Thursday, 21 May 2020

How Credit Cards Ruined My Life

I really wanted to title this blog 'How I Paid Off My £5k Credit Cards in 4 Months!' and literally just write 'moved back in with my parents' because that is literally what EVERY single one of those clickbait articles you see on your Facebook newsfeed consist of. You click on it because you see 'I'm 20 and I've Just Bought a 5 Bed Semi!' so you're like omg can't wait for some tips on saving that actually work!? And then the post basically reads 'lived rent-free with parents whilst working full time' which is basically impossible if you go to uni which eliminates like 80% of the population ALSO not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do that either?

So. My story! I got my first overdraft when I was in my first year at uni when I was 18. I opened a Student Account which came with one, so I was like yasss free money! (LOL) It started off with £250, then went to £1000 in my second year, then I did have the option to increase it again, but I declined as I was working 3 jobs at the time, as well as receiving my student loan 3x a year so you could say I was balling. I really was living the student dream, I went out 5x a week, the postman was always at the door with PLT, ASOS and Zara parcels, I took my ex-boyfriend to Amsterdam twice and paid for everything, I bought a Louis Vuitton handbag and Prada sunglasses because I could, I went on holidays to Barcelona and Ibiza and Marbella and I was always getting trains up and down the country to spend the weekend  with friends in different uni halls. Money really was no object and I didn't have a care in the world.

It was only when I moved to London in November 2017 that things started spiralling out of control. I was on an unpaid internship for a month (my mum and dad helped me out with money during this time) and then I got my first job in PR. I was on an absolutely AWFUL salary, but I accepted it because I wanted to live in London so badly! It didn't help that I was initially freelancing at first too, so when I went to Australia (booked waaaaay before I even considered moving to the City), I wasn't paid for 3 whole weeks. My eyes nearly fell out my head when I saw my wage slip, seriously. It wasn't even 4 figures, so it barely covered rent and my travel card. I extended my overdraft to £2000. 

Throughout the next year and a half, every couple of months I added a little bit more onto my overdraft limit, going from £2,000 to £2,500 to £3,000. This wasn't because I was in the LV store on Bond Street having another splurge, this was literally covering rent, travel, food and a couple of nights and dinners out. This was when I realised that having anxiety was A THING. I would panic every time I was invited to a birthday where I was going to be spending at least £45 on a brunch, and then drinks after. I stressed about having worn the same outfit for every night out for the last 6 months. I had to decline a good friends hen party. I remember when my boyfriend at the time asked me to pick up some honey from the shop on the way home and I felt really angry with him because it was so expensive and I wish I could have used the joint account (it was FOUR POUNDS for Christs sake.) And then when I got to his I was moody all night for no reason. So it wasn't just that I was stressing about my own financial doom, I was, unknowingly at the time, taking it out on others. So I got out ANOTHER credit card with a limit of £1,000.

Before I moved to London I had booked to go to Ibiza last summer, and although I had an amazing time, in the back of my mind I was always panicking whether my card would decline when I tapped it on the contactless machine. I didn't care that I was getting overdraft charges for going over my overdraft, because at least no-one else knew. I went to the Caribbean which I definitely couldn't afford either. And I got braces. Again, chucked them on the credit card. 

I wanted to socialise with my friends more, I didn't want to fall out with my boyfriend over anything, never mind £4 honey!  I wanted to be able to buy myself skincare that I actually liked instead of just getting freebies from work that half of the time made me wake up with skin feeling like Ghandi's flip flop, but I was just scraping through, tapping to pay with different cards until one worked with the horrible, tight feeling of someone standing on my chest at the same time.

It was only this year when I though fuck, I need to do something about this. I had just got a new job with a pretty hefty pay rise, so at the big age of 27, I was finally at the stage where I could start living comfortably again. Pay my rent, travel, food and still have quite a bit left over to play with. I had a plan to go travelling later on this year, WITHOUT having to carry a suitcase full of debt and guilt with me. I wrote down every bill I had and calculated that I could pay them all off (including bank fees UGH) and be able to save at least £400 a month.

