Finances are tricky, no one understands taxes and where was the guidance to be able to financial support ourselves in adult life when we were in an enforced educational environment such as school, eh? (Gosh darn that would just be far too sensible and convenient)
Figuring out finances is bloody difficult and I definitely don’t have all the answers, but here are the things I’m doing to keep myself afloat at the moment when I’m an unemployed, full time student and coronavirus has turned the graduate job market to dust quicker than Thanos could find all the Infinity Stones.
*disclaimer: I’m very fortunate to be living with my partner who works full time and currently has been furloughed and still has income to pay rent, so I’ll be looking at saving money in other aspects of life but I appreciate I’m very lucky to still be financially stable in a pandemic*
- write down everything
It can be a bit embarrassing at first to see how much money you spend at Tescos written down on paper (or how many Amazon orders you’ve made in the last six months…) but being able to see it all on paper and have a solid figure of what you’re actually spending is a good way to figure out where you can save money.
If you commute, is there a way to get a season ticket that would be more expensive initially but save money in the long run? Is your car insurance up for renewal and you could look for a better deal on comparison sites? Do you spend too much money on coffee and really need to reevaluate your relationship with caffeine and/or bring a cup from home? Little things like that can make all the difference.
Outside of lockdown, sometimes I found giving myself a cash limit was helpful as when it was gone it was gone. I definitely think much more about clothing items I want and whether they will bring my short term gratification or if I think it’s something I will actually wear.
Being aware of what you spend, how it adds up and comparing it month to month is a good place to start.
- no spend month!
Maybe it doesn’t need to be a month but just a week or cutting out a particular purchase like clothes or coffee. I saw online about someone doing a no spend year and her friend gave her vouchers for her birthday so she could go shopping without spending her own money which I thought was lovely.
I’m doing a no spend month this month and I’m finding in lockdown it’s much easier because the little things you pick up on the go that build up – food, drinks, parking tickets, bus tickets etc – have already wound down. It’s the online shopping that will get you.
One thing I’m doing to combat this is just putting things in my Amazon basket and then not going any further – I’ve had the satisfaction of thinking of something I want and browsing and putting it in my basket and then I know that at the beginning of next month I will review whether I actually need it (and then come to the conclusion I have no money and not buy it anyway).
- don’t save if you can’t afford it
The word save can be confusing – what I mean is try not to put pressure on yourself to put money into savings accounts if it just means you’re going to take it out again to do a weekly food shop. In 2019 I followed a weekly saving plan where I saved an extra pound a week (so £1 in week 1, £2 in week 2 etc). This worked up until about week 40 and then I just couldn’t afford it with moving house, ending up living in a hotel and… y’know, surviving and stuff.
Although I then ended up spending all my savings on being able to move across country for my degree and my boyfriend’s new job, I saved over £1000 that year and I learnt a lot about making sure I had money to put aside, planning ahead for driving lessons and a car etc.
Financial income ebbs and flows, especially if you’re in between studying and starting a career and a time for saving will come. If you feel like you want to put £5 a week in your savings account, go ahead; if you can afford £100 a month do it; if you’re watching the 20p of interest add up every month, that’s still progress.
I’m getting married in two years, I want to buy a house and have a baby and all of that takes a lot of money and saving, but right now I’ve got to keep myself afloat – it’s all steps and whilst planning for the future is important, there’s no point doing it to detriment yourself now or you’re never going to get there.
- repurpose stuff you already have and it’ll feel like brand new
I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘upcycling’ but that might be because my mum hates it. The principle however – I’m a big fan. Since spending so much time at home I’ve cut the legs off my dungarees to make a cute playsuit for all the nice weather we’ve had (she types as the grey clouds loom outside her window…), I’ve cut up on old duvet cover we didn’t use and I’m going to teach myself how to make face masks, I’ve rediscovered old activity books that feel like ‘new toys’ (one’s called ‘1 page at a time: a daily creative companion’ and the other one is full of creative writing activities and exercises!).
Between revamping your wardrobe, shuffling around your belongings to rediscover old things or even learning new skills (drawing, cooking, photography, gardening, yoga and so on) – there’s so many things you can do at home that you can learn for free with materials you already have.
Lockdown is so different for everyone – some have had their entire lives turned upside down, some are working harder and longer hours than they’ve ever worked before and I’m privileged enough to stay at home, crack on with my masters degree and try all the new creative hobbies.
It’s taken me a few months to settle in to looking after my money and figuring out how I’m going to make it last over the long term. My ‘no spend’ month has been really eye opening that all these things I wanted that I thought I needed are so not necessary at all.
But also I’ve racked up a £200 Amazon basket waiting for my to click ‘buy’ so… depends on your definition of successful. I haven’t clicked ‘buy’ though so I guess that’s a win!
Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!