Slowly but surely

I think I’m getting this IVA lark. I know it’s not rocket science, the payment to the IP goes out in one lump sum and (hopefully) ends up distributed and accounted for in the IVA pot. The rest is for outgoings such as bills, but aaaah, this is where the sticky point is, the expenditure. The idea of budgeting, yes, the count our pennies dilemma. It should be easy, but it isn’t quite that simple.

Why? You ask. Well…for once in our lives we are in the black, no overdraft shouting us us like a big, red angry face and slapping us at the same time, once our wages went in. The thought processes now are, wow we have some money, to spend! No, not in the frivoulous fashion but the, right, what necessities are needed for the oncoming week(s). So, consistently working out our food shopping, sitting down and doing a list, and not just going round the shops and filling the trolley. I think now it is constantly working out in my head every time I go out, what do I need to buy, do I need it, or things that need to be paid into etc, etc. It’s all about the paying your way, and being very strict with yourself about how you balance your finances.

It’s a tough learning curve. I’ve only been in the IVA for a few months, and it is at times quite difficult, you have to learn very quickly to be almost obsessed with how you filter your finances; outgoings and what you have to live with for the following month. I am not one to dwell on what has happened with our finances in the past, it’s done, so I’m dealing with it now the best I can. I won’t also think about how much time we are to be in the IVA for, if I did that it would leave me deflated, knowing I have x amount of time in which to deal with what I’ve been dealing with so far in, and obviously, no doubt, be times along the way when we will have to pay for emergencies (so savings do have to prioritise somewhere in the pot, but again, that’s easier said than done). So, for me, I deal with the IVA one month at a time, that is what keeps me going, for now.

To be honest, none of us knows what holds for our future, no one can predict what can occur in months to come, but for now, we do what we can to keep the status quo and make sure we keep on an even path to where we are heading…a (hopefully) debt free future.

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When the going gets tough…

tough it out 😉

It’s that time of the month ladies and gentlemen – no, not women’s problems, before you ask ;), see I know what you’re all thinking – I’m psychic don’t you know? I’m so good at it, that I can actually predict the lottery numbers, [I wish…]

For most of us its been a long drawn out few weeks since we’ve been paid, so I’m sure we’ve all been delving deep, saving pennies, and trying to cut back on the bare necessities to just. get. through. until. payday. Yes, in those short burst of breaths, its been a long drawn out few weeks (as I said).

With the weather sending chaos around the country (again, yawn), traffic literally came to a standstill, kids were again off of school (much to their delight) and businesses closing (goodbye HMV and Jessops – although surprised Jessops lasted so long) and other businesses potentially losing out on customers (ones probably who haven’t really got any money to spend, hence I’m sure a lot have been using credit to fund in meantime before payday), yes, we’ve all been there.

Yesterday, David Cameron made his speech about the reform of EU Britain with a referendum in 2015. Worryingly with the government making more cuts to families with benefits, housing and also more job losses how will this all impact on us in the next 2, 3-5 years?

There is only one word I can describe what it is like living in this present time: control. It can be lack of, wanting or gaining, losing – and many applicable words, as you please.

Control also covers a wide range of sentiments and issues. Money, welfare, emotions.

We are expected to tough it out, turn a negative into a positive, inspire others to move on, and so forth. But with the world in which we live in, with generations past and for future generations, we can all recall ‘tough‘ times, everyone has a sad story to tell, we aren’t perfect, and not expected to be. Not everyone can be strong though, and when the going get’s real tough, we need a break inbetween to just ‘breathe’.

This is actually one aspect to an IVA that allows us to do just that ‘breathe’ – yes, it’s tough to admit that you’ve got yourself into such a pickle that you can’t see the wood from the trees, or feel stupid that you’ve allowed yourself to be frivoulous, or that unexpected events in your life has taken a real fall and being left with little or nothing. Yes, it is tough that we now have to budget and be restricted for a few more years until the IVA can hopefully be cleared, but within this timeframe we need to tough it out, know where we’re heading and draw on these life experiences and know that one day it will be ‘easy’ – nothing is ever easy, we know that, but at the same token these long, drawn out breaths will allow us to catch a breath and we can all breathe much easier…

Sorry, you’ve had to toughen it out reading this blog post 😉 but hopefully you get my drift? Speaking of which, the white stuff is drifting our way again tomorrow…happy weekend peeps, and for those of you getting paid this week, don’t go mad. Remember, remember to save until December, well I am at least!

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Happy New Year!

