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Pre-30 Shaping Up

edited 8 May 2019 at 11:50PM in Debt free diaries
10 replies 1K views
kikkimekikkime Forumite
28 Posts
Second Anniversary
edited 8 May 2019 at 11:50PM in Debt free diaries
Literally pre-30, I turn 29 in a few days. Late to the party but have decided that this is the month to make a proper start shaping up, financially and physically haha. Better late than never I guess.

Brief timeline:
  • Sep 17': Moved to UK (Southwest area) for 1-year full time MSc with £3,000 partial scholarship deducted from total £17,000 paid off in lump sum, exhausting all my previous savings which was initially meant to be the downpayment for property purchase (home country currency). Graduated in October 2018.
  • Jan 18': Started working part-time as a waitress at £7.50/hr then £7.83/hr throughout my study year (Jan-Sept 2018, somewhere between 4-18hours/week). Also obtained a £1,000 one-time grant from a charity body as my professor was very against me working part-time while on a full-time intensive course. Still continued working anyway because I need the money. I also did occasional NHS (hospitals and clinics in Southwest area) translations at at £10/hr for Asian languages. Earned about £3.6k from waitressing and £90 from translation (mostly less than 30min each session, waste of time and effort).
  • Sep 18': Stopped working and was living off savings from part-time job. Full-time job-hunting, sending resumes and travelling out for interviews. Thank goodness for the existence of “16-25” (mature student) railcard.
  • Nov 18': Secured permanent job with Tier 2 visa sponsorship. Funnily enough, more offers kept coming in after I’ve agreed to the first offer (for the record, I agreed in 2 minutes. Just so tired being in a limbo and my attitude was pretty much ‘ah whatever’ at this point)
  • Jan 18': Moved to Southeast UK and reported for work.

What I'm doing starting from May 2019 (cross-posted on my other thread)
-FirstDirect Regular Savers £300/month (I switched from Barclays and am kicking myself for not knowing about MSE's link which will help me earn extra £25 switch bonus)
-Barclays Help to Buy £200/month
-Chip app £600 (£100 for 6 consecutive days during first week of each calendar month) + automatic saves @ 3% rate (for now)

My fixed expenditure is:
-bills (all inclusive) +-£65
-monthly misc budget £400 (transferred £100/week into Monzo account to track and control my spending habits, with roundup amount sent into pot)
-gym DD £35
-I am also giving pocket money to a close relative studying in the UK £100/mth

I'm on a benefit package where my employer pays for my accomodation (excluding bills) and travel expenses. I pay tax for these as well.

Debt-free at the moment. Looking to buy my first property in 4-7 years’ time.
Prior to May 2019, I was obligated (more like threatened) to send most of my salary to my family back home. It’s complicated but that’s okay. I’ve finally cut ties after being held down for over a decade and am now learning to live for myself. I have investments and fixed deposit savings at my home country which pays way higher interest than in the UK somehow (I don’t understand how banks determine interest rates I’ll just leave it at that) and do not intend to touch that money until I officially retire.

Looking forward to interacting with people on this forum and get some useful advice to move forward in life. Cheers!

Right, about the physically shaping up part, I am less than 5ft tall. I started going to gym in 2014 and lost about 10kg after 2 years. I'm fluctuating between 48-52kg at the moment but have seriously been slacking off working out even though I have a gym membership here. And I'm addicted to the big yellow M. Gawd help me.


  • edited 8 May 2019 at 2:32PM
    kikkimekikkime Forumite
    28 Posts
    Second Anniversary
    edited 8 May 2019 at 2:32PM
    Efforts to reduce expenses:
    (ongoing update)

    1. Switching mobile data plan
      I’ve been using Lebara (free SIM included in the university’s newbies welcome pack) data plan £10/30days for 4GB. I realised that I don’t use that much anyway considering that wifi is widely available. I’ve just ordered a new SIM from Smarty, taking the ‘pay first month then get 2nd+3rd+4th-month free’ offer. I might regret this later but their data discount sounds very attractive for now.

    2. Reduce on-the-go coffee purchases
      I got a milk frother (£1 from IKEA) and make my own latte and bring out in Starbucks reusable cup (really it’s not about the brand, where else can you get a £1 cup?) when I’m catching the morning train. I also like to replace coffee with Assam/Earl grey tea to make tea latte. Try it!

      Since I’m mostly at work when I actually need coffee, I brought my Dolce Gusto machine (inherited from ex-flatmate) to my office and buy Nescafe Dolce Gusto coffee pods off Amazon for £9.90 for 3 boxes (can’t find them for this price anymore it seems). When I don’t want 3 boxes of the same flavour, I pop by Poundstretcher and get them for about £3.45/box.

    3. Bring my own lunch
      I’ve been eating out way too much, mostly because I don’t know how to say no to my colleagues. And it has taken its toll on my wallet and my physical fitness no doubt. Being lazy, I usually (well, truth be told I just started last week…) make a big pot enough for about 3-4days and heat up a portion each day to bring to work in a thermo container. Yes I still allow myself to take a break from my own lousy food.

