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.