Well, I hope it was a happy one for most of you…

Christmas and New Year has come and gone, and we are once again in the swing of things starting where we left off from last year, which means basically budgeting, making sure we have enough money to last us through to the end of the month when we get paid again.

I won’t lie to you, it will be a tough one for the forthcoming couple of weeks, as things had to be paid out for over Christmas, and as much as we didn’t splurge out on gifts this year (as we have done in previous years) its inevitable that you go to your limits, and in this case December was one of the months (I think we can all relate to that).

Budgeting isn’t easy and its certainly not for everyone, but realistically it’s the only saving grace you have to enable you to understand where your money is going to, what you do/don’t need, being savvy with your shopping (and importantly where you are shopping).

Tips (that always seem to help me with the food/household shop), which may help with budgeting:

1. I now very rarely shop at the larger supermarkets (the ‘every little helps’ isn’t helping me much these days in truth) and have now decided to shop in other food stores buying what I need and moving on to the next, now I relish the fact that I have managed to bag more in a shop from these various ones rather than the one major supermarket, (and saving me much needed £££££s) and that definitely ‘helps’.

2. I make a list of the foods that I need, I look through my cupboards, fridge freezer and note down the essentials and what I plan to cook over the coming days, that way I don’t wander round the shops wondering what it is I do need, or buy something I may have already got lurking in the cupboard at the back.

3. Keep a tally of your expenditure each month, I devised an excel chart of my monthly outgoings (much like the IVA expenditure sheet) and note when they are coming out, making sure I have enough to cover all eventualities, (I know that it might seem a bit pedantic, and your probably thinking that its a waste of time, as you know every month the same things will be coming out, and therefore seems a lot of hard work for nowt), but it’s just reassuring to see it in black and white, and to note down the dates when they do come out, so I know that they have been paid as they should, it works for me anyway!

4. It might be worth even having another account to enable you to put across separately for your Direct Debits and an account solely for your food, petrol and other necessities. If possible open up a savings account, and even if you put a standing order for £10 or £20 to go across there as soon your wages go in, that way you don’t ‘miss’ it so to speak and this may help if you find in the forthcoming months you may be short, its surprising sometimes what you can save without fully realising it.

5. And with regards to food shopping never go on an empty stomach – fatal 😉

I hope those little tips help, I’m sure I have more as I go along the way, I’m learning as much as you lot, so I’m sure I’ll have more to share, but for now, this is all I got!

Right, I’m off, need to put my feet up and have a nice cuppa!

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Tis the season to be jolly

Aaah, (or aaaargh, whichever way you look at it) the joy of Christmas – now, now, don’t be rolling your eyes (yes I know you are), don’t be like Scrooge – although I’ll let you off with the miser bit, as we are all on here for a reason! But this is where you do realise that it isn’t all about the money, (isn’t it you cry!?) Christmas is about family. Call me sentimental, but I do love the whole build up to the event, ok there is pressure to provide gifts and all that glitters, but in reality you can enjoy it on a budget.

For one, sales do start before Christmas, so bargains can be had. Hand made presents are more appreciated by some than expensive tat. And if you are hosting the day, get members of the family to contribute by bringing starters, or the desserts and get them to bring a bottle, or two.

Don’t panic about what to wear at the Christmas party, that LBD or suit you had years ago is now probably back in fashion, and by 9pm most will be blind drunk not to even notice what you’re wearing. So don’t waste money on getting new garb.

When the kids are harping on about what they really want for Christmas, don’t feel pressurised to get it for them, if they’re young enough they won’t notice, and if they’re old enough not to be fobbed off, then explain things are really tight this year, it will no doubt fall on deaf ears, and you’ll get it in the ear about how much they’ll miss out not having the latest gadget, but tough, you won’t have to pay out for the next few years on the back end of credit for it, so remember that, and why you’re here in the first place.

At the end of the day just enjoy the time off work, really savour the rest that (hopefully) you’ll get, and be canny with the leftovers and make bubble and squeak, turkey pies etc. and ring in the New Year with that bottle of red/white that Uncle Pete left behind.

When the decorations are up and you’re singing along to Wizzard, it’s actually a very heartwarming and nostalgic feeling, and with all the stresses that family at Christmas time can bring, for a small portion of the time, we can enjoy the company of others, that log fire, and reruns of White Christmas and a Wonderful Life, it then makes it very homely indeed.

So on that note, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a credit free New Year!

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Lost in Translation

My mother, who is a pensioner, was going about her business the other day putting money into a savings account with her long-standing high street bank, when the cashier asked her if she’d like a credit card…

Now I’m obviously not one to argue with regards to credit cards, I’ve been there too often to know that they are in most cases a hazard to one’s health – yes they are useful in emergencies, but ’emergencies’ entail a retail spree and a holiday added to it.

