realistic budgeting tips

2021, lifestyle

Hello!

It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve realised I’m not as good with money as I thought I was – whenever my mental health is bad, the subconscious desire to self-sabotage and try to make myself happy with whatever I feel I can get away with buying is really not helpful to that stage of life where everything needs saving for; a house deposit, big holidays, the wedding that’s less than a year away…

But rather than set hard and fast rules that I’ll struggle to stick with, I’ve made tiny lifestyle changes that make my bank account a little less busy and my savings accounts more consistent.

The biggest thing to note is that finances are personal – I know I’m bad with money and I find it really hard to resist temptation, so I adapt based on that. Basically – take everything with a pinch of salt; I’m not an expert and by no means have I got it perfect (yet!).


1 – Have a way of tracking your finances

Not necessarily for the sake of analysing what you’re spending and where you could save (though this is probably useful!) but just so at least once a week (or however frequently you update your track) you have to face and write down everything you spent. Did popping into Superdrug end up with a £30 spend? Did you buy a couple too many coffees this week? Did you hide behind online shopping again?

All these things add up and if you’re forced to confront it, it can be all the motivation you need to knuckle down and make the effort to not spend so you don’t have to take money out of your savings account to pay for your phone bill (obviously not speaking from experience…).

Then when you have a low spend week, it’s really satisfying!

2 – Don’t take your purse to work

This one can be a bit trickier, as there’ve been a couple of occasions where I’m running low on fuel with no way to pay for it, but not having the option to nip to the cafe down the road or go to Tescos at lunch makes it so much easier not to give in to those waves of hunger that might just be boredom. This is inadvertently good if you’re on a diet or trying to cut out snacks as well because you can only eat what you’ve brought with you.

3 – Don’t have your bank details saved on your computer or phone

This was kind of an accident on my part – I got a new computer and my details weren’t saved anymore and I got a new phone and haven’t set up Google Pay (though the new phone and laptop were coincidental and we’re going to gloss over them in a budgeting blog post…). Not having these details readily available makes me think twice about what I’m considering buying – especially if I’ve got to the point in the check out where it’s asking for my card details. I am a couch potato and if I have to stand up to get my card details to buy something, that’s really going to make me reevaluate my potential purchase and almost always, I will realise it’s absolutely not something I need so I won’t buy it.

4 – set budgets for things

With Christmas coming up, it’s easy to get carried away and think ‘that’s only a pound, it’ll be a nice stocking filler!’ but all those £1-£5 purchases quickly add up!

Set yourself budgets – make a pretty Excel spreadsheet if it helps – decide on an overall budget and break it down by person if you have to. When picking birthday presents, pick a figure and rather than shopping spontaneously, plan so you stay within budget. A good way to do this if you’re not shopping online or don’t have time to plan anything, is to draw the amount of cash that is your budget and have a no-card-spend day then you can’t go over budget! I did this when I was at uni with my weekly campus food budget – whether it was a hot chocolate, a lunch sandwich or a croque monsieur (praise be to Solent University for having cheap food on campus!) I had £20 and when it was gone it was gone.


Maybe they’re very obvious things, but those are what I’m using at the moment! Sometimes all it takes is seeing it written down as a reminder that there are ways to cut down on your spending. It doesn’t necessarily help with actively saving money, but sometimes it’s just making sure the bills get paid.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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budgeting at Christmas

2021, christmas

Hello!

With Halloween out the way (though I’m yet to take the decorations off the door), Christmas is everywhere – I’ve heard songs in adverts, heard the phrase ‘Christmas shopping’ far too much and already started thinking about presents.

But with a wedding to save for, a hefty student loan and just general not having a ton of expendable income, I’m really needing to cut back on how much I spend this Christmas so I’ve been brainstorming a few ways to still give meaningful gifts without spending as much (if anything).

My main thing is I already have a lot of craft materials because I’m a sucker for Hobbycraft – I’ve got loads of wools, scrap materials for sewing, paper in lots of patterns and (in theory) creativity in abundance, so assuming I can get my act together and actually get some crafting done, it should be a nice way to still make personal gifts without spending loads.

