Hello my friends,
A few years back and whilst in a bad relationship my mum asked me “Why do you own so many clothes? Do you actually wear all that? Do you actually need 12 handbags and 40 pairs of shoes?” At the time I just didn’t think much of it. I brushed it off and carried on spending and buying stuff.
It was only much later I realised that I actually had a shopping addiction. I was feeding my unhealthy relationship with possessions. Shopping it was a great escape from thinking and was giving me a temporary feeling of joy. But soon after, the joy was waring off, I had space issues and a feeling of disappointment as I was surrounded by all these ‘beautiful’ things which I rarely wore. Needless to say that I was throwing myself more and more into debt. Credit cards, loans you name it, yes I had it all. And it wasn’t looking nice. At 2011 I decided that I need to take back control of my life and get rid of this nasty habit, but also get myself out of debt.
A good friend of mine was an accountant, I told her I’m in trouble and she gave me a spreadsheet. As a creative person, I thought spreadsheets were made by the devil and I didn’t want to have anything to do with them. That ‘evil’ spreadsheet turned my life around. I know it sounds silly, but for me back then, it was revelation! All I had to do was monitor my daily outgoings and with a ‘magical’ sum I could see how much money I was earning, how much money I was spending and what I had left. Obviously the first few months I had nothing left. But gradually month by month my little ‘evil’ spreadsheet started to look healthier and healthier. I kind of made it my purpose for all the – to go +!
HOW I DID IT…
First of all I imagined, how my life would be without debt. How it would feel not to have to worry about money and if I had enough to pay my bills. The oxymoron of this, was that at the time I was freelancing and I was doing really great for myself. I was earning a lot of money, actually the most money I’ve ever earned per month, but still I was struggling.
The answer was right there in front of me. I had to stop. And so I did. I stopped buying things I didn’t need but most importantly I stopped wanting to buy more things. It did help that I was also out of this unhealthy relationship and was back on my own two feet. But now my goal was greater. I had to get back on track financially as I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life paying back credit cards and loans. I mean who wants that right?
These are the key 8 steps I followed to conquer the big monster:
- RULE No1: Never spend more than what you earn!
- Ask for advice: I asked advice from a relative to guide me on how to consolidate all my loans/credit cards all into one big lump sum. I had no idea about interest rates and all that, but I knew that was the way to have more control over the ‘big monster’ that was growing with the monthly interests!
- Make a realistic plan: Once everything was consolidated I made a realistic target of when I could pay it off and how much I could afford for the monthly instalments. Also, I made a promise to myself that no matter what I won’t miss a payment and accepted the fact that this will take a long time and it won’t be easy.
- Make sure you monitor everything you spend. I used google apps on my phone so that I could open and edit my spreadsheet on my phone. So even if I was out I could add what I was spending there and then. You will not believe how much money you ‘forget’ you spend monthly in little things. The magazine you bought, the lipstick you found on offer and ‘had’ to buy it, the milk you run out. At the beginning I had to remind myself, but soon it became a habit.
- Find alternatives for the little luxuries you enjoy. I used to love buying coffee on the go. You would think, that £2.5 for a coffee is nothing right? Well, it is £75 a month! Buying the cheeky croissant or treat on top of that here and there that £100 a month. That was almost one third of my monthly instalment. So I stopped doing it. Instead I bought a cafetiere and my favourite organic coffee and made my morning coffee a bit of a ritual, instead on having it on the fly. Much cheaper, and actually I enjoy it SO much more!
- Switch to budget super markets: From Waitrose and Marks & Spencer’s ready ‘fancy’ meals to Lidl and Aldi. Yes, yes I know the corridors are messy, get over it, it’s more important this little number you are paying on the receipt, than how the products are displayed… also, don’t get me started on ‘the quality’! That’s a whole new blog there :). At first I thought I was ‘compromising’ and that was the punishment for me being bad with my finance. But soon after, I realised that my diet got so much better as I was ‘forced’ to cook healthy meals based on fresh vegetables and protein. I used shopping lists and a weekly meal calendar to plan my meals. It was REVOLUTIONARY! I seriously couldn’t believe how much money I was saving on my monthly shopping bills.
- Exercise more! You wouldn’t think that exercise can help with paying off your debts right? Well it does, as it helped me swift my focus, from the ‘I’m bored/not feeling great, I’ll go for a shopping spree’ to the ‘I’m going out for a run!’.
- Learn something new: I signed up for many free courses and tutorials. Learning something new is always exiting and helps you fill your day with doing something useful and interesting that might help you in the long run.
Was it easy?
NO! It was really hard to make the switch and it was really hard to re-train my mind and understand that I really don’t need things to be happy. It took me 4 years to get out of my debt (yes it was a big one!), but I did it.
I look back at this time of my life now and really, I couldn’t be more thankful for my big debt. You know why? It helped me transition to where I am now and to a more mindful life. It helped me appreciate things more and learn the value of things. I never used to care about how much things cost or how things are made. Things were just things. I discovered that minimalism and living with less things is not a monastic approach and a sign of being boring or frugal, but a sign of happiness and contentment.
I read somewhere recently, “We don’t possess things, we are possessed by things.”. And really I couldn’t agree more.
Living with less things is living with less clutter, clutter occupies your space and your mind. Owning less creates fluidity in your space and your mind, allows more light and time in your life to spend on things that matter more!
So here are some freebies for you…
If you are going through a similar situation I want to help! I’ve created for you three templates. An ‘evil’ spreadsheet similar to the one that saved my financial life, a weekly food planner and a shopping list, that I’m still using weekly to plan my meals and shopping. I hope this helps you as much as it helped me. Obviously these are just templates and you can edit the rows and fields of the spreadsheet to make it as detailed or not, as you wish.
Download here:Evil Spreadsheet Weekly Meals Planner & Shopping List
Remember, as long as you stay focused on the end goal, everything is achievable. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but you can do it. There is always a way as long as you really want it!
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Top banner photo credits: Patrick Hendry