My mother in all her years has never owned a credit card (now why couldn’t I have learnt from her!?) but she accepted the cashiers offer of the card and set about her merry way. A few days later she received her new credit card and explained to me (as she’s never owned one), it will just be for emergencies and no frivoulous spending. And I truly believe her, she has never been one for spending money she doesn’t have, always saved and can always say no. See, she’s too good for her own good! Good for her!

She then received a letter from the bank regarding her direct debit for her credit card should it be in use, explaining how much they take per month based on the balance. So as she’d never owned a credit card she ended up confusing herself thinking is it a bank account – cue a trip to the bank to ease her mind. The ‘helpful’ bank clerk cleared up the confusion by saying it wasn’t and my mother then preceded to say that well, she really doesn’t need the card after all, but the clerk insisted that she keep the card ‘for emergencies, you never know what can crop up in the future’ – to a degree I can understand this sentiment, but on the other hand I am furious that my mother, a pensioner with only her pension as an ‘income’ has been ‘forced/cajoled/fooled – add your own words here’ by a bank who have obviously looked at her ‘non-credit’ history and still gave her a card.

It is a good job that my mother isn’t the spending kind on credit. She used to own a John England catalogue (remember them?!) in the 80s and that was it, (and she of course had a mortgage and utility bills, but never loans/overdrafts/cards), but if she’d been one that did spend, spend, spend, then it would have had serious implications on her credit history, her inability to perhaps pay the card in full every month or keep up the repayments and then what, because some bank thought ‘oooh, another consumer on our credit file/bonus/target’ sheet for the week…and it would have been seen as her fault as she agreed to it in the first place, but had she not been offered and ‘forced’ to keep the card then we wouldn’t have been having the conversation.

I was of course incensed, banks should take responsibility on issues such as freely giving these cards out like sweets. I’m not ageist and I’m not saying my mother is naive, she may well need the card if anything emergent was to happen, and I know she would herself act responsibly on having the credit card. I just know from first hand experience, and also from other peoples experiences, who were either retired or going to retire, and they had this almighty grey (no, black) cloud hanging so heavy over them, as they had X amount still to pay on their mortgage or loan etc, and they were worried pig-sick on how were they ever going to find the money to pay it all back. It was a frightening realisation that I would never like to envisage near to retirement age, hence why I’m trying to learn the hard way and hopefully never worry about that overhanging credit cloud.

To a degree I want to go and complain to the staff at the bank, but would it matter, and anyway, I shall have another ‘word’ with my mother and maybe get her to cut the card up, she’s done well throughout all these years not to have one, so it’s not like she’d miss it…

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Learning the hard way…

Month 3 and things are beginning to become a little harder, due in part with my reduced earnings going on Statutory Maternity Pay, so its really having to really count the pennies from now on in.

I have at this moment £0.28p to my name until I get paid this week – not good. I have budgeted. but I have had to pay out on things that normally wouldn’t crop up, sod’s law, but yes this is how I envisioned the whole IVA ‘life’ so I am no way stressed out or worried, infact the opposite! I have learnt to shop accordingly to our needs, and little things like being the blog flavour of the month on the IVA Blogs I had a lovely gift card sent from Andy Davie which helped buy formula milk (I can easily spend £50-£60 just on formula milk, ridiculous huh!) but every little helps, and it did.

With Christmas coming up things will obviously be lean, we always host Christmas at our home, and guests will have to contribute towards it this year, rightly so in my opinion. But yes, a little more forethought will go into present buying, food buying and counting down the days to Christmas and forthcoming paydays.

So not much to report in the grand scheme of things, but all in all we’re getting there…slowly!

Happy Halloween peeps! See you in Month 4!

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Counting the costs

It’s bordering on obsession, money I mean – yes, don’t we all, but not in the fact of how I make my money, it’s how I’m spending it, and its not in the splurge kind of way that I was once used to…oh no, this IVA thing has got me literally counting every penny, and it’s exhausting! Ok I’m a tad over-exaggerating, but I am more noticeably forcing my hand not to go mad when food shopping, shopping for the kids etc, etc. But that’s a good thing, right?

Yes and no. In one way I like to compare prices on products, squeal (ok smile then), when I come across a bargain, and know that I did good at checkout. On the other hand I am forever seeing stuff that I really, really want (no its a need, honest guv!) but I have to remember how I got myself in this mess in the first place, and inevitably I walk away, as of course I can’t afford said luxury and feel slightly peeved, but have a hidden satisfaction that actually by the time I get home I’m already over it or have got distracted by something else that I really, really, REALLY do need…yes like getting a life! (Who said that?!)