    4. Coupons, discount vouchers, cashbacks, and freebies
      Referring to #3 for when I eat out, I keep receipts which say things such as “30% off your next visit” and limited-time reduced-price meal deal coupons. Okay I don’t actually know the difference between vouchers and coupons. I have also signed up for sh*tloads of loyalty cards stashed in my GooglePay like some monopoly game (also inherited quite a few from my coursemates who went back to their home country after graduation). While trying to be clever with my money, I have to be careful to only use these coupons/vouchers when I need to, not just for the sake of getting discounts/loyalty stamp/reward points and end up spending more instead.

      I have a company phone on the O2 network, so I’m claiming some O2 Priority perks as well. To be honest, I am not at all interested in non-food freebies. I got my free Curve card to keep all my cards in one place, 1% cashback for the first 28 days from card activation for 3 selected stores. So far I've only bought a pack of short grain rice from Waitrose.

    5. Compare before buying
      Mostly for groceries and eating out. I am using a few apps now:
      My Supermarket has helped me with searching for things I need and if it's worth the journey. Of course not every single item is cheaper in one store, and sometimes a certain store may not be selling exactly what I need. The only thing about this app is that sometimes their database is not updated and some things are missing, but largely complete anyway. I will then double-check with my preferred store's own app if that item is really not available. I live near Lidl, Aldi, Sainsbury's, Iceland, and Waitrose. No Tesco nearby. Am gutted because I'd like to have Tesco Club Card haha. I mostly shop at Lidl for obvious reasons.

      Kitchen Pal helps me keep track of what I've got in my fridge and food cabinet. I sometimes forget what I have and end up buying the same item again, or mistakenly assuming that the food is my housemate's when it's actually mine (and we both leave it there till it's gone bad, what a waste). When I randomly pop by the groceries store without a shopping list (bad habit I should stop doing this), I can check what I have and get only the things I need for a certain recipe.

      I still have a student account with Unidays and Studentbean, although the deals aren't necessarily better than the stores' own promotions/offers. I also use apps like Shopmium and GreenJinn to get cashback on selected groceries store items. I tell my friends about these apps but don't give any referral links as I prefer to have cash coming back to me rather than the virtual credit they keep on my purchase account. Currently looking into some deals listed on Quidco.

    6. Always check for discount eligibility
      I've recently applied for a professional body annual membership £167/yr and have been asked to pay £125.25 pro-rata. I paid without questioning and have already set up for direct debit upcoming annual payment but wanted to change my bank details, so I went back to look at the fees again and realised that I could have just paid £42 as I'm a first year graduate. I emailed them about it and immediately got a refund. There is also a discount for second year graduate only applicable to people who have gotten the first year graduate rebate. Lesson learned, at the cost of almost paying an extra £136.25 for the first 2 years of my membership subscription.

    Recent purchases I regret:
    (gawd I hope this list doesn’t grow too fast)

    1. Handbag £50
      I really don’t need it. I use a big laptop bag for work and already have a few small cute ones for going out.

    2. Radley watch £30
      I'd like to believe I got this relatively cheap from eBay. My old watch's battery was dying, I could've just got a replacement for £10.

    3. Coat at discounted price £15
      Just because it was the "last item" in my size. Stupid.

    4. Phone £445 + case £3
      Dropped my old phone in the pool, wouldn't start after drying out in rice for 4 days, fine, got a new phone. Guess what, the old phone decided to come back and say hello (I have "Hello" as my alarm tone) one fine morning at 6am after just 15days of receiving my new phone.

    5. Railcard £30
      This one is just ridiculous. I misplaced my railcard (and season ticket! - 2 days validity left, had to get 2 day return tickets too) and got another one - this time digital. I found the original one on the pocket of one of my coats, 3 weeks later. I have too many coats ← (refer #3)

    Unfortunate but inevitable spending:
    (more than just a bad hair day)

    1. Flight delay without compensation, Uber home £53.13
      My flight back to London from Prague after Easter weekend trip was delayed for 3 hours, but arrived 10 minutes short of 3 hours, so not eligible for compensation. I reached Gatwick after midnight and there wasn't anymore train running to where I live, I had to get Uber and £53.13 is already after I've applied the newbie discount. So much for not having travel insurance.
  • beanieloubeanielou Forumite
    82.1K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Mortgage-free Glee! Name Dropper
    Happy shiny new diary :)
    Lou~ Debt free Wanabe No 55 DF 03/03/14.
    **Credit card debt free 30/06/10~**
    MFW. Finally mortgage free February 2021****
    "A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of" Jane Austen in Mansfield Park.
    ***Fall down seven times,stand up eight*** ~~Japanese proverb.
    It starts with you, it starts from now. *** It is ok to be me.***
    ***Keep plodding***
    Out of debt, out of danger. ***Be the difference.***
  • kikkimekikkime Forumite
    28 Posts
    Second Anniversary
    beanielou wrote: »
    Happy shiny new diary :)

