22 months to work, dig, tidy and declutter my way to debt freedom

in Debt free diaries
252 replies 26.5K views
Hi all :wave:. I've been around MSE forums for a while (click here for my old neglected diary).

I've had a break from the forums but have decided to wander back. All is well, though, from a debt-busting point of view. Over the past year I have gained a firm control over my finances, largely thanks to sticking steadfastly to using YNAB, which I have become rather obsessive about. I now have a complete year's spending on YNAB and it makes interesting reading. Most importantly, I have learned to a) make a budget and b) stick to it OR c) if other expenses crop up, adjust the budget to cater for it.

In the next couple of posts I will give a round-up of what a year of YNAB has achieved - feel free to read or ignore those posts as you see fit - they are there to help me analyse where I've got to.

I have just been promoted and it comes with a significant pay-rise. But I still have debts. I am trying to be more realistic about the timescale in which I can pay these off rather than plump for a random DFD that is not based on anything concrete. So my current DFD is May 2017 which is in 22 months. This is just paying a specific budgeted amount every month and does not count any extra cash I manage to raise. I will be trying to bring that DFD a bit closer. However, the current forecast includes saving for contingency and covers all expenditure I can think of, so I am feeling comfortable with it :)

Overall, it's been a good year. I really really wish I had adopted this approach to finances 20 years ago - what a different position I would be in! However, all I can do is get on with things as they are - and frankly they could be a lot worse.

So, about my diary title:
  • 22 months to my DFD, as explained above
  • work - the plan is to continue working hard, gain more skills and either get another promotion or a new job in the next couple of years.
  • dig - I am a keen gardener. I love being outside, putting in some physical effort and growing nice things to eat.
  • tidy and declutter - a common theme, I know and one I've failed to achieve for so long. It will be done by the end of 2015.

Wish me luck, folks :).


  • As I said in my first post, I am an avid user of YNAB (You Need a Budget). As a result, I have over the past 12 months, on a not-great salary, done the following:
    • Reduced debts by £5600
    • Sorted out the joint account from being circa £500 overdrawn every month to now being in credit before payday
    • Never, NOT ONCE, used a credit card (I have two, both balance transfers at 0% but no 'spending' card)
    • Have small savings put aside for contingency, Christmas and other spending

    As well as budgeting, I have learned that:
    • I can personally spend very little when I put my mind to it (more of that later)
    • It is indeed possible to get by without a credit card, even when faced with large unexpected car bills and when travelling on business
    • Putting aside an amount every month toward irregular outgoings helps enormously with smoothing out expenditure
    • Getting grocery bills down when you are a family of five more-or-less grown-ups is not easy but do-able
    • It is not worth getting wound up over small spending by others (mainly OH)
    • I am content without going on holiday every year - it's the over-sympathetic reaction of everyone else when I say I'm not going anywhere that's annoying!

    Things I need to do better:
    • Stop dipping occasionally into my own current account overdraft
    • Be more steady about putting aside amounts for annual / irregular bills (car, birthdays, Christmas)
    • Save more towards a contingency fund
    • Raise extra money by selling stuff / doing extra work
    • Reduce the grocery spending a bit more and reduce food wastage

    YNAB has transformed my financial life and I intend to use it forever :).
  • My YNAB records turned up some interesting totals, most of which I knew about I suppose but it's interesting to see it as an annual figure.

    Some are rather scary:
    • Christmas was around £900 (not a surprise and actually somewhat less than previous years!)
    • Birthdays and other gifts was a hair-raising £1350 :eek:. I was aware I spend a lot on my own kids but there's a lot of other gift-giving on nieces, nephews etc that all adds up.
    • Day-trips, weekends away, uni open days, other travel: £1500 - higher than I thought
    • Food and other household goods was £5700 - sounds high but we eat good quality food and there are 5 of us
    • Health and beauty was £1150 - this was mostly hair cut/colour and contact lenses/opticians. Getting my hair done properly is something I have refused to compromise on though I have stretched the time between appointments considerably.

    Some are rather impressively low - this is what I meant in the previous post when I said I can spend very little on myself when I put my mind to it:
    • Coffee shop: £19.95 - over a whole year!. Excludes day-trips though, which is perhaps cheating a bit but my day-trips budget takes care of any expenses while on a trip. This coffee shop category is on my monthly 'luxury' budget and is set to £10 a month but always gets cut back if I've over-spent elsewhere.
    • Books: £65 - I read a LOT so this isn't bad. Largely thanks to my policy of buying mostly second-hand books / swapping with friends.
    • Parking at work: £25 - this is because I generally park a distance away on a side-street rather than in the nearby car-park.
    • Clothes: £112 - over a year, this is great. £70 was in the past couple of months and some of that was money given to me for my birthday.
    • Entertainment £237 - this includes meals out, booze etc so pretty good. Again excludes 'day trips'.
    • Saved by using vouchers: £242 - some of these were presents, others were vouchers from supermarkets etc.

