Christmas Shopping on a Budget

I was chatting in a money management group the other day about spending habits and someone mentioned that they had recently finished paying off their debts and found that they kept the positive changes they had made during their time of financial hardship and it made me think about Christmas and how much my habits have changed since I started my debt repayment plan in 2015.

Before 2015 I would spend, spend, spend. I always left my Christmas shopping until the last minute and probably every year would either end up with another loan or put the shopping on my credit cards. Shopping was always based on a form of social pressure; to get the biggest, most expensive presents no matter whether they were fit for purpose. Nearly always people just ended up with whatever gift sets were in the shopping mall I happened to be in. Not very thoughtful gifts and no wonder I ended up in debt (one of the reasons).

I think now I am a much more thoughtful gift buyer even if I don’t gift very often. Being in debt and on a budget makes you recognise just who you should be spending your limited finances on. Firstly I cut my Christmas list down to those who were most important to me and of those remaining I made an agreement with siblings that I would only buy for their children (I have 11 nephews and nieces so still a lot!). Over the last few years that has been reduced again with siblings to a family gift so the 11 has gone to 4.

Another thing I have learnt is to shop over 12 months. I don’t set out to buy something each month and put it away but I do take advantage of year round sales or small, small business owner shops or craft fairs. I found that doing this has made me a more conscious shopper not just with the amount of money being spent but actually matching a gift to a person. As an example pre-2015 as mentioned I would blanket buy gift sets at over-inflated prices that whilst nice, you could change the name on the gift card and no one would be any wiser. Post-2015 people will get gift or a gift bag of small items that I’ve chosen when I’ve seen something that fits them perfectly. There is one present I have this year for my best friend. It’s small, cost me next to nothing but fits her perfectly and is something I know she enjoys very much. And probably 1/20th of what I had paid out in the past yet I believe she will get more lasting enjoyment (I’m being careful about what I say as she reads the blog J )

It’s not all positive. I did find when I started this some people took exception to not receiving a present any more no matter how much I explained my circumstances and while I believe that you don’t buy to receive it did amuse me the amount of people who would say ‘well if you’re not buying me one, I’m not buying you anything either’ but said in an incredibly grumpy way that suggests all they cared for was the gift and not anything else. But also funnily enough, they also turned out to be people that didn’t stick around as friends when they learnt that being good and sticking to a budget meant cutting back on lots of things. You certainly learn who are real friends and who are social friends when you have difficulties.

However this is all their problem and not mine. The majority of people accepted my decisions and are grateful for even a small gift. My dad always talks about it is the simple act of gifting and not the size of the gift and he’s right but when the world is bombarded with advertisements and social pressure at this time of year it’s hard not to fall for it.

I have one more restricted Christmas buying year (2019) and then from 2020 I have no budgeting anymore or rather not as strict as it is now. I am hoping that what the guy in the group said about keeping the good habits learnt is true and that while I may have a few more pounds to spend I won’t be silly with it and will stay a more thoughtful gift buyer.


365 Day Blog challenge Day 177 Change of Plans #365daychallenge

I go back to work tomorrow after 6 sunshine filled days. I was meant to be having a long weekend in Ibiza, Spain after winning a competition but sadly it didn’t work out. I’ve posted numerous blogs on the state of my finances and despite hotel and most food paid for I couldn’t pay for the rest. Plus my passport is about to run out so I would have had to find the £85-ish to renew that first as well.

This is where I get fed up and my mood swings drop. I made the mess thanks to my mental health and I accept that and am taking steps to fix it. I’ve just under another 2 years left before I can be debt free. Most of the time I get by but sometimes I just want to be like everybody else and be spontaneous with trips.

My recently retired boss is on her 2nd holiday this year. Everyone around me is talking holidays even if it’s a week in this country. I’m desperately hoping that we get a bonus this year so I can look at the £99 2 day trips so I can have something. I know the next 2 years will fly by and I’ll be able to make up for everything I feel I miss out on now and I try not to have regrets as what’s done is done.

However lets be positive as that is what this blog page is all about. I could have spent the 6 days feeling sorry for myself and despite what the above paragraphs might say I haven’t done that. Instead I spent the time smashing my to-do list.

I painted the cupboard after saying I would for the last 18 months. I cleaned out the shed, I gave the garden two cuts and it’s now ready to be dug up so I can start looking towards the plans I have when the debts are paid. And I’ve finished and sent in my assignment 12 days early! Today I’ve done very little. I think I deserve at least one day just chilling and reading (although I did take advantage of the library 10p book sale – even my budget can’t argue with that amount)

Tomorrow is back to work although only for 2 days then it’s my weekend again.

