How To Get Your Finances Under Control

Sponsored Post – All of the opinions and experiences in this post are my own.

Ten years ago my finances were a real mess. Without a doubt I was struggling, thanks to some poor decisions on my part. I had overspent on credit cards, mainly on holidays I couldn’t afford at the time, and paying it all back was creating massive difficulties for me. I learned my lesson the hard way and now seem to have everything sorted when it comes to finance – largely down to working hard and finding out how to fix my problems.

Are you finding that bills and charges are driving you into debt?

Appreciating the value of money is important.

Here are my thoughts on where to begin when trying to deal with debts and get your finances back under control:

1) Make a start – no excuses.

It is no use putting off till tomorrow what you could be doing today. I know it is depressing to be in the midst of financial trouble – believe me – but the sooner you start dealing with them, the better. My mum always takes notice of Martin Lewis for money saving tips and I have got used to watching his programme and checking his website. I wish I had someone like him to listen to or some online resources to call upon when I found myself drowning in debt.

However, Martin Lewis wasn’t widely known ten years ago, so I had to use my own resourcefulness to begin solving my debt problems. For me, it began with getting all of my statements and adding up the overall amount that I owed. Then I found the credit cards with the highest interest rates and wrote to them explaining my predicament. They helped me build a payment plan and even agreed to freeze my interest for a while as well. Reaching out really helped me a lot.

2) Use your common sense (easier said than done).

Again, it sounds obvious, but doing some research is vital when looking into ways of reducing a debt and improving a credit score. These days there is a wonderful site which lays out the various options you have available. Click here to discover some practical steps that you can take in order to consolidate your debts. This site is easy to use and full of answers to questions you possibly haven’t even thought of yet.

Common sense would also lead you to stop spending on credit cards. For me, this was something I had no control over as I had maxed them all out. It is easy to do. My friends were going on holidays and I wanted to join them, but didn’t have time to save up, so I whacked the vacations on my credit card until it was full. Then, stupidly, I got another one if I received an email offering me a new card. Of course, credit cards are always on the lookout for debtors to add to their lists.

What I am saying is that I needed someone to give me a reality check. We’ve all been there. My advice to anyone stuck in debt is to tell someone immediately and then stop spending and research your options.

3) Cut back on spending straight away

That is easy for me to say, right? For me, it meant saying no to holidays for a couple of years. It also meant going through my outgoings and getting rid of things that weren’t essential. Even today, I sit down once a year and work out what Media apps and services I am paying for (streaming services and online magazines). Often you forget just how many subscriptions you have. At the same time, memberships can sneakily increase in price.

Recently I cancelled a few subscriptions and one of them asked me why I was leaving. It was a newspaper app and I was pleasantly surprised when they offered to reduce their charge to one pound a month for a whole year. As I said before, getting in touch with companies is often a good way to negotiate a deal and form an understanding. This example was a small example of how one action reduced my subscription from £6.99 to £1 just a month. Maybe you could do that with some of your bills too.

Summary

If you are struggling with debt right now, please do not face it alone. Reach out to someone you trust and consider the suggestions I made in this post. When I got into debt, I spoke to my mum and she got me started on facing up to the situation and find out just how I could resolve it.

Hopefully you found this article helpful. It is a set of thoughts based on my own experience and I am in no way a professional but I have managed to get my own finances back on track and now have enough savings to deal with any unforeseen emergencies and to finance a few upcoming holidays.

Considerations When House Buying After Covid

One of the topics that my friends and I discuss the most right now is buying a dream home. As many of you know, I am currently making changes to my own house so that it is a more attractive place to sell in future, or even rent out. At the same time, two of my close friends are looking for first time buys in my home county of Cambridgeshire. When we are together it is all we talk about.

My friend Sally (let’s call her that for the sake of this post) was already on the hunt for a home just before the pandemic struck and had to put things on hold. Now she is back to checking out houses online and arranging visits. I am really interested in the process as I want to buy a new place when I have finished upgrading my kitchen and living room so we have been punching in some figures together and really getting to grips with it all.

Is House Buying Stagnant or Buoyant?

Sally was asking me to get involved and do a bit of basic research so I decided to begin by checking out useful articles online. The BBC Housing Market Page was really interesting as a starting point. One article pointed to a 12 percent rise in house prices (great for any sellers like me). It also talked about specific issues around the country but I had to look to other financial resources to find out more about buying as a first timer.

I think it is fair to say that the housing market is looking lively again in 2022. When Sally put in an offer on a three bed house a month ago, she was outbid a few days later. There seem to be a lot of people who have decided that now is the time to try and make that leap onto the housing ladder and yes, it is getting very competitive.

Both of my friends wanted to explore ‘help to buy’ opportunities so we started to check out the Guardian website where we laughed at the fact that the average first time buyer is in their thirties now (just like my two first time buying mates). Interestingly, I found out that the equity loan on a ‘help to buy’ scheme came with zero interest for the initial five years. Also there is an option to clear your equity loan after a few years if you choose to do so. That’s pretty cool if you can afford it and stops the loan value increasing as the property goes up in value.

How Can We Find Out What We Can Afford?

A really useful site for making projections was the Mortgage Calculator which I messed around with to try and work out how my money might work for me. The calculator was really easy to use and let me choose the term of the mortgage alongside the price of house I was thinking of.

A calculation I did for myself, based on my needs.

There was also a helpful affordability page which gave an indication of what we could buy based on our current salaries. Things have changed since when I bought my very first house in 2003 because back then mortgages were commonly without deposits but these days you have to factor that in as well. Sally is lucky enough to have moved back from Dubai five years ago and built up a healthy deposit while staying with her mum. My other friend, Eloise, has also managed to accrue a reasonable deposit to place down on a house, when she feels ready to do so.

What Is The Best Way Forward?

Eloise is still at the ‘doing the sums’ part of investigating home buying. She has literally just started her hunt after renting a two bedroom village home for over ten years. Recently she has been trying to work out exactly how much a single salary can get her, given that she wants a place with a garden and extra room in case she wants company or a lodger.

Doing the working out online, Eloise was stunned to find out just how similar her payments for a mortgage would be compared to her rental costs. There wasn’t much difference at all. The sad reality is she could have been building up equity and working her way up the property ladder instead of feeding someone else’s pockets for the last few years. She would definitely advise people in their twenties to get on that ladder as soon as possible as she feels like she has missed out.

For all three of us, the prospect of buying a new house is definitely on the agenda. I was literally finalising my kitchen installation this morning and am weighing up selling or renting out my starter home in the near future while the other two get to grips with making offers and squeezing the most value out of their house buying experience.

Summary

What I am suggesting is that the housing market seems to have become busy and exciting again as the pandemic has retreated from the news and restrictions have ended in the UK. My friends and I are excited to find out more about which houses are for sale and to look into what we can afford given our current incomes and needs.

If you are looking to buy for the first time then there are plenty of online resources that will help you along the way. Start plugging in those calculations, checking online estate agent sites and doing some good research into house prices in your area. Make sure you enjoy the house hunting process and get the most out of it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article about house buying. If you have any thoughts on this or want to share your own experiences, please drop a comment below and maybe consider following my blog for future similar content.

3 Things That Worry Me

As I drove home from work today, I started reflecting on a few things that people had been discussing and it made me think hard about some of the issues that really worry me about our world and the culture we have developed in the UK in particular.

Streets are safer when we inhabit them.

This post is meant to be an outlet for my thoughts but is also a talking point. I hope that those of you reading this will comment your own opinions below and be open about your own related worries.

Worry 1: Lack of Independence

When I was young, in the 1980s, there were certain things that were expected of us. we used to have to look after our own clothes and possessions, for instance, and walk or cycle ourselves to school. We also had to quickly learn some independent thinking skills and apply these to our everyday lives.

Even in getting to and from places such as the local shops, we had to learn to adapt and think on our feet. Most of my friends walked to school in little groups and we had to make those journeys every day without adult guidance. By habit, we looked out for each other and learned new routes together.

Some of the skills we gained from making our own way to school were really valuable. We got to negotiate crossing roads, get some much needed exercise and talk through our feelings with our friends. These days so many kids arrive in cars and have little awareness of the routes that they take to get from one place to another. Although there is generally more morning traffic, much of it is families ferrying kids to school.

More independence in getting around is very good for self confidence and health. Less cars on the road would mean safer journeys and less pollution. There are many other ways that I believe independence and coping mechanisms are less evident these days, especially during growing up. It worries me that we are becoming a really dependent society and people are anxious more about things because they haven’t gathered those valuable coping mechanisms.

Worry 2: Rubbish

Lately I have been noticing just how willing many people are to dispose of rubbish. Without a thought, people are chucking waste out and putting little thought into reducing it or recycling it.

Packaging is everywhere and often only used for a specific purpose before being thrown out. I myself reviewed a small item in the post and it came in a massive cardboard envelope which was a total waste of space.

I am trying to think more carefully about what I buy and not to use unnecessary wrapping or extra packaging when buying gifts. Do you really need a snazzy gift bag that is going to be emptied quickly and then disposed of?

Worry 3: Aeroplanes

The other week a football club flew its players across the UK to get to a match near me. Getting through security and boarding a plane, along with the journey and travelling time either end meant it wouldn’t have been that much quicker than simply coming on a train.

In my opinion people are too quick to choose flying over other more sustainable forms of transport. For instance, I took a leisurely train ride to Edinburgh which was four hours long but many would go by plane almost without thinking. I know people that fly back and forth to Scotland regularly.

Why? You may arrive slightly quicker but the damage done by aeroplanes is so much greater. They literally pump greenhouse gases into the higher part of the atmosphere where they can do the most damage. Trains are cleaner even though some of their electricity will come from fossil fuels. They are far more sustainable in the long term, especially as more of our electricity is now from solar, nuclear and wind farms.

Summary

Maybe I worry too much. I don’t get anxious about these things but it does upset me that some of the ways we live our lives are causing problems which we could easily avoid.

If we really do learn lessons from the past then hopefully we will begin to make changes that benefit us in the future. I am just concerned that often our culture focuses on speed and technology and we as human beings lose out in so many ways due to this haste.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post about worries. If you enjoyed my article please consider dropping a comment or following my blog for future similar content about entertainment, books and the environment.