    Over the past year, although some of the spending sounds a lot, I have had to work hard to keep expenses under control - particularly discretionary 'luxury' spending. Overall, my luxury spending was less than £1000 and almost £400 of that was on extra food that I considered to be outside the regular household grocery allowance. I suppose other spending listed above could be considered 'luxury' but to me, it is essential.

    I plan to spend less on a lot of categories over the next year but, with my recent payrise, I am also going to allow myself a little more luxury spending as it is very hard to so rarely buy clothes or treats. Most of the payrise will go towards increased debt repayments but not until January, as I have some household jobs that absolutely need to be done so will be putting the extra cash towards those.

    Anyway, if anyone has read all this, thanks so much for sticking with me :T.
  • Meant to add that on my old diary I promised I'd eat my cardigan if I didn't get the decluttering done by the end of 2015. That gives me less than 6 months to get the job done :eek:.

    Though I guess I could pull a Paddy Ashdown and bake a cardigan cake to eat :bdaycake::D.
  • tattycathtattycath Forumite
    7.2K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts
    Wow! Well done p&f. I shall be following with interest. :)
    GE 36 *MFD may 2043
    MFIT-T5 #60 £136,850.30
    Mortgage overpayments 2019 - £285.96
    2020 Jan-£40-feb-£18.28.march-£25
    Christmas savings card 2020 £20/£100
    Emergency savings £100/£500
    12/3/17 175lb - 06/11/2019 152lb
  • I'm in a bit of a chatty mood this evening obviously, probably as a result of not having written anything for months :D.

    Stuff I am growing to eat this year:
    • Tomatoes - rainbow mixed, craigella, matkotska
    • Cucumber - crystal apple, diva, other unknown ones given to me
    • Courgette - green roundy ones, green long ones, yellow ones (very scientific, I know)
    • Spring onions
    • Spinach
    • Beetroot
    • Runner beans - mostly white lady and a couple of red-flowered ones
    • Mange tout
    • Rocket
    • All kinds of salad leaves which I tend to eat as micro-greens
    • Chilli peppers
    • Inca berries
    • Tomatilloes
    • Garlic
    • Radish
    • Herbs of various sorts
    • Strawberries
    • Raspberries
    • Blueberries
    • Gooseberries
    • Blackcurrants
    • Rhubarb

    Flowers I've grown from seed:
    • Lavender
    • Marigold
    • 2 types of Cosmos
    • Nasturtium
    • China Aster
    • Sunflower
    • Silene
    • Sweet pea
    • Rudbeckia
    • Bergamot
    • Poppy
    • Sweet William

    I seem to have spent a fair bit on the garden this year but most of it has been on 'projects' such as fencing, and fixing up the shed etc. I don't tend to spend much on plants as I grow a lot from seed or from taking cuttings.

    I absolutely love the process of growing things from seed - I always find it amazing how those tiny little seeds can turn into such magnificent plants dripping with produce - it seems like a miracle every time :).
  • And finally ... feel free to say hello or say anything at all :D.

    Ideas about how to raise extra cash would be especially welcome. I really don't enjoy doing ebay but I've been reading some other threads recently (Mr Bloater's new thread on the MFW board kept me up until the late hours) and I think I should at least TRY some more ebaying.

    Will only be ebaying stuff that will sell for more than a tenner, will try to offload other things on local selling sites. Am considering a car boot but not sure I've got the enthusiasm for that. Maybe one last one and then cart the remaining tat to the charity shop / tip.

    I suppose decluttering and money-raising should go hand in hand but sometimes I think it would be easier to just take the whole lot to the charity shop and have done with it :o.
  • in_need_of_directionin_need_of_direction Forumite
    7K Posts
    Ninth Anniversary 1,000 Posts Name Dropper
    I still think dealing with my garden is more of a punishment than eating your cardy.
    Mortgage at 01.01.14 £119,481.83:eek: today £0 Emergency fund £5.5/5.5k & £200/200 cash.:jWeight 24/02/19 14st 7lb now 12stdetermined to stop defining myself by my mistakes. Progress not perfection.:T100%through my 1% mortgage challenge.
  • I still think dealing with my garden is more of a punishment than eating your cardy.

    I doubt it - how's your garden looking, INOD :)?
  • tattycath wrote: »
    Wow! Well done p&f. I shall be following with interest. :)

    Hi Tattycath, thanks for dropping by :). I intend to post more frequently from now on.

    I plan to report back on my general decluttering efforts, as this is my worst failing at the moment :o.

    Will be drawing up some kind of schedule (I do love a list :D) which I hope everyone will make me stick to.
  • so_very_confusedso_very_confused Forumite
    1.1K Posts
    Ninth Anniversary 1,000 Posts Name Dropper PPI Party Pooper
    Hi P and F great diary I will be following it.
    Similar goals to myself in that plan on being debt free Oct 17 and in the meantime have both the house and garden decluttered and shipshape.
    So good luck to you and me!:)
    SCP # 034
    The £1000 emergency fund #59
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