So I thought I’d collate a few of the ideas that I’m (trying) to stick with this year to make sure Christmas doesn’t break the bank!

Presents

A few tactics here:

  • Evaluate who you really need to prioritise getting gifts for – for me and my partner, it’s our families, with friends I’m hoping to suggest some Secret Santa’s so it saves some money for everyone and anyone else might get some very-homemade-looking cupcakes!
  • Weigh in on the ‘It’s the thought that counts’ principle – no one really cares how much you spend, especially when it’s something that’s got a personal touch or a handmade feel. Last year (or the year before?) I bought a set of blank playing cards and wrote a ’52 Reasons I Love You’ set for my partner (yes, I know how soppy it sounds) and then for my sibling’s birthday I made a pack of 52 IOUs and vouchers, such as redeeming spontaneous video calls, take outs, taxi services etc (though be wary that this can add up quite significantly!)
  • Simple, low cost presents like photo frames or notebooks can be worth so much more when you add your own personalisations – a photo collage with your favourite pictures, a heartfelt letter, maybe even a scrapbook or something can be a wonderful memory and a beautiful gift.
  • Homemade hampers are a win – pre-Covid Christmas, I made a bunch of ‘Home Cinema Kit’ with blankets, hot chocolate sachets and popcorn (and a nice basket which is very handy for cute looking storage) and it felt like such a treat. Nothing in there was particularly expensive – the baskets were a couple of pounds from a supermarket, the blankets were Primark, the food items were probably less than £5 total but the time, effort and thought that goes into making a little kit like this is what elevates the gift (I hope).
  • The Gift of Time – at the end of the day, the people you love value nothing more than spending time with you. Promising to spend a weekend with your friend, or booking a workshop to do together, or bringing over a baking or craft kit and spending the time doing it together is worth so much more than the gift itself. I find this is also really useful if you’re buying gifts for kids and you don’t want to buy more toys or anything that will be more stressful to mum and dad – have a baking afternoon, bring over a colour-in table cloth or spend the afternoon in the park; you get to spend time with them doing something fun and bonus – it gives their parents a little rest too!
  • If you’re a craft whizz who can knit a jumper in a week and have creativity oozing out of your ears, you’re all set (I’m working on this).

Some of my hopes for this year’s Christmas presents are to utilise my sewing machine and my Cricut, but whether I’ll actually figure out what to make and when to make it is another question entirely.

Christmas Clothing

The festive season is here, there’s cosy jumpers on offer everywhere and a soft new set of Christmas pyjamas are so tempting… but you’ve got at least three jumpers sat at home, last year’s Christmas pyjamas were worn for two nights from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day and you even have a pair of festive dinosaur slipper socks in the drawer (just me on that one?).

Whilst the excitement of new things – particularly new festive things that may or may not jingle – is incredibly tempting, there’s absolutely no reason to buy a new Christmas jumper every year.

This is more of a ‘note to self’ than a tip, if I’m honest.

Christmas Decorations

Same as above – I see so many influencers who will go out and buy all new decorations for their ginormous Christmas Trees every single year to go with their new ‘theme’, but it just seems like such a waste of all the other decorations that are sat in boxes in the garage from last Christmas – but the woodland theme doesn’t match the Nutcracker theme.

I have decorations from the year I was born and all through my life so far. I like to pick one new decoration each year on my annual trip to the garden centre Christmas display, but whatever pressure Instagram puts on you to get brand new decorations every year, I’m here to say you absolutely don’t.


After the last (nearly) two years of lockdowns, social distancing and isolation from so many of our loved ones, being able to give your time is worth so much more than gifts, fancy food or new outfits.

And at the end of the day, anyone who cares more about the worth of their present than the value of your presence, probably deserves neither.

(that sounded a bit deep, didn’t it?)

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

January in my bullet journal

2020, organisation, student

Hello!

