I need to be honest. I’m really bad at managing my money! Just because I’m a money blogger doesn’t mean I’ve got it all sussed out. I spend too much, I have frugal fails all the time, and I don’t track my spending – which is definitely going to change going forward. I am queen of money mistakes – and I’m not proud, but it’s time to be really open about it!
I have learnt so much about money since going through debt management, but I am still far from perfect. I’ve still had months where I’ve lost track of spending and left myself short. I’ve had months where I’ve had to take money out of my savings instead of putting money in. I’ve even had months where I’ve had no idea what’s going on as I’ve not checked. This is no way to live and I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve not ended back up in debt over this. Fortunately I’ve budgeted and worked out if I can afford the “big things” but it’s the little things – a sandwich here, a meal out there, a packet of sweets and a soda in the afternoon to get me through work, those are the things I don’t track and these are the things which add up to an incredible amount. If I’d been writing down and tracking everything I spent, I know things would be a lot different right now. Fortunately things didn’t spiral again, and I was paying off the things I had borrowed against (my car was on finance and I had some money on a credit card from vets bills which went over my policy excess and some other bits and bobs) but I still wasn’t paying much into savings or getting myself into a better position. I therefore borrowed a little more on my mortgage to clear everything off.
This wasn’t a decision I took lightly, I spoke in great depth with my mortgage advisor, but moving had cost a lot more than I anticipated and so had left me a little short in places. Now I have the fresh start I didn’t have two years ago when I moved, and can start with a clean slate – the only debt I now have being my mortgage.
I’m sure a lot of you will have things to say about this – and I’m sure some money bloggers would be horrified that I did this, but you know what, it’s my life and my decision. I started ibeatdebt.com as a place to talk about debt and money, and if I’m honest, I don’t think I’ve been being entirely honest the last couple of years. I felt like I was sliding backwards slowly and that scared me. I was applying a lot of what I learnt by doing the CAP money course and going through debt management, but I was still scared. I wasn’t prepared to let it get so bad that I ended up not being able to clear the things I had on finance, but equally, in hindsight, I wasn’t doing everything in my power to clear it all off and move forward.
I appreciate that the name I Beat Debt probably gives everyone the impression that I’m 100% debt free, but I’m not. Short of a miracle, I will be paying off my mortgage for many more years to come, but I still feel that “I beat debt” because it didn’t beat me. With help, it was cleared off. With help I learnt about managing money (although I definitely would get a “could do better” in that area at the moment). With help I came through the other side.
I am eternally grateful that I never got to the point where suicide was something that I would have considered to get away from it all, but whether you already have mental health issues or not, debt can cause such heartbreak, stress, anxiety, depression, and so much more. Had it gone on much longer, maybe things would have deteriorated, but the key phrase in the last paragraph is “with help”. As Brits we don’t talk much about money, and that is no good for anyone. If you are struggling – it’s ok to ask for help, even if it’s confidentially via a debt charity. Why should you suffer when there is free help and resources out there specifically to help people like you and me? If you have a leak, you call a plumber. If your lights blow, you get an electrician. Why is it so shameful or embarrassing to ask for help with money? We can’t all be experts at everything after all.
Why am I writing this today? Well, after my fresh start, I feel that a weight has been lifted. Even though it was one that I didn’t even realise was even there. Instead of paying off my car for another few years, it’s done. Instead of making only minimum payments towards credit cards, they are cleared. They may have been 0% interest – but I still wasn’t budgeting to have cleared them off at the end – and you’d have thought I’d have learnt my lesson about that by now. I have made, and will continue to make, money mistakes for the rest of my life. What I can do though is be more open and honest about my journey and my mistakes – as well as what I’ve learnt from them. This opportunity, which I know I am very fortunate to have had, has given me a kick up the backside. Going forward I will be budgeting EVERYTHING, not just the regular payments. I will be tracking my spending including the spending on things which usually I would not think twice about (even a can of coke a day, at 80p per day on a work day is £4 per week and over £200 a year)! That’s not to say that I won’t ever buy lunch or a drink out again, but it will be budgeted, tracked and accounted for. I will be taking my own lunches, and buying multipacks of drinks, and not buying more just because I feel like I want an extra can. I have made enough mistakes and I need to make sure that I make the most of this opportunity and fresh start. I will also be paying an amount each month into my savings on payday (setting up a standing order so I don’t “forget”). I’m not going to beat myself up if I need to dip into it on occasion (as long as it’s not for frivolous things) – especially in the early days with my new improved super budget, but I am doing what I can to be moving in the right direction with my finances and I hope that be being honest, you will be encouraged to do the same.