Fast forward to now, 5 months later and a LOT has changed! Due to COVID-19, I've rented out my place in London to someone else and temporarily moved back in with my parents up north for the summer, and I am fortunate to be living rent-free for now. I've paid off every single credit card (totalling an absolutely minging £4,750), I've saved just over £3,000 and I'm probably going to be in the position to buy a house later on this year. Which is absolute madness for me considering my whole adult life I have never saved a penny. Not even 1p! Cos I have literally always been in my overdraft. I am literally my own rags to riches story. (MTV series coming soon to a TV near you.) In fact, I treated myself to hair extensions last month. They were £400 and I had wanted them for so long, so I got them. It wasn't even like I was just throwing money at stuff because I could finally afford it either, it was kind of symbolic of the fact that the last 2 years have consisted of me only being able to book whatever hair salon was heavily-discounted on Treatwell (I don't need to mention the Turkish Barbers again) and leaving the salon feeling shit and ugly every time, to the fact I was finally at the stage where I could treat myself (as a one-off mind you) and feel totally guilt-free. I can finally spoil my friends with little treats in the post or take them out for drinks when they get a promotion, or celebrate a birthday or get engaged. And although I still struggle with anxiety, it feels like I have a huge weight lifted off.

PLEASE don't groan at your laptop and think that I'm one of those kids that I slagged off at the start of this blog post, because the point of writing it isn't to gloat at my current situation. It has taken a lot of panic attacks, meltdowns and STRESS to get where I am now, and even this is the tip of the iceberg to where I want to be. So I wanna make 4 points to help you NOT end up like me.

1. DO NOT INCREASE YOUR OVERDRAFT. EVER! Some banks sneakily do it for you on the sly, so many sure you request for them not to. If you need more money, look at why you do. Are you spending unnecessarily? Look at your bank statement and see what you need to cut back on, even if it's just for a month or so.

2. Ask for a pay rise. Seriously. Know your worth when it comes to your experience and don't settle for any less. I really wish I had done this years ago, and I kick myself for not pushing for more, but everything happens for a reason and I'm in a good place now.

3. Don't book holidays you know you can't afford! I turned down a couple of trips away last year because I finally came to terms with the fact I couldn't afford them. Even if you can scrape money together, you won't enjoy yourself while you're there, I promise you. Not to mention you need spending money, new clothes (let's be serious everyone gets a new holiday wardrobe), taxis, that fancy dinner you go for on the last night when you've got an early flight the next morning. And you'll be panicking about having to live off beans and deep breaths for dinner when you're home.

4. Don't even think about moving to London unless you're on at LEAST £35k. Seriously.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Little Things I Miss the Most About London...

1. Picking up a copy of Time Out at Clapham South tube stop on a Tuesday morning and reading it on my way to work, taking photos of all the activities I wanna do that week (but most likely probably forget to get tickets for).

2. Yum Bun at Dinerama. Or the roti wrap at Camden Market. OR the duck burger at Broadway Market. I currently live in Preston where people class Nando's and Turtle Bay as 'street food' so the chances of ACTUAL street food aka authentic Chinese slow-roasted pork belly bao's, juicy Indian chicken roti's or French confit duck oozing with blue cheese on a brioche bun are absolutely non existent.

3. F45!!!! I know that the people that know how much I bang on about this will be eye rolling into 2021 but home workouts just aren't the same. I miss the trainers! I miss the studio! I even miss the changing rooms at 7.25am where the ratio of women to showers is 700:4! But I especially miss my one ab that since lockdown begun is looooooong gone.

4. Cycling to Brick Lane for a beigel on a Saturday and riding past loads of people trying to balance the 3 enormous house plants/cactus they've just bought from Columbia Road Flower Market in the one small shopper tote bag they brought with them. 

5. Walking past any massive bus parked anywhere near Brixton Academy and hyperventilating at the thought of being so close to A CELEB. (Bearing in mind I've lived in London over 2 years now and I haven't even bumped into an extra from Hollyoaks on the tube never mind someone actually worth hyperventilating for. (Plus it's probably a school bus or a coach trip.)

6. Meeting friends for a hideously expensive brunch in Balham on a Sunday morning and at least half of us turning up hanging/still pissed and talking unnecessarily loudly about the grimey deets from the night before.

7. Walking across ANY bridge and stopping to take 78263 photos of it.

8. Walking down Oxford Street and getting stressed about the number of tourists just stopping in the middle of the pavement to take a photo of a red bus going past (and then stopping to do the exact same.)

9. Walking to the tube stop after work on a Thursday and every pub being absolutely jam packed from 5 onwards making it absolutely impossible not to stop by 'for one' (or 5) and ending up bumping into some old friends.

10. Going to an outdoor cinema, necking a bottle of warm white wine, snuggling up under my blanket, talking through the whole film and have my XL bottomless popcorn blow over the 3 rows in front of me every time I get it filled up.

11. Bacon naan's from Dishoom. and the Ricotta Hot Cakes from Granger & Co. AKA the best breakfasts in London (don't @ me.)