Addictive Behaviours

One of my friends has recently battled alcohol addictions and while successful for a while is currently going through a hard time. It’s made me stop and think about how I cope and my own triggers.
While I’ve known and worked with people with drink and drug addictions (apart from some youthly binge drinking) it’s not been an issue for me. However I deal with my stresses by eating and spending. And I struggle to stop. I’m overweight and in debt.
I have a debt management plan. I’ve taken a budgeting course but I still can’t seem to stop spending and on absolute rubbish. But it links in to my food issues.
On Monday I had a job interview. I saw my manager afterwards who said as I had 2 and a half hours left before I was expected back at work to take myself off for a long lunch and a wander around the shops. I was expecting to buy lunch so that’s fine. I’d budgeted for that but I then spent another £1 on some cookies to go with my sandwich. So as well as money that’s a lot of extra calories because of course I ate them. But then I still had 90 minutes left so I thought I’d go somewhere else for a cup of tea. But instead of the cheap cuppa at McDonalds I went to Costa and spent £1.70 instead of £0.99. I then added a chocolate slice! To pass the time…even though I had my phone and a book to pass the time. I could have got a drink and sat in the sunshine.
So that 2 hours cost me nearly an extra £5 in cash & I daren’t add up the calories. And this situation isn’t a one off. I do it to myself all the time. I do it when I’m stressed and I suppose this situation was a de-stress after the interview. But I need to find alternative ways. But ways that don’t cost money as that’s one of the problems. Sometimes I’ve brought sandwiches to work and then gone out to buy a better one from some where else. If there’s £5 in my purse I find it difficult to ignore – I start thinking of the ways I can spend it which then often results in that something being food. It’s like a compulsion.
I’ve been good today. I’ve brought my sandwiches (& will eat them!) and will be walking the first part of my journey home. I only have enough money in my purse to pay for a drink at book club tonight. (I’ve stopped buying the books and use the library so I have managed some changes and there’s another blog posted today about saving money on TV)
If people can work to beat their drink and drugs issues however many hurdles that journey may bring I can stop spending and learn to binge eat fruit not chocolate. I’m learning to be a hypnotherapist so I am planning to record a few scripts and give myself some therapy – see what difference that makes.
But I’m starting today and that’s the key thing. I need to change, this has been my life for 25 years and I need to make some positive changes and move them forward.
I can do this J

Budget, Save, Spend (& Eat)

Last month I wrote about my first month using envelope budgeting and giving myself a weekly allowance. It had worked really well. I’d also tried reducing my sugar intake again working really well.

However for February I decided to tweak things a little. Instead of things like book club etc coming out of my weekly allowance I decided that I would count them as ‘bills’ and then with the remaining money set up a new weekly allowance that would be less. It failed. Badly…

I found that my smaller weekly allowance often left me running out of cash mid-week resulting in me taking out the ‘fun’ money, often forgetting I’d done that and still using the money anyway. I also relied a lot on my debit card rather than having the cash in my purse.

Not being able to see my cash money go down by using the card also meant I wasn’t always aware just how much I’d gone over. I ended up using the £15 I’d done so well to put aside and the £8 I’d made selling some books and I’m still £7 overdrawn as the month ends

Note to self: don’t tweak! Don’t mess with a system that works. 

It had a negative impact on my eating too. I’m an emotional eater so when stressed I head straight to the chocolate aisle. Guess what I’ve been doing a lot of this month??? So back to too much sugar, sweets and candy is expensive so is coming out of the money I don’t have and so very easily we’re back to all the old habits.Not to mention I put on 2 of my much fought for lost pounds. I’ve managed to pull it back the last few days and stop the sugar and lose my 2lbs again but there are definitely lessons to be learnt.

I attended a money course today (1 of 3 sessions) which gave me lots of support and left me feeling positive for once about money. Despite the debt plan I’ve found over the last 12 months I am a terrible budgeter. So from payday on Monday I will be back on my envelopes and over the next few days reviewing my outgoings to see where I could save money. I’ve already downgraded my TV package saving myself £27.50 a month as my old deal had come to an end and was due to go up. The mobile phone is the next to be looked at.

It’s hard and this is a slow work in progress but like any issue accepting you have a problem is the hardest step and getting help while scary often is the best thing you can do. Right time to go assess my phone contract!

Learning lessons about money and stress

It’s been one of those weeks where in previous years I’d have been curled up in a ball now crying  over the constant panic attacks due to money issues.

Earlier in the year I handed my out of control debts to a debt charity to set up a debt management plan for me. I’ve spent years going round in an endless circle of trying to fight my way out of debt but as an emotional shopper and having limited funds it’s been a habit I couldn’t break and eventually I gave in and asked for help.
It’s a massive weight off your shoulders to finally let someone else pick up the strain and look after you. It’s amazing how often we keep going, causing ourselves more misery because it’s so painful to ask for help.

The downside of the debt plan is I’m now always short of money for anything other than essentials. They work out you essential outgoings and then what’s left goes to clear the debts. And that’s fine – it needs to be done but even with a bit of manipulation that they do it does make it hard to have the odd treat or luxury. Or as I’ve seen over the last few weeks fund an emergency,

Two weeks ago the door fell off my fridge! There’s no way round it – in high summer your fridge needs a door. I managed to deal with that one but then this week alone I found out that one of my modules for my university diploma was declined so I have to take another course to finish. That’s £295

My son was told that he needed his passport to start a new job which it turns out he’s lost. As he doesn’t get his first wage for 4 weeks that’s another £80 for me to find. Plus the little luxury I treat myself to each year – a budget trip to a Xmas market – the money is due for it. That’s £200


Or funnily enough not. For the first time maybe ever in my adult life I’ve found myself just getting on with life. NO panic attacks, no stress and anxiety. Just a lovely zen like ‘oh well what will be will be’.

Who is this calm person?

I think it’s linked to my re-found spirituality and the work I’ve done in Life Coaching. And the week has ended with it all working out. My son was able to use his birth certificate to prove his right to work in the UK so we don;t need to worry about passport costs until the new year or beyond. I have too many courses booked to worry about the Diploma until April so that can go in the ‘deal with it later’ pile. And that means that the £200 I have stashed for my holiday can stay for my holiday.

Even as close as the beginning of the year this past 2 weeks would have driven me insane with stress. I’ve smiled and just continues to live my life and enjoy the little things I have.

So lessons learned. Things are not always as bad as they first seem. Sometimes if you put the stress aside the answers are easier than you think 🙂