Yes, I may have only £20 if that to my name at the end of the month, but do you know what I don’t have to cringe when the credit card statements fall at my front door and knowing/seeing that the debt has increased with yet more added interest, and that I don’t have said overdraft giving me the red eye that is swallowing all my wages as soon as it goes in the bank, ok I still have to make that payment to the IVA so it’s in no way like I don’t have the debt, it’s just not staring at me and giving me the slap across the face every month, just to show me how reckless I have been.

It’s only been month two, and I have another 61 months (or thereabouts) to plough through yet, with a lot of commitments to upkeep inbetween then. No one can predict what happens from month to month, but I hope that each month I chisel away with each IVA payment I will look back in say 12, 24, 36 months and so on and so forth and relish in the fact that I am now a window shopper and not a frivolous one, with cash in the bank and a smile on my face (ok, gritted teeth – I’m kidding), and have learnt a valuable lesson or two, or three – see I can’t stop counting…see you in month three…ok I’ll stop it now!

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Remind yourselves…

…every. single. day. for your loved ones and hold them close to your heart.

Never ever think that your materialistic ‘wealth’ is equally as important (I should hope it isn’t – I’d be asking yourself some serious questions if so), and if it is in someway does, then much like us then that is something we have in common – acts of selfishness, and it doesn’t look pretty, and it definitely doesn’t cuddle up or keep you warm at night.

Materialistic ‘attachments’ as I call it, lasts all of ooh, literally five minutes, to satisfy our craving for ‘I really want/need/must have that’ and we splurge, flaunt, and love the fact that we can obtain the newest of everything, or try to outdo the Jones’ next door. It’s not big and it certainly isn’t clever – fine, if you’re a multi-billionaire, but we should remind ourselves that we live in a (sort of) realistic world, for the likes of you and me, it wears thin over time and so does your bank balance.

Getting back to my first paragraph – yes it started a bit deep, and I am getting to my point (I know it does seems self-explanatory), but I want to tell you a little story that I would like to share.

A newborn baby came into this world 18 days ago, a much wanted fourth child, another boy to his three elder brothers, but it immediately came to light that he was all but well. He was born with an incurable skin disease: Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). EB is a rare genetic skin disease (affecting only 1 out of 50,000 births). In this condition, there is a defect in the connective tissue of the skin and mucous membranes that causes the skin to be so fragile that the slightest friction, minor injury, heat, rubbing, or scratching causes severe blistering — inside (such as the mouth, stomach, esophagus) and outside the body. These blisters can cause serious, sometimes fatal problems, when they become infected. The systemic and repetitive nature of the blistering leads to blindness, swallowing and breathing difficulties, scarring, infection, disfigurement, disability and dehydration. Ultimately, such devastating effects can produce a high rate of mortality. In fact, 87% of babies born with one of the more severe forms of EB do not live more than 12 months. There is NO cure for this horrific disease. Sufferers of EB have compared the sores with third-degree burns. They live in unthinkable pain.

Can you imagine the amount of suffering that this newborn baby is going through? To not know anything else but pain since he was born, to my mind it is just heartbreakingly sad.

The family are based in the US, and there is a fund that has been set up for baby Easton – his medical care is unbelievably extortionate due to the level of care in rebandaging him (each rebandaging takes on average 3.5 hours) as well as other strong medication he is on. The latest update is that he is very, very ill due to an infection, despite blood transfusions to combat the low platelets in his blood count it seems that he is struggling to regain his strength in his already fragile body, from the outset it’s not looking positive, but we can all but live in hope that by a love of God that he pulls through, but then what, a continued life of pain? It is not fair.

My point of raising this story is that wherever we are in the world, from all walks of life, strangers who come together in need, and genuinely, heartwarmingly want to know, and give however little, to help this baby and his family (whom we’ve never met), that it does and will make a HUGE difference to him, his family, friends and to all of us who now know of this precious little boy.

I know that most of us are counting the pennies, but if you have read baby Easton’s heartbreaking story, and want to give a small token towards his medical care, please click on the above link to his website for the fund and share.

As I have said at the beginning, remind yourselves of what is important in this world, and please keep baby Easton in your thoughts – this baby needs a miracle (or more so, a cure) he deserves a good, happy, healthy life with his loved ones.

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Food, glorious food!

Food…we can’t live without it. Fact.

