saving money in quarantine | unemployed, full time student

2020, student

Hello!

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!

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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my ‘no spend’ month

2017, lifestyle, photography, student, travel

Hello,

Like every other student in the country, if not the world, the second independence was thrust into my naive hands I went mental with spending and it was quickly highlighted that I’m not very good with money. Resisting the temptation to spend all that free money in my overdraft, believing at all that my overdraft was ‘free money’ and then reaching the horrible point last summer that I was so close to the end I was really struggling really hit home that I needed to make some changes.

I’m also an organisational freak and I wanted to be in control of my financial stability, so almost a year of struggling with nearly nothing later, I’ve nearly got a handle on it.

PLANNING

I made a plan – a lot of lists and a lot of colours involved, but I made a plan so I could really figure out what was going on and put some dates and real figures on paper, rather than just plucking numbers from the air and guessing when I might be out of my overdraft.

After my student loan came in at the end of April, I knew I needed to make a more solid plan and actually decide how I was going to spend my money and when. So I decided to spend all of my loan instalment in one go on the last of the rent for my flat, the last of the deposit for the house I’m moving into in the summer and paying three months of rent on the house in one go (so I don’t owe anymore rent until the end of September when the next instalment of loan comes in).

And that was loan gone, but probably in the most sensible way I could of used it all, right?

Then April pay day rolled around – I used some of that to pay off the last of the money I owed my mum (for rent payments I couldn’t afford and a deposit I didn’t have money for, felt nice to get that finally paid off!) and from there I decided I would spend nothing except on food shopping and my two monthly direct debits (for Adobe Creative Cloud and Spotify) because I really want to get out of my overdraft.

I’ve been close to hitting the end of my overdraft too many times and last summer was a real, real strain when I was trying to pay my mum back what I owed her and supporting my unemployed boyfriend at the time, but this year is set to be very different. I’m already nearly halfway out of it and I have a plan.

‘NO SPEND’ MONTH

My three points that I wanted to hit in this no spend month were:

  1. Don’t buy anything other than food, try to make weekly shops as cheap as possible but maybe buy yourself a drink at the pub every now and then.
  2. Reward at the end of the month: allowed to buy one £20 item.
  3. Use the wish list in my bullet journal to make a note of things I want to buy – it’s a good way to prioritise what I really want when I get to a point that I can afford these things again.

And how well did that go? Not as bad as I thought.

Update: after this photo was taken I spent £6.50 in Tiger but it was a gift for my mum and some glow in the dark space stickers so, money well spent really.

 

There was a couple of expensive Asda shops, I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in the cinema at the beginning of the month (which I ended up counting as my £20 reward)  and a couple of social things (but no pub) and I did okay.

There are a couple of things I feel the need to justify – the trainline purchases: I nearly had to spend over £70 just to go home and see my family so I bought the cheaper £50 ticket and looked ahead to my next trip home and saw I could get the tickets for £37 so didn’t want to miss out on this and bought them in advance, so that’ll be something I don’t have to buy in June.

Then that last £31 Asda shop – I intended to treat myself a little bit in making a homemade chocolate fondue with fruit and snacks and deliciousness but then, I saw Asda were doing a 3 for 2 sale on a lot of hygiene products, so I bought three packets of tampons, a new toothbrush, some toothpaste and a face scrub for my boyfriend which came to a total of about £15 and about half of the shop, but it will save me money in the long run, so I’m trying not to feel too guilty about it. I also stocked up on Ribena while it was on rollback and bought some ice cream that I’m going to mix into smoothies too.

So that last shop of the month didn’t do much for ‘no spending’ but it will save me money in the long run. I felt very sad and guilty about it, if it helps.

LOOKING AHEAD

On this last day in May and looking ahead to June, I’m going to try and have another ‘no spend’ month which should get me out of if not close to the end of my overdraft, then July I’ll probably be a bit more lenient but by August and September I should be stable. I’m so excited to be in positive and to be able to go into the bank and say I want to close my overdraft.

When I actually sat down and planned at the end of April, I realised that I could get back into the positives by the end of June. But obviously plans change – I spent more than I was anticipating this month and I also got more hours and pay from work, so the end of June might still be my ‘date’ but I’m not going to freak out if it’s not.

I am really proud of myself for how this month has gone – sure, I spent a total of over £250 but it just makes me think about how much I would have spent if I wasn’t being conscious of my spending and it makes me wonder how much my friends and other people at uni spent in May. It’s an interesting decision to make.

My main tips would be:

  1. Write everything down, because it makes you more aware of everything.
  2. Think about if there are cheaper ways to socialise – i.e. going to the pub vs having a few drinks at home with friends.
  3. Don’t monitor incoming money, just what you’re spending.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up if you accidentally spend more money than you were anticipating – it’s all a step and a learning curve.
  5. If you know you can’t resist temptation – don’t let yourself have the temptation, because ‘teaching yourself to resist’ is just not worth the hassle or stress.

So point 5 is why I want to close my overdraft – I can’t resist when I see that there’s £1500 that I’m not meant to touch in my account and I’m getting out of it.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

 

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tips for saving to travel

2017, student, travel

Hello!

Disclaimer (before we get into all this): I’m a student so I only have a part time job, I don’t have to pay taxes or pay off a loan so… bear that in mind.

When you’ve decided you want to go travelling and have picked a goal or a time you want to go, the big thing is saving the money to actually go. Personally I know I want to do some travelling in 2018 and then 2020 is going to be my proper year out and travel all over the world year, so I’ve got a good few years to save as much as I can before I go anywhere.

But I’m really bad with money – I really struggle with wanting to spoil the people I love and wanting to treat myself. However if I want to go travelling I need to pay for it, so here are some of the ways I’ve found have been helpful for me when I’m trying to save.

Close all the tabs you have open – Amazon, that January clothes haul, that new toy or game or gadget you’ve had your eye on, just close it. This doesn’t mean to say it has to be forgotten, but if you really want to go travelling, it can wait.

Make a wish list – a list of all the things that were in those tabs so you can either budget it in so you can buy them soon or just so you have a list of things you want when you get back and you can save again. By then you might realise you don’t even really need some of these things anyway! Making a list means you can evaluate what you really want and you won’t forget anything.

Have a money bank – like a physical money bank, like the ones we had when we were kids. Having something physical can 1) be really rewarding and nice decoration and 2) can be a nice way to empty your purse or wallet at the end of every week. Sure it might be filled with coppers and loose change but it’s something – spending money, a few extra drinks here and there, anything helps.

Open a savings account – sounds obvious, but the key here is to actually use it. Set yourself a weekly budget and then put what you don’t spend of that budget into the savings account at the end of the week, or maybe have a monthly budget and do the same thing. For example, if you allow yourself to spent £50 on food, a night out, maybe someone has a birthday coming up (however you want to spend it), but say you only spend £35 this week or you have a few pennies left at spending £48.27 or something – put the difference in the savings account. It may not be much but it all builds up in the long run.

My last tip would be that you need to stay very aware of your bank account – trying to save is all well and good but you need to live in the moment too and stopping yourself from doing anything to save you money means you might not enjoy your time at the moment, spend time with your friends and family but be cautious as well. You have to be strict with yourself but also be kind.

These tips aren’t even necessarily just for travelling – if you’re like me (and every other student) who got a bit trigger happy with the overdraft spending and you’re trying to see that positive bank balance again, these tips can help you too, or even if you’re just trying to save money in general – this doesn’t have to be travel money!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

 

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