12. Complaining about how much a single glass of prosecco is in any pub but buying 4 anyway and wincing every time I tap my card on the contactless machine in case it declines.

13. Watching anything on TV that has been filmed in London and then cycling to all the different locations just to see them.

14. Being too poor to afford a haircut/colour from anywhere other than booking a random place with a special offer on Treatwell and it ending up being a Turkish Barbers and I leave the salon with 3 strands of hair in a blunt bob.

15. Stocking up on loads of cans of G&T from Tesco and sitting on the Common or London Fields in the sun with a big group of friends, which turns into hitting up Netil 360 or another rooftop bar, which turns to sunset and another pub and then someone house for more drinks. Absolutely nothing beats a summer in London!

16. The 30 min photoshoot at my fire escape looking front door before we go on any night out.

Monday, 4 May 2020

8 Things I Learnt From Deactivating Instagram For a Month

1. Honestly, no one cares what I had for breakfast. The amount of cold scrambled eggs I have eaten because I've been faffing about taking an Instagram story literally pains me to think of now. Live in the moment! Pop the yolk without a slow-mo vid! Enjoy a hot coffee instead of a lukewarm one!

2. Contrary to the army of people who moan about anything and everything, I really do like seeing people sharing their workouts! Ok, maybe not the full 1hr circuit on a time-lapse (snore), but seeing people share their Strava map of their last bike ride, a new 5km PB or even just a morning yoga stretch really makes me want to get up off my ass and do the same. I find it to be such good motivation, so I did have a couple more 'cba' days that usual.

3. I've been enjoying my own company so much more. I haven't felt the guilt of 'omg everyone must think my life is so boring because I haven't posted on Stories for 3 days!' (in which case I'll force myself to either dig out an old story and pretend that's what I'm doing now, or throw on one of my Nip+Fab bubble sheet masks and upload a photo alongside the Halloween theme song to try and scrape together a few lols from my followers.) Wow, I didn't realise that actually writing this down sounds even more tragic that it was to actually do, but it does! It felt nice to actually do nothing and just enjoy doing nothing.

4. Anyone I have spoken to in the last month is going to absolutely sick to the back teeth of me banging on about the Calm app, but it really has changed my life! If you live under a stone and don't know about it, it's a mindfulness app that has meditation guides to help with anger, anxiety, stress, self-esteem and happiness. I listen to 'daily calm' as soon as I wake up to focus my intention, then 'daily happiness' before bed to practice gratitude. I've had a really, really tough time in my personal life recently, and they have made such a difference to my general mood. I'm starting to believe everything happens for a reason, and what is meant to be will always find a way, so I'm trusting the process. It definitely beats aimlessly scrolling my timeline before bed!

5. I wrote a whole post about how much I hate the phrase 'a private life is a happy life' because of how much I love being an over-sharer online, but my recent absence from Instagram has made me totally rethink this. As much as I loved sharing my boyfriend on my Instagram because he was such a big part of my life and I spent almost every second with him, I am going to be keeping my next relationship totally under wraps. I don't need to look for validation from strangers on the internet with regards to who I'm spending my time with. I've spent the last month reflecting on so much about myself, especially with regards to my love life. My partner, my family, my friends ALL deserve to have my full attention 100% of the time, not 75% on them and 25% on my phone, because life is about being present! Why would you go out to dinner with someone if you're both gonna sit in silence scrolling on your phones? It sounds ridiculous to type but just look around next time you go out for dinner at how many people are doing it (albeit in September), it's actually quite sad.

6. I feel like I've become so much closer to my friends! I'm not ashamed to say that I spent a LOT of time scrolling Instagram. It was the first thing I did when I woke up, I would browse my feed the whole way into work, while I was waiting for my dinner to cook, the kettle to boil, you get the gist. Because I saw so much of my friends on IG stories or on my feed, I felt like I knew what was going on in their lives and that was enough, but it wasn't- it was through social media. Now I've taken that away, I'm picking up the phone more and actually asking about their weekend instead of just feeling like I knew they had fun cos I saw the Story uploads of their family BBQ, and I've really missed proper belly laughing together about funny things instead of just tagging each other in memes and replying by just 'liking' their comment. 

7. My God I have saved a LOT of money! I've not been bombarded with targeted ads, brand collabs, paid sponsorships or my favourite fashion bloggers doing their 3rd ASOS haul of the week and forcing me to click through and buy my 7th pair of chunky white Nike's because this pair have a little bit of suede of the side and will look better with that denim Weekday dress. My bank account is thriving!