    Hi *waves*
  • Poppy1984Poppy1984 Forumite
    628 Posts
    Fourth Anniversary 500 Posts Name Dropper I've been Money Tipped!
    Hi good luck with your journey! I just wanted to pop by and say thank you for the earl grey latte recommendation I am definitely going to try that! I don't like coffee but always wish I did with all the fancy ones you can get. Also I have downloaded the kitchen pal app you recommended. This will save me time because the way I do it at the moment is write out a stock check before every meal plan. Good luck :)
    19-02-18 Total Debt £30,322
    17-12-21 I'm Debt Free 🎉🎉🎉🎉
  • kikkimekikkime Forumite
    28 Posts
    Second Anniversary
    Poppy1984 wrote: »
    Hi good luck with your journey! I just wanted to pop by and say thank you for the earl grey latte recommendation I am definitely going to try that! I don't like coffee but always wish I did with all the fancy ones you can get. Also I have downloaded the kitchen pal app you recommended. This will save me time because the way I do it at the moment is write out a stock check before every meal plan. Good luck :)

    Hello! How did you like your tea latte? It's called London Fog if you order it at Starbucks. I'm trying to keep track of all my apps at the moment, getting organised!
  • edited 19 May 2019 at 11:43AM
    kikkimekikkime Forumite
    28 Posts
    Second Anniversary
    edited 19 May 2019 at 11:43AM
    Expenses for Week 5/5-11/5

    Eating Out: £61
    Groceries: £13
    Mobile data plan: £8 (switched from a £10/mth plan)
    Travel: £15
    Misc: £2
    Paid credit card statement: £267
    Cashback: £0.06

    All rounded up. It’s my birthday week, cut me some slack ;-P

    Gym sessions: 2

    Calorie count: Goal 1200kcal/day or 8400kcal/week
    5/5/2019 Food 2495kcal, Exercise 257kcal (spin)
    6/5/2019 Food 939kcal, Exercise 257kcal (spin)
    7/5/2019 Food 1101kcal, Exercise 0
    8/5/2019 Food 983kcal, Exercise 0
    9/5/2019 Food 1243kcal, Exercise 0
    10/5/2019 Food 3581kcal, Exercise 0
    11/5/2019 Food 1139kcal, Exercise 0

    Total calorie intake: 11481kcal
    Total exercise: 514kcal
    Goal deviation: +2567kcal (not good at all T_T)

    This week's Changes:

    1. Opened Starling Bank account and currently learning to navigate. I have to admit, I prefer Monzo’s interface.
    2. Signed up for Talk Talk broadband and still waiting for the Welcome Pack a week after, was told that it will arrive 24 hours before I go live on 24th May. Reading the reviews (too late I know), I highly doubt it but we’ll see.

    This week's Blunder:

    Used Curve card to pay for groceries but forgot to check which card I was using. Ended up paying £3 in CZK instead of GBP as it was Transferwise Borderless mode. So much for trying to save £0.03 with the Curve 1% cashback.
  • edited 24 May 2019 at 6:49PM
    kikkimekikkime Forumite
    28 Posts
    Second Anniversary
    edited 24 May 2019 at 6:49PM
    Expenses for Week 12/5-18/5

    Eating Out: £11
    Groceries: £18
    Bills: £37
    Misc: £3
    Cashback: £5.06

    Chip savings: £100 manual save + £6.46 auto save

    Eating out mainly McDonald’s because my local branch is doing this £1.99 meal voucher thingy, and Subway to earn double points. I know I know.

    Gym sessions: 2

    Calorie count: Goal 1200kcal/day or 8400kcal/week
    12/5/2019 Food 910kcal, Exercise 257kcal
    13/5/2019 Food 796kcal, Exercise 0
    14/5/2019 Food 1457kcal, Exercise 198kcal (toning)
    15/5/2019 Food 1705kcal, Exercise 0
    16/5/2019 Food 916kcal, Exercise 0
    17/5/2019 Food 1500kcal, Exercise 0
    18/5/2019 Food 1129kcal, Exercise 0

    Total calorie intake: 8413kcal
    Total exercise: 455kcal
    Goal deviation: -442kcal

    This week's Changes:

    1. Started keeping track of my reimbursable expenses as well, just to get an idea of how much exactly I’m making my employer pay for me (mainly travels, tech equipment and training fees) tax-free excluding benefit package. I have since adjusted my travel plans to get cheaper train tickets to reduce travel expenses claim, even though it’s not a personal loss when I get expensive tickets, but my employer saving money would benefit us all eventually. I have also passed my company iPhone to another staff (so the employer is just getting another SIM package instead of phone + SIM), I’m currently using both work and personal SIMs on my personal phone which is dual SIM.

      April claimed expenses: £369.35
      To date, January to April: £1643.13

    2. Set up a few IFTTTs:
      • Take on the £1 weekly savings challenge (runs every Monday)
      • Put away £2 whenever it rains (I work in the construction industry and weather plays a big part in project progress)
      • Fast food tax (put away £2 everