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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trying something new… | bullet journalling

2019, organisation

Hello!

It’s been a little while since I did a bullet journal update or post of any kind hasn’t it? If you’re new to my bullet journal content I’ve got lots of blog posts and YouTube videos and for a very quick catch up – I’ve been bullet journalling as my main form of diary, organisation and to do lists for over 2 years and it’s not the artsy creative kind of thing you see on Instagram, but I consider it quite minimalistic and functional.

So with that in mind, what’s so exciting and new that I wrote a semi-clickbaity title about it? Well it’s a slight change to my weekly spread that will either make me infinitely more productive or sap every last tiny bit of productivity I’ve ever had. So let’s chat about it!

But first, let’s look back on how my weekly spreads have evolved…

my first attempt at bullet journalling! I had an overall to do list for the week on one side and then would make a to do list at the beginning of each day which took another three pages

the first time I tried having my whole weekly spread on one double page spread, something that has stuck ever since

the six ‘squares’ for days of the week stuck around on the right page but this was the point I started to categorise my overarching by to do list by uni work/society stuff/other etc

 

Here’s where I started my best attempt at budgeting in early 2018! The right page has now evolved into 8 squares because at this point I’m onto my second journal (my first Leuchterm) and it’s dotted rather than lined which is SO MUCH EASIER

the format was pretty similar at this point but this is what I consider my ‘most productive’ spread – I had clear categories on the left page, a budgeting box small enough that I was encouraged not to exceed it and 8 boxes on the right hand page

 

when I finished uni I didn’t need the uber productive weekly spread anymore so this is where I started to develop what I now use as my current weekly spread

I really liked having the 8 strips on the right for each day of the week (and a spare) but this is where the left hand page starts to become more formulated and less random

here I’m really starting to settle in what I want this spread to look like

and onto my third bujo! at this point, I wanted the left hand side to take the same shape every week so I didn’t fill the space until I knew what I wanted it for

and this is last week’s spread – I’ve figured out how to use all the space on the left page and the right page has stayed the same for a while (why fix what isn’t broken?)

And here we have the new weekly spread! It’s not that different, yeah I know, but it brings back what I loved about having the overarching to do list without giving me the boundaries of putting each thing on a specific day.

I’ve still got daily breakdowns of stuff and things that are bound to a certain day (work/volunteering/content/driving lessons/other fun stuff) but everything else? I’m just going to pick and choose however many things I need to fill up my daily to do list and then if I finish it all and I feel motivated to continue then I can pick another thing from the list.

I’m probably getting a bit overexcited in blogging about it literally two days into using it but I’m excited about it – I’ve been using roughly the same spread for nearly a year and that’s what my life has become now; a new weekly spread format is exciting.

Flicking back through my old journals, a lot of my habits have stayed the same – the reason I use my bullet journal is the same, it’s just the layout and circumstances that have changed and that’s what I love about bullet journalling over having a diary. I can change how my whole life is organised from week to week if I want to, it negates the need for a diary and a separate to do list book and it just combines everything into one. It’s genuinely the core of my entire life, or at least, it feels like it sometimes!

I’m excited for the day that I get a career related job where I can start adapting again and continue making my bullet journal the most productive it can be!

As always, any tips, tricks or thoughts you have (whether it’s in your own bullet journal or how you would use a bullet journal if you don’t already have one!) then please leave them in the comments or come over for a natter on Instagram!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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pushing through procrastination

2019, organisation

Hello!

Whether it be due to anxiety, having to do school work you really don’t care about or just being tired, I can guarantee that every single person in the world procrastinates, loses motivation and puts things off.

And I say this as someone who prides herself on her organisation, colour coordinated lists and post it notes, but that doesn’t mean I’m productive and on task 100% of the time. I love to think I give the illusion of having my life together but I really don’t think that’s the case!

So I thought I would put together some of my tips for how I tackle the worst bouts of procrastination, because I’ll be brutally honest – these past couple of weeks I’ve really struggled to motivate myself to do anything and I’m motivating myself to push through it as much as motivating anyone else!

1 – pick one thing that will help you with a routine and force yourself to do it, even if you don’t want to

I know this sounds like the worst tip if you’re struggling to motivate yourself, but I promise just picking one thing and making sure you do that is like rebooting your brain and reminding yourself you are in control and you can push through it! For me, when my anxiety hits and I start to feel low, it’s things like brushing my teeth than I just can’t bring myself to do. I know it sounds gross and there’s a deeper psychological reason for it but if I can push through and make myself do it, it makes other tasks on my to do list feel more achievable.

