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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September Goals

2019, goals, lifestyle, student

Hello!

I spent all of July wishing for August, then August flew by quicker than I could follow and now my favourite month of the year has come round. September – the month of the last dregs of summer blending into the beginning of Autumn, lots of birthdays and back to school season (I’m a nerd, it excites me).

My September has lots of fresh starts – turning 23, moving to a brand new city and starting studying at a new university. Lots of ‘new’ but whilst trying not to think about how daunting all of that is, here are the mini goals I will be focusing on this month:

  • Get a part-time job in Reading – for one, moving house is really expensive, for two, post graduate loans barely cover anything and for three, my partner isn’t going to be around a lot of the time and I don’t have any friends in Reading so I want something to fill the time, pay the bills and make some friends! I’ve applied for a job I actually kind of subtly really want but what I’ve learnt from a year of applying for jobs is not to put all your eggs in one basket! When I know more about my university course and my timetable I can throw myself head first into looking at working and (hopefully) by the end of the month I’ll have something lined up.
  • Stay on top of my finances amongst all the moving costs – did I mention that moving is really expensive? Not only am I now paying for my personal bills and insurance for two new drivers, I’m paying for utilities and WiFi and a TV license and all those things! Obviously I’m not complaining, it’s just adult life, but as we move things are going to be tight tight tight so I need to stay on top of my budgeting!
  • Finish PG Cert course, start MSc Digital Media Production – this one isn’t so much of a goal to strive for as a marker point to get to – I’m going to finish my post graduate certificate and I’m going to start my masters, but it’s about not losing momentum at the end of one qualification and making sure I’m prepared to start the other. There is literally one week of crossover but in a busy month where I’m also moving about 150 miles (ish) away, staying on top of my education is another important thing!
  • Focus on content – making four regular posts on time every week – my YouTube content in particular is massively slacking at the moment. I feel like I have nothing to film for my weekly vlogs, I’m working so hard in the office I don’t have time to film or edit other videos, blogging is something that comes very naturally to me and is less time consuming than YouTube (at least for me at this very casual level) but it’s important to me to maintain the two, especially where this month is going to be very busy. Time management is key!
  • Do something for self care every single week – and in a much less ‘productivity focused’ manor, things like taking my make-up off and brushing my teeth are the first things to fall off when I’m stressed or my mental health dips. My mum and I call my stress ‘subconscious stress’ because I feel okay about things but I feel a lot of physical symptoms of stress, so I want to make an effort to have time to look after myself – I bought a Lush face mask while I was in Reading and I want to use it! I want to look after my skin! I need to have a home routine and not rely so heavily on external routines and self-care is something I need to prioritise so much.

September is going to be a challenging month – financially, it’s so tight and it’s going to be super busy, but it’s also got numerous birthdays, a brand new city to explore and a whole new chapter to begin! I’m genuinely so excited and can’t wait to document it all.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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June Goals

2019, goals

Hello!

How is it June?? By the end of the month we’ll be halfway through this year and that really baffles me, however stupid that sounds? But it does mean there’ll be a check in on my New Year’s Resolutions and we all know how much I love tracking goals.

May was busier than I anticipated and I didn’t get the time to work on my goals as much as I’d hoped, but I’ve adapted this months goals and my time management accordingly. So this is where I’m going to focus this month!

  • take my driving test – this one isn’t much of a ‘goal’ to be honest, because my test is booked for the end of the month, but I didn’t want to set myself the challenge of definitely passing my test because if it doesn’t happen I don’t need that extra pressure. I just want to take the test, I need to make sure I’m ready and if I pass? That’s fabulous, if not? It’s not the end of the world. Just want to take the test.
  • keep up with my uni course – I started a Post Graduate Certificate in Professional Development Planning last month and the first two weeks of the course have been a bit manic in juggling and balancing it with work and pre-booked commitments. I really want to do well in this and make it worth the effort so I need to put the time in!
  • run 3x a week – how many times have I mentioned it? Approximately three million times, but I’m doing this Couch to 5k app and I’ve been running for about five weeks now and that’s really huge progress for me. I’ve had to repeat Week 4 because I needed more time to adjust to it but I’m actually not hating it – it’s a challenge, in the best way. I can now run for 4, nearly 5 minutes straight and I’m running and walking for about 3k. I really want to keep it up and three times a week isn’t actually as difficult to commit to as I thought! So maintenance and progress is my goal this month.
  • find some local photography work – I loved taking dance photos the other month and I really want to do more and develop that. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it yet, maybe I need to just go to local sports matches and email every local dance school, competition and sports team I can think of, maybe I just need to work on networking and building up contacts. The one thing I know for sure is that I need to get my camera out more.
  • spend less and save more – May was an expensive month, but I’d worked hard and saved and bought myself a Nintendo Switch, don’t regret it at all, but want to be more mindful this month – put more into savings if I can. I’ve been using this savings plan so far this year and I love it. To be honest, I’m planning to upgrade my car this month, so I’ve not quite figured out where that fits in but I’ll figure that out at some point…

Towards the end of May, I think I was setting myself too much to do and expecting too much of myself so I want to focus on putting less value on productivity. I need to learn how to relax and spend more time doing the things I enjoy – video games, watching YouTube, cooking, family time.

Any tips? Because I don’t think I’ve really relaxed for about four years now!

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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