8. I've realised how shit I am at letting things go. I can't even bring myself to delete random screenshots from 2018, never mind photos that actually have a memory attached to them. When I reactivated my account last week, I was scrolling through the content I've posted over the last year, thinking I should probably have a little clearout but I just couldn't bring myself to. Every single photo brings back such a vivid memory of how happy I was at the exact moment in time, so I thought why should I get rid? I guess that's one of the good things about Instagram, it's like my little online scrap book which lets me hold onto them for as long as I want to, and I love that.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

5 Things I Have Learnt During #Lockdown

  1. I’m really enjoying being back home! I’ve moved back to my parents’ house up north due to COVID-19, and it feels so nice to relax and actually spend time with them. I usually come back home for a weekend every couple of months, but it’s always so hectic trying to fit in time with my friends and my family, and everything just feels rushed. I moved to Sheffield for Uni when I was 18, then came back home for a year when I was 23, moved to Yorkshire for a year when I was 24 then went straight from Yorkshire to London so I haven’t spent this long at home for about 5 years. Not to mention I am really appreciating my garden! I spent the weekend sunbathing with an audiobook and I could never have done that on Clapham Common without a) being rudely awoken by a rogue football knocking me out or b) being persuaded into necking 74 cans of G&T and ending up in Infernos. The peace! The quiet! The tranquility!

  2. As much as I’m also enjoying being out of London because it feels good to blow my nose and see that my bogies aren’t black from all the air pollution and I can step outside my house and not have already spent £10 just by breathing. But my GOD I can not wait to go back to spending £17 on a single G&T in the Mayfair Hotel! I am salivating at the thoughts of throwing £45 away on bottomless brunch at Jones & Sons! The thing I love most about living in the capital is that there is always something to go see or do. A new restaurant, a gig, an event, a brunch, a pub quiz, a food market. There is never a reason to be bored and I swear to God when this is over I am never saying no to social plans EVER again. 

  3. People really do love to complain about everything, huh? Like everyone else, my screen time has sky rocketed since lockdown was announced, and it’s become very clear the amount of miserable sods who have something negative to say about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! My God! Have a day off! So what if someone wants to bake banana bread for the 8th day running? Who cares if someone has been smashing out a new 5km PB every other day and wants to upload their Strava report? How is someone making another TikTok using a Gemma Collins voiceover affecting YOUR life in any way? Especially to the point where you’re writing tweets or status updates to try and belittle them? If it makes them happy, then let them be happy. Blowing out someone else’s candle isn’t going to make yours shine brighter. Stop being so bloody negative! Also it makes YOU look boring as fuck.

  4. That brings me on to my next lockdown discovery, I love running! Well, 'love' is probably a bit strong, but it has become such an effective coping mechanism for me throughout the last month. I've never really been a runner, mostly down to the fact I am a slave to f45 which is a strictly treadmill-free zone, plus I ride my bike everywhere instead of walking, so the fact I am out here running 5km's most days (as well as a 10km every Sunday) is a shock to the system! It works for me because it feels good to be out in the fresh air, it fits nicely into my lunch break and I'm concentrating so hard on not going into cardiac arrest that I stop thinking about all my personal problems and it gives my brain a little break from all the overthinking I've been doing. PLUS, contrary to the point above, I love seeing people upload their Strava maps! Such a good motivation boost when I wake up feeling a bit 'cba'. Which is most days. LOL.

  5. And the last realisation. I really don't care about materialistic things atm. It might be due to the fact I've worn the same 7 items of clothing on rotation for the last 5 weeks, but my birthday is coming up next month, and since FOREVER I have wanted a pair of white Balenciaga Triple S trainers. But now I'm just like ??? Do I? They cost the same as a month's rent, they're gonna be wasted being worn in my house and by the time I'm allowed to wear them out of the house it's probably gonna be winter. I think I would rather save the money and put it towards somewhere long haul when it's safe to travel again. (Oh my god... Am I growing up?!)

What have you learnt during lockdown?

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Tips on How to Stay Productive While Working From Home

Totally unrelated image but trying to be optimistic that we will still be able to enjoy summer!

I understand that due to the current climate, this is going to be a topic that has absolutely been done to death, but I always find reading tips that I can actually relate to, make it so much easier to incorporate them into my new found self-isolating lifestyle and not go totally insane. I mean, everyone can read 'get up at 7am every day! Eat a healthy breakfast! Write a list!' but we all know that we're going to have a couple of days where we just think 'CBA.' So my tips for having a WFH day aren't super regimented but (I hope) pretty productive.