2 – focus on one task at a time

Sometimes a whole list can be incredibly overwhelming, but picking one task and working on that, and then the next task can be so much more approachable than seeing a whole list of however many things.

It can just be a case of going ‘right! I’m going to work on this task for this amount of time’ – for me, I volunteer on reception at a dance school and if I’m struggle to get on with things, I’ll set myself the task of working on one thing until the next dance class finishes. Then if I get that task done, great! If I don’t, I’ve made a start. Breaking it down works really well for me.

3 – try a change of scenery

It can be so easy to convince yourself that you can work from the sofa, or your bed, or whilst your boyfriend is playing video games in the same room (this one might be a bit niche) but sometimes that doesn’t work – whether it’s moving to a desk, a different room at home or going to a local cafe or something, a change of environment can really make the difference in altering your mindset to be more productive.

If going to a cafe isn’t financially viable and moving around at home isn’t working, I recommend either having a tidy up or switch around at home if you can! See if you can move things around, maybe move your desk closer to the window or Marie Kondo your stuff so it all feels a bit less cluttered. There are lots of ways you can change up your space without having to spend lots of money.

4 – give yourself some breathing space

I’m not saying give up, but give yourself half an hour to breathe – watch a YouTube video (but only one or two, put a deadline on it), play a few rounds of Candy Crush or something or make a new adapted to do list to help refocus your mind.

I remember at school always being told to do 20 minutes work and have a 10 minute break and the same applies outside of doing homework and revising for exams – forcing yourself to work when your mind is tense and frustrated is never going to work so take a step away, recentre, take the pressure off and then step back into it.

5 – make a new to do list!

My personal favourite – even if it means having the same things written out basically three or four times in different places, being able to adapt or switch up your to do list to help your own productivity is always a good idea!

If I’m feeling particularly frustrated, I will start my to do list again and only write out the tasks I think are genuinely achievable and I might even write out some things I’ve already done that day so I can lull myself into a false sense of productivity – because there’s nothing like a half ticked off to do list to motivate you to do the other half!

Obviously, take all of these tips with a pinch of salt – it’s so personal for everyone that it will take a lot of determination and hard work to find what works for you. I tried so many different revision techniques when I was doing exams at school, then I had to adapt that to finish assignments at uni and find other new ways to be productive now that I’m working. It’s constantly changing and evolving, so if there’s anything you do that isn’t on this list please do leave it in the comments so I can try them too!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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how to make productive to do lists!

2019, lifestyle, organisation

Hello!

Thought my confidence in my ability to do literally anything right now is rock bottom, one thing I know I can do for sure is make a list and get stuff done. In the two years since I’ve had my bullet journal I’ve got a lot better at figuring out what works best for me.

How I make my to do lists has changed a lot – in the summer of 2016 I remember making lists that were 9 or 10 things long and then getting really demotivated because I wasn’t getting anything done. In the following January I started my first bullet journal and from there I started experimenting with writing a long weekly to do list so I could see what I needed to achieve over the whole week and then I could pick out tasks that I needed to do on each day.

I stuck with that structure for a while, developing it to split my weekly tasks into categories like Uni, Society, Personal, Long-Term etc just to help me focus more. But when I finished uni I felt I didn’t need the focus as much and I didn’t have the same need for tasks that were completed each week so I stopped using this around June 2018.

And between summer 2018 and the end of the year I really refined how I make my to do lists and it’s working really well for me to have a balanced productive day – not giving myself too much to do, making sure I finish all my computer jobs during the day and doing as much as I can to make sure I get everything done.

Shock horror, she’s talking about her bullet journal again. This is my nearly finished weekly spread – on the left page I write the content I want to make for the week, my monthly goals and tick boxes (because is there anything more satisfying than ticking a tick box?) for my daily tasks and this is working really well right now.

Then on the right I have my daily to do’s – each day has 4 lines for me to plan things to do and the highlighted numbers is my word goal for my writing challenge this month. I keep my Sunday box longer because I can catch up on things  I’ve missed during the week and make notes for the following week.

I think if I had a better memory and such I wouldn’t need to rewrite each list every day but I really like writing my to do’s for each day on a post it note and stick it to the front of my bullet journal so I can just tick it off without having to have it open all the time.

