughout the year.

Where that may not work is when you’ve only just started SFs and you have a shorter time to save for expenses. For example, it’s September and you haven’t any SF for Christmas, or is August and you haven’t any SF for School Uniform costs.

In that scenario, I would work out the BARE MINIMUM you can get away with spending for that item, and save for that first. It may mean having to scale back significantly on Christmas for example. In 2017, I only spent £250 on Christmas in total. I never thought that was possible, but I managed it. And I’m sure you could manage on an equally low budget, if push came to shove.

 

At What stage to I set up Sinking Funds?

If you are following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps (as I do) then you will start SFs once you are in Baby Step 2 (paying off your debt).

This is not something that you ever stop doing either, it will continue to serve you for the rest of your life.

Where do you keep your Sinking Funds?

 

It’s really up to you. I keep mine in a separate bank account, and transfer the money to them every month. I don’t have them in a high interest account, I just have them in a cash ISA that I can withdraw from quickly when I need to.

I know of some people who keep their Sinking Funds in cash in their house. If you are going to do this, I highly recommend checking with your house/contents insurance to see how much would be covered by them in the event of an emergency (fire, robbery etc).

 

I hope that helps!

Claire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Write a Budget

 

 

Before we get into the nitty gritty of HOW to write a budget, first of all I think it’s important to explain why we might NEED to write a budget.

If we are aiming to pay off debt, or even if we are debt free but seem to have little to no money left at the end of the month, we are going to want to know exactly where our money is going. In the words of Dave Ramsey, ‘We need to TELL OUR MONEY WHERE TO GO, instead of wondering where it went’.

If you’ve ever attempted to write a budget and on paper it says you should have £300 a month left over, but you never actually do, you need a budget. In fact, whether you’re in debt or not, I believe that everyone needs a budget! Having a budget enables us to pay off debt faster and more consistently, build savings and invest more.

With that being said, lets look at the steps we need to take when writing our first budget.

Before you start:

-Make sure you have an hour or so when you won’t be interrupted. Don’t do it when you are in a rush or stressed. Not only will it become a hassle to even start writing a budget, but you’ll also miss out things because you are not focused.

-Get all of your paperwork together. Namely, your last 3 months bank statements. This is so you can look back on your expenses and Income to have a baseline from which to start, and also see what dates your Direct Debits and other payments come out.

It may also be handy to have your payslips for the past 3 months, although you may be able to get that info from your bank statements if you are paid via BACS.

-Make sure you include income and expenses for not just yourself, but also your husband, wife, children, pets and anyone else that you are responsible for.

 

First steps:

-To work out how things stand before writing your first budget, I recommend this online Budget Calculator from the Citizens Advice Bureau  https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/budgeting/budgeting/work-out-your-budget/budgeting-tool/  as it will prompt you for what to include and you can print and save the results.

This will give you a basis from which you can write your first proper budget.

Once you have filled in the Budget Calculator above, you’ll get 1 of 2 outcomes; your income is LESS that your outgoings, or your income is MORE than your outgoings.

 

What if I have more outgoings than Income?

The good thing about writing a budget is that you can see where all of your money is going, and more importantly, where your money is being wasted. So, if your outgoings are more than your income, you either need to increase your income or decrease your expenses.  For many people, the easiest category to cut down on is the food budget. Meal planning definitely helps with this, and you can see how I meal plan here http://themoneyfreak.co.uk/2018/04/01/how-i-meal-plan/

 

Now you can write your new budget.

Work out if you are going to write a weekly, 2 weekly, 4 weekly or monthly budget. This is individual to every person and will probably depend on how often you get paid. I get paid 4- weekly as well as monthly, so I do a fortnightly budget.

Be realistic! If you have been spending £800 a month for food, reduce it slowly. Don’t decide that the new food budget will be £300 a month. You’ll end up throwing in the towel and blowing the budget. Maybe decrease it by £50 for the first month and again by £50 the next month.

Don’t over complicate it. Just a piece of paper with Income on 1 side and Expenses on the other is perfectly fine. I’ve been budgeting for almost 2 and a half years and still use this method!

It is 100% normal not to get your budget right the first, second or even third time round! If you forget something the first month, just add it in to the second months budget so you don’t forget it again. Don’t give yourself a hard time about it, you are learning!

Budgets are fluid and they regularly change. The budget that you write this month may not work for you 6 months from now, or even 3 months from now. As your job, situation and family changes, so will your budget. I’ve had to change mine as children have left education, when we’ve added a new pet to the household and our diets have changed. There may be many other reasons why your budget will change from month to month.

For those of you who have an irregular income, Emma over at My Debt Diary has a great blog post on how to write a budget here

Once you’ve written your budget, how on Earth do you stick to it? To see what helps me, read my post http://themoneyfreak.co.uk/2018/04/20/how-to-stop-spending-when-paying-off-your-debt/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Debt and Motivation

 

If you’re a member of my Facebook Group, you’ll already know that recently I have been finding my Financial Journey really difficult and am seriously lacking motivation.

I find that nobody ever talks about how being Debt Free is NOT the end of a financial journey but is the start of one. STAYING Debt Free is (in my experience) just as difficult as BECOMING Debt Free.

Unless I am the only person on the planet struggling with this (and I’m pretty sure I’m not!) then I hope this post will be helpful to someone else.

A few months ago, I decided to try and use a credit card sensibly, by buying all of my food using the card, and paying it all off in full. Well, fast forward a month and I now have £1k on the card and not enough money to pay it back in full. Plus, I had Direct Debits to pay and not enough money in the bank to cover them.

So, having learned my lesson, I am now trying to get back on track. These are the 4 things I am doing to help me:

  1. Cut up that Credit Card!

This was the first thing I did once I got my act together. I would love to be one of those people who can use a credit card responsibly, and maybe I will be one day, but at the moment I am not. So, to stop myself getting further back into debt, I cut it up.

  1. Get back to Budgeting.

While I was spending frivolously, I abandoned my budgeting altogether. I have gone back to writing out my fortnightly budget as I feel like this always helps me to see where my money is going, and how much I can spend/save/pay off debt.

  1. Meal Planning!

I normally ALWAYS meal plan, as you can see here: How I meal Plan. 

But with buying so much food and takeaways, I just totally fell off the wagon with meal planning. I KNOW this saves me money, as I have done it consistently for months while paying off my original debt, so I know I can do it again. It saves me time and effort as well as money.

  1. Sharing my mistakes.

It’s really important to me that I don’t keep this kind of thing a secret. For me, not admitting to it means that it’s not really happening, and I can keep getting away with it. I told the members of my Facebook Group that I was struggling and asked for support. I was worried about being a disappointment to them, as they were so supportive during my Debt Free Journey the first time round. But they were amazing, and I needn’t have worried.

 

Hopefully some of these strategies can help you if you find yourself in a similar situation. I know what I need to do, and I am doing it to the best of my ability. I am aiming to be Debt Free (again!) by the end of September.