I’ve been blogging fairly consistently about my bullet journal for around three years now – I started in January 2017 and I’m now on my fourth journal and it’s something I love to constantly experiment with to maximise productivity and clear my head.

So I thought I’d show you what my bullet journal looked like in January – I’ve decided to stick with a colour theme per month so it’s very blue. My layouts at the moment are really working for me but there’s some bits I’ve already changed in February, so let me know if you’d like to see those!

Starting with my opening page! I knew I wanted to use my letter stamps but I wasn’t sure how, so the left page is one that looks a bit bare but I love how my January Goals look! And I’m pleased to say I’m on track to achieve all of them – I’ve nearly done my word challenge, I registered at the doctors, I’m eating mostly carb free lunches, I’ve made an alternative decision with the new blog I want to launch and I didn’t go too mad on spending this month. And I read THREE books and went on two date nights so pretty good start to the year!

Next is my finances – I was a bit hesitant about posting this page but then I thought actually… it’s not my card details! The only information this really shows is how many times I caved and went to McDonalds this month! I find tracking my spending like this makes me much more thoughtful about the purchases I do make (except those McDonalds…) and the ‘total spent’ really makes me think. By the time my car bills come out I’ll be on about £550 for the month and maybe that sounds like a lot, but compared to some of my finance trackers last year it’s bloody brilliant!

Then we have the content plan – I was clearly optimistic about how many notes I was going to make on the right hand side of the page but overall the layout of these pages has been fairly consistent. Though I am trying something new in February…

And then we’re onto weekly spreads – I’m not going to show you every week because they all have the exact same layout with different tasks to do. I picked Week 2 because it had lots of ticks if I’m being brutally honest!

The thing I find works best for my productivity is having to make as few decisions as possible so I don’t spend time worrying about which tasks are priorities, so having the long weekly to do list broken down into day by day tasks is really good for me. If I’m feeling a bit unmotivated and run down sometimes I’ll even make a schedule where I have an hourly timetable and set myself tasks for each hour and that works really well too! Not only because I know exactly how my day is going to look but also because if there’s a big daunting task that I’m putting off, I know I only have to spend an hour on it and often I finish it in that hour and it’s not as bad as I thought!

And to conclude – my spread for this week. I also have digital to do lists so I can access my daily lists on my phone but they’re based off this spread (but I can add additional tasks as they pop up, for example I just made a dentist appointment for Thursday!).

In terms of ‘monthly organisation’ I like to count the weeks where months overlap as the last week of the month rather than the first week of the following month. I don’t know why but it just makes my mind happy.


Whenever I write about journalling I always end up rambling far more than I anticipate, but I love talking about organisation so let me know if there’s any other posts like this you’d like to see!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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I’m moving! | life update | diary 7

2019, lifestyle, student

Hello!

Time for a little life update / little insight into what I get up to day to day at the moment I think!

August has been manic – in July I was accepted by Oxford Brookes University to study MSc Digital Media production, so I knew I’d be moving back to uni and I spent a lot of time wishing it was August to get the ball rolling.

Then my boyfriend passed his driving test, then I passed my driving test, then we arranged a few property viewings in the Oxford/Reading area and then we attended four viewings and by the evening of the second day we’d put a deposit down on a river-facing ground floor flat that we’ve fallen in love with?

So the August I’d been yearning for has literally flown passed – I can’t believe it’s nearly September, we’re moving in like three weeks and I feel over-prepared and in no way prepared at the same time.

My life at the moment is generally working 9-10 hour days in my mum’s office to save for things like hoovers and bed frames and other necessities for an unfurnished flat (I’m so glad I bought sofa’s on gumtree when I was at uni) and then making lots of lists of things I still need to pack, household bills I need to look into and listing all the places I need to change my address.

Really I’m in my element – it’s something I can take responsibility and ownership for and I get to make lots and lots of lists. I’m excited, but it is a little bit daunting too, especially financially – I’ve lived with my mum for a year and part of me feels like I won’t adjust to adult life again, along with the fact my boyfriend is about to start his new job and I think I’m going to be alone most of the time, it does feel a little scary… but I’m trying to focus on the exciting!