Supermarkets are making a sizeable profit despite their two for one’s or three’s (which annoy me slightly as actually I don’t need two or three – as the extras normally go past their best by date before I’ve gotten a chance to eat them), the inflation on types of food has gone up as much as 18% in the past two years, and I’m also guessing the farmers don’t get these profit margins, as the well-known supermarkets squeeze every little drop out of them.

Once where a trolley load of food would cost me £60-70 a few years back, nowadays just buy me a quarter of that, ridiculous. The other issue I have is the amount of foods stocked on the shelves, I only want one particular item of food, don’t give me a 100 choices, I’ve slowly started to detest the larger supermarkets in favour of the Lidl’s, Aldi and Icelands on certain products, (the shameful snob in me never thought I’d set foot in those places – silly eh), but they are not to be knocked at, their food is in some respects fresher (Lidl’s fruit and veg for one), nappies are particularly good (and cheaper) from Aldi’s, and some frozen bits from Iceland do nicely stocked up in the chest freezer.

I did for a while shop exclusively in M&S and Waitrose for food (Waitrose in particular always had a good food selection) – I can’t fault their food at all – but you can guess it wasn’t sustainable due to them being very costly, so that didn’t last too long!

So, I am carefully budgeting for food, as it had always been our most expensive outgoings each month, and it will need to be consistent during the term of the IVA.

I remember back in the days when all we had was a Sainsbury’s and that was it, shopping for food consisted on going to the greengrocers, then onto the butchers and then the bakers. Oh how times have changed!

The kid will be returning to school soon so the rigmarole of doing the pack lunches everyday will commence once more – oh the joy!

And as much as I love watching the cookery programmes, despite them all saying how easy, quick, great it is, I’ve only tried a couple of recipes – it just seems way too much effort!

Made my very first payment towards my IVA this morning, one down, 62 more to go! Seems like an age, and it will at various times I’m sure, but I can tick those months off and countdown to debt free future, and my what a delicious thought that is!

I’ll now get back to watching the British Bake Off! Evening all!

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Hello again!

And now that title has me singing the lyrics to Neil Diamond’s song of the same title…damn.

Yes, I did say monthly posts didn’t I in my previous posting, but yet second day in and I’m blogging again!

Well, before you think I have too much time on my hands, you’ll be wrong, I have kids, but this is an outlet to just think of something else apart from them, god knows I love them to bits, but as a parent your no longer known by your own name anymore, your now so and so’s mummy, my existence as a named person has fallen by the wayside, but that’s ok with me, being mummy is a blessing and one that makes you remember never to be selfish about what YOU want all the time. Ok, I’ve gone off on a tangent here, but as you can see I don’t get out a lot, being currently on maternity leave my vocabulary is limited to babble speak and telling the other kid not to do (fill in missing gaps here) or saying please do (again, word as you please), so hopefully by continuing with my postings I can keep my mind sane and hopefully my grammar isn’t too bad (I’ll let the literate amongst you tell me otherwise!)

Anyway, from Friday’s conclusion that the creditors agreed to our proposal is somewhat like those feelings you have post wedding, or after Christmas – yes, the anti-climax feeling. All the worry, stress, anxiety, hard work that you put into it, the event has happened and for it to go smoothly, and then…carry on as normal.

That’s how I’m feeling, the reality of it has sunk in, that we will be in this agreement for the next 63 months, which seems like a life sentence. They’ll be no big splurges, we are having to really tighten our belts. It’s that struggle of survival mode for the foreseeable future, and in a way I’m secretly happy about that, I like a challenge and boy, it’s a huge one.

So for me personally I don’t want to view it negatively that we’ve entered an IVA – the situation we already found ourselves pre-IVA was becoming very difficult financially, despite us being always being able to make our repayments, the standard of living with the food and petrol prices continuing to increase (but not our income) we would have come to a point of no return, so the alternative being that we’d tackle the situation now, sooner rather than later.

I’m sure everyone who finds themselves in a situation where it’s uncomfortable, we must remember that there are other people worse off than us, or those who we look over at thinking they’ve obviously got it good with their; new car(s), new extension, always seemingly on holidays, or going out, but have they saved, or is it all on credit, and therefore could be in the same financial situation as us?

I promise my posts won’t always been ‘heavy’ in thought, although I do get a bit philosophical at times, I will also have some light hearted moments inbetween.

I baked homemade apple pie today, apples taken from my tree in the back garden, so some frugality has begun (!) – but it turned out awful, although the kid liked it, (no accounting for taste obviously) but at least some of it got eaten…

Oh and I managed to bag up £28.48 worth of pennies and five pence that were languishing in a jar – see every penny counts as ‘they’ say!

See, I’m learning already…

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