Meal Prep
Ok, I'm not talking Sunday hardcore meal prep with your 500 Tupperware boxes, 12 chicken breasts and 700 stems of tenderstem broccoli (like I ever did that anyway, lol), because now we all have a lot more free time to rustle something that actually tastes good, without needing to prep a week of lunches in advance.  But to stop me making my way through the contents of the fridge like Pac-Man every day, I'm making sure I'm roughly planning my meals in advance, so I know what I'm buying from the supermarket and to stop me adding unnecessary junk to my basket. We're buying basics that we can adapt to make different meals, such as chicken, oats, random veggies, eggs, cheese, anything Linda McCartney cos it bangs and then using sauces and spices like pesto and fajita seasoning so we don't get bored.

I've never really had the opportunity to work from home in any of my previous jobs, so it is a pretty big shock to the system when I've gone from my 6am alarm, 6.50am F45 class, 45 min commute to the office, 8 hour day, 45 min commute home, ride my bike back from the tube station, have dinner and go to bed. I mean, I could literally stay in bed all day if I wanted to and work from my laptop there, but I tried it for a day last week (partly cos I don't have a desk in my London flat and partly just cos I could) and I just felt shit, not to mention I couldn't sleep that night because I had literally been in the same hunched over position for 12 hours. Now I'm temporarily living with my boyfriend, we have such a good routine in place to help combat cabin fever. We get up at 7.15am and do 45 mins of yoga (Search Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube) then I start my day at 8am. I eat breakfast sat at the dining table with my laptop while I run thorough emails, and then I stay there and work until lunchtime. We use this time to use our one outdoor exercise allowance in, and try and cram as close to our 10k steps as we can. Then I'll eat lunch at the table with my laptop and work until 5. We try and cram another quick workout in (my trainers from f45 do some amazing quick HIIT workouts on IG live!) have dinner and then watch a couple of episodes of something on Netflix before going to bed. Although I've been at home mostly all day, it makes me feel like I've still had a productive day, just like I would have done if I were to be at the office.

Social Media
As a Social Media Manager, I flitter between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all day for a range of clients. As I'm using my personal phone (I don't have a work phone) I am constantly getting notifications through from my personal accounts, which makes it so easy to get distracted. To combat this, I log out of all my personal accounts in the morning when I start working, and only let myself log back in at the end of the day. No notifications and the effort I need to go to in order to log out of work accounts and into my personal makes it not worth it for a 2 minute scroll, and it means my focus remains on my work accounts all day. So simple but really makes a difference.

I love having an active lifestyle, so I would say it's been quite difficult to adapt from a hardcore f45 workout in the morning and riding my bike everywhere to a slow 45 min yoga/stretching session and a 30 minute walk per day, but now I'm 2 weeks in and more settled into this routine, and I'm really enjoying it! We're currently at a time where when we have no choice but to stay inside for most of the day, so we have no choice but to adapt. It's important to me to find some form of activity that I actually enjoy so I stick to it, and so far I'm really enjoying yoga! I'm on Adrienne's '30 days of yoga' series, so I'm looking forward to seeing the difference in my body as I progress. A lot of my favourite fitness studios are offering amazing workouts throughout the day on Instagram too, so check out Digme, Barry's, F45 Vauxhall, Hot Pod yoga and More Yoga.

Set Goals
If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have noticed me moaning about the lack of sleep I've had recently. I haven't slept properly in about a week, even though I've got fresh bedding, my mattress is comfy af and I've had a productive day work-wise. To me, setting goals don't have to be huge milestones that will take months to hit. With a lot going on in the current climate, I'm trying not to overwhelm myself with more pressure to hit goals, so I'm setting small targets to slowly ease my way in to.

  • My first goals is no phone before bed. I work in social media, so I'm on my phone for a pretty big portion of my working day, so as soon as the clock hits 5pm and I can sign out, that's it for social media for the evening too. I'm hoping this helps me sleep better too.
  • Get back into reading! Now that I don't have a 45 min commute to and from the office, my books have remained untouched. I'm going to try and read for 30 mins a day to get back into the habit. I need to remind my brain how good it feels to look at paper instead of going blind from staring into my computer screen!
  • Start a gratitude journal. I saw one of these in Kikki K aaaaaages ago and I'm gutted I didn't buy it, then I remember that it was literally just a notebook and I can buy one from my local Tesco for a fraction of the price. The point is to write down 3 things you are grateful for each night before bed. It's amazing for helping to find gratitude in the smallest of things, that you may have never taken notice of before, and focus on the positive things happening in an otherwise worrying, scary and difficult time. On tougher days, you can ready it back to remind yourself that you are doing just fine.