Monday, 19 August 2013

How we survived financial strain

It's a time of financial worry, and it seems that everyone is worried about money and how to stretch a paycheque as far as it can go.   We moved into a house that we couldn't really afford - but we had light at the end of the tunnel.  We knew B would be earning a wage in so many months - rather than move twice, we made it work.

We managed to survive and get out of our time of financial strain...and I'm so excited.

It's quite personal and very faux pas to discuss money, but if I'm honest, some truthful reflections of the financial worries of others' helped me to get through.  Plus I picked up a few tricks and hints to make the time less traumatic.

I got a lot of ideas from blog posts and websites, but found tips obvious or just too frustrating.  When you are working hard you feel as though you deserve something rather than watching as your money is drained through bills or fuel or rent.

I'm not saying I'm a pro, but I'm writing about what worked for us.

Budget.   Hard, but the only way to make it work.  We have an overdraft, but I was very against going into it.  I had always believed that you shouldn't spend money you don't have.  We sat down and broke everything down:  Rent, electricity, mobiles, name it.  Every penny was accounted for - including our weekly allowance.

Allowance.  Both of us had an allowance every week and we weren't allowed to spend outside of this allowance.  It was pretty tricky for things like B's birthday - but I managed to save most of my allowance up and then could treat B or myself.

Online food shopping.  I knew I had £50 to spend on shopping each week.  I discovered Tesco delivery and watched as the magic happened.  I could pick exactly what I wanted online and find the cheapest item without ever setting foot in the shop.  No temptations - plus, I had everything on my list and never forgot anything.  We had the latest possible delivery option and this often reduced the delivery fee to £3.  

Taking on side jobs.  This one is tricky, but both of us were able to do it working full time.  I marked GCSE exams for AQA - it was horrible, but we earned a lot out of it - both financially and in terms of work experience.  B worked as a paramedic at weekends when he wasn't at Uni.  It meant we sometimes had to go two weeks without seeing each other, but we survived!

Saying No.  I often missed shopping or going out at weekends, but we knew we had to restrict ourselves.  If the money wasn't there, it didn't happen.  This meant no to a lot of things - hair cuts, travel - and considering we have so many people who live at a distance to us, we had to stay put and assure ourselves that we could make those journeys at a later date.  

Saying Yes.  With that said - we often made the money be there so that we could say yes to things.  Dessert dates where we went out to a restaurant for only dessert.  Trips to the coast with a picnic.  Visiting friends and brining dessert. 

Not being ashamed.  We shopped in Poudland and Discount UK.  We bought things online. We handmade our Christmas presents (I baked like 500 Pizzelles!).  We bought store brand food items.  I don't think we actually came out and said "HEY!  We are struggling!"  We just made it work in the cheapest way possible.  

I refused to stop living during this time period.  We found loads of ways to make the most of things in a cheap way.  We didn't do this stuff often, but once a fortnight or so - when we got tired of saying "no."

We had a date night where we set ourselves a challenge:  cook a three course meal using £5.  Hilarious. B was amazing.  Mine went all wrong!

I  packed up all of the clothes which I didn't wear regularly.  A few months later I went through them and I actually felt like I had a new wardrobe.
We joined LoveFilm.  We pay £3 a month and get three DVDs a month.  Movie night became date night!
Ebay.  B started selling old things he had from ten years ago including diving gear.  Some sold for over £100!
Joining a group.  I am a member of our local theatre group and we rehearse three days a week some weeks.  Our current show is "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."  It's a lot of time, effort and energy - but I feel like I'm doing something.  More on that later!
(Guys and Dolls, 2012)

We go out for coffee a lot.  I practically live at Starbucks.  Filter coffee isn't expensive - plus, when you have cards you gain points and get free drinks.  It's quite social as a few of my friends are also coffee addicts - we often meet for a brew to chat it out.
(Free Starbucks and work - reading Pride and Prejudice and marking)

"Treat thing" was an invention of my friend Jo.  Every time we did a food shop we bought one thing as a treat.  You'd be surprised, but when you feel as though you are working hard and getting very little for yourself, a box of crayons or a posh pop makes a world of difference.

It may not be much, but this is how we survived.  I don't know if we are out of the clear, but I certainly hope so.  I hope the same for anyone else struggling these days.


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