The way I make each list is I write the day of the week at the top, because let’s be real – I forget what day it is at least 7 times a day, then I draw 5 boxes and 3 dashes.

(not the greatest picture but gives you the idea of what my lists look like!)

The 5 boxes are for me to write the must-to do’s and those are my kind of bare minimum tasks for the day – it’ll include things like any editing or writing I’ve got to do, if I’ve got a dance class or work or anything like that, it all goes on the list with any other tasks I want to do for the day.

Then I use the dashes for tasks that aren’t too important or wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t do – things like my daily writing challenge that I’m doing at the moment, any tasks I could do if I finish everything else on my list and any little jobs that really need doing but it wasn’t worth a tick box.

And this system works really well for me. That’s not to say I get everything done on my list every single day – I have bad days that I just can’t bring myself to do the things I need to do and I’m frustrated and tired. But this is the best system I’ve found so far – some people get 10 things done every day, some people get three things done a day, some people go to the gym at 6am, work 9-5, volunteer at a food bank after work and have a solid mental health so comparing your productivity to mine or anyone you see online is utterly pointless. It’s all about things like substituting phrases like ‘I was so productive today’ to ‘I got everything on my to do list done today!’ – productivity is so highly valued in society and on social media right now but every person is different and everyone works differently.

Conclusion – to do lists are great and all and I’m really happy with how I make mine now but we shouldn’t compare productivity because everyone is different.

I hope this has been even a little bit helpful! I do love talking about organisation and things like this so if there’s anything you’d like to hear my two cents on, let me know!!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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starting a bullet journal

2017, lifestyle

Hello!

I spent so long at the beginning of the year looking for the perfect diary – having a weekly to do list is really important to me and I couldn’t find a diary where I could make the use of daily planning and having a notes page for a weekly to do list. I was willing to pay a bit more money for a personally designed diary but I just couldn’t find what I wanted.

But I knew about bullet journalling and I knew it was a very adaptable option, but I also know that it takes a lot of effort to start one up. Then I actually looked into it – it really isn’t that much work at all and you can take the aspects that work for you to basically design your own diary as you go along, so this is what I did.

Just a quick disclaimer: I’m not any good at calligraphy or typography so my bullet journal isn’t as pretty as a lot of people who are very good at drawing pretty letters. I’m working on it.

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I use a future log, which isn’t massively full yet because I haven’t gone back to uni for this semester so I don’t know what I have planned for the rest of the year, but when I get all my assignments for the next four months I think it’ll full up because I can make actual plans.

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I then wrote all of my monthly logs in one place so I can see all my deadlines and when they’re due so again, then last few logs are completely blank but I’ll definitely fill these in a lot when I go back to uni. For sure.

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Then I get on to the ‘diary’ side of the bullet journal – I basically have the date, a to do list for the day including work or any appointments I have, then random lists that I reference back to my index at the beginning.

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I’ve included my New Years Resolutions, a weekly to do list amongst the daily lists and I have a ‘wish list’ of things I want to buy but can’t afford right now.

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I also have a spread for my four weeks of fitness that I’m currently planning and I accidentally skipped a double page spread before I wrote that out so I’m doing a little doodle on that page and sticking in a cute postcard I picked up before the summer. I love that a bullet journal is so free and I can do that spread if I want to.

Already I’m learning about little things that I’d do differently when I move on to a new journal – I wouldn’t put all my monthly logs in one section, I’d use them as a marker at the beginning of the month and use the future log to look at my life as a whole, in a way.

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Instagram is a really good place to find inspiration for how to design a journal, so if you’re thinking about starting a bullet journal, I thoroughly recommend having a browse of the various tags – I just had a browse of the ‘future log‘ tag to see if I could link to a picture to show how I’d do my future log in a new journal and I saw loads of awesome spreads there.

I also thought using a journal I already had would be a good idea because I have loads of empty notebooks and it would save me spending money on a new one, but now I totally get why people buy dotted journals that lie out completely flat – I like the journal I’ve got but it’s definitely not the best for bullet journalling. I’ve already picked a dotted journal on Amazon and put it onto my Amazon Wishlist for when I finish this journal.

But that’s the point, I’m learning and figuring out what I want to do with my journal and how to do it!

I’m going to keep watching videos and scrolling through Instagram to learn about more aspects of bullet journalling.

Let me know if you have any questions about starting out, tips for a beginner and whether you’d like a review/flip through when I’ve finished my journal in the comments!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

 

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