I’m going to make a video all about the steps between paying the deposit and picking up the keys nearer the time but it’s all moving very quickly – there’s no free weekends between now and moving and there’s a lot to fit in, but I think I’m on top of it and I think I’ll have enough money to buy essentials (I hope).

Having a birthday literally three days before we move is probably going to come in handy too!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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how I manage my finances without a budget

2019, lifestyle, organisation, student

Hello!

Figuring out my finances is something I’ve had to watch very closely this month – with buying a car on finance and the end of last month and spending my wages before I got them, this month has been and will be very, very tight but in the months leading up to buying my car and this month of tight budgeting I’m so proud of how well I’ve managed them that I’ve decided to share!

I’m someone who feels inclined to spend money when they’re sad so being able to tackle that and being at a point where I know I can save reliably and buy myself a car without dipping into my savings is a big step for me.

And the biggest thing for me is not having a set budget – I’ve tried apps like Yolt and Cleo and I just found they weren’t flexible enough for real life. Saying ‘I’m only going to spend £X this month’ doesn’t allow for spontaneous plans – paying for trains for a job interview,  having to pay for more bus tickets than expected or even going for a last minute coffee with a friend you haven’t seen for a long time can effect your budget and I just found that it didn’t work for me. So this is more about tracking your finances and making sure you can hit all your goals – whether that’s saving a certain amount, not spending over a certain amount (I guess that’s having a budget) or just making sure you can pay all your bills, these are my tips and tricks for flexible financing.

*obviously I’m not an expert and I’m not claiming to be, just sharing tips from someone who using half her savings to live last year and now has bought herself a car on finance*

1. Have somewhere to track your finances

I only mention my bullet journal in basically every blog post I write but for me I have a spread in my journal for my finances each month. On the left I have notes which I will expand on and on the right page is where I write down everything I’m spending as it comes out of my bank account. I don’t track cash spending because either I will have drawn that cash from my bank which I track or it’s cash that I’ve been given for whatever reason so it doesn’t effect my bank account. I tried tracking as I spent but then it got confusing with keeping receipts and it’s better for the environment if not so now I just track my spending as it comes out of my bank account.

Either way, I recommend writing it all down! Whether it’s a note on your phone, a notebook that you have specifically for finances or in a bullet journal like me, write it down!

Normally it’s neater than this, but having somewhere to really know how much I’m spending it important to me

2. Plan your month

I like to break it down with my income at the top of the left hand page, then a list of all my bills and when I’d expect them to come out (then I can tick them off and it’s very satisfying) and then a list of any costs I know I’m going to incur.

So this month I had to pay for a tattoo (because car and tattoo timing ended up being awful), two driving lessons, my savings challenge and bus fares and having it all written out makes it much easier to track.

My savings challenge, for anyone that’s interested, came from Facebook last year – you save a pound more every week for a whole year (so £1, then £2, then £3 etc) so it was really easy in January but now I’m saving just under £150 a month and by the end of the year it’ll be a lot per month but I’ll have over £1300 saved in a year which I’m so proud of and I haven’t done it yet, but it’s important to me and I want to complete it!

So knowing what my month is going to look like is really helpful – taking my bills and planned payments into account means I know how much money I have to play with and depending on how much I want to save and what it is I want to spend my money on I can figure out my spending from there.

3. Focus on what you need and not what you want

It’s so easy when you get an email about 20% off on ASOS or you fancy some Bourneville Buttons to just go and buy them, but if you really want to make the most of your finances you have to think about what you really want from them.

If a treat every now and then is in your budget then go for it, if you’ve had your eye on a jacket that really fills a gap in your wardrobe then go for it, but if you really need to save and you’re looking at buying a new notebook for the sake of it then you really need to think about if it can wait.

Another thing I find helps with this is having a post it note or section in your journal towards a ‘big spend’ – if there’s something that you want or need to spend slightly more money on. I have a big spend post it note that I transfer to each monthly finance spread with each month and what I would like to be my ‘big spend’ if I can afford it. It’s meant that because I could plan it out, I bought myself a Nintendo Switch in May, a new car in June and I’m hoping to be able to get prescription sunglasses and pay the deposit on a rented property in August. It really is achievable if you set your mind to it!

It’s a difficult skill to master discipline and nobody’s perfect, but trying your best is the best you can do.

So there’s my top advice for helping manage your finances in a more realistic way than most of the apps will let you. I personally find them all too fiddly and they never track my bills right, but maybe I’ve just not put the time into them.

I think I’ll always be a pen and paper gal myself, but I hope this helps in some way!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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August Mini Goals

2018, film, lifestyle, photography

Hello!

How July flew past – between trying to survive the heatwave and adjusting to life as a graduate, it’s been a bit of whirlwind. But let’s jump right in with reviewing my July goals.

[ J U L Y   G O A L S : R E V I E W ]

  1. Content – stick to the plan! I’m actually really proud of myself with this one, I’m feeling much more on top of this goal and I feel like I’m making stuff I’m actually really proud of!
  2. Portfolio – my portfolio on my blog is all done and ready for updating as and when I have something new to post (you can have a nosy here), my showreel was a much slower start but I knuckled down, made a list of everything I wanted to include, sourced all the footage and started cutting it down – so it’s not quite finished but it’s nearly there!
  3. Workout – I decided against making too much of an effort with this one because it was just too hot to workout and it wasn’t worth the hassle. But I have been making an effort to try and do lots of walking and just yesterday I started using my mum’s treadmill and I’m going to start working up from there – I did a whole rant on my Instagram stories which I saved to highlights (and I will write a full blog post on it soon!) if you want a sneak peak.
  4. Work experience – I was struggling a bit with this one because having finished my degree and in the midst of applying for career starting jobs, applying for work experience all felt a little backwards – I was unsure about what I wanted from each company I was looking into but I’ve done a bunch more research and sent a few emails off the other day.
  5. Applying for jobs – I actually, no joke, lost count of how many jobs I’ve applied for in the last couple of weeks. I lost my mojo a little bit at the end of June but by mid-July I’d pulled up my metaphorical socks and told myself I am worthy of a cool job in an industry I love, I just need to keep going to get there and that’s what I’ve done. Hopefully I’ll hear back from something soon but in the mean time, I will keep applying.

That was long, but let’s jump right into August!

[ A U G U S T   G O A L S : L O O K I N G   A H E A D ]

I wanted to shake things up a little this month – I felt like my goals had been basically the same for months I needed to adjust my focus a little bit.

  1. Write 15,000 words – in July I had a go at Camp NaNoWriMo and though I didn’t hit my target word goal, I did find the same kind of enjoyment out of writing that I used to when I was a teenager and I want to maintain that this month.
  2. Finish my passion project – I’ve had a video project for my YouTube channel on the backburner for a little while now and I’m determined to finish it this month. It’s a little out there but it’s something I really want to make and I can’t wait to share it!
  3. Focus on my Insta content / take more photos! I’ve been really enjoying Instagram at the moment and working on balancing a theme and pretty content with real life photos that match up to what I’m actually doing day in day out and I want to work on that even more. I want to take more photos and make my instagram the best it can be!
  4. Start budget tracking – I’ve not done any kind of budget tracking since I got my penultimate loan instalment in January but now I have no upcoming loans and I don’t have a lot of money, so I need to keep track of what I’m spending and where I’m spending it to make sure I have enough money to keep me going.
  5. Watch more films! I don’t necessarily mean go to the cinema more but there’s a lot of classic films that I haven’t seen, some because I know I won’t like them but a lot because I just never got round to seeing them! My mum has a pretty spectacular DVD collection (that I just databased and alphabetised) so I think we’re going to start working our way through that.

A little bit rambly this month, but I graduated in July so there’s been a fair bit of self-evaluation. I’m feeling productive and creative at the moment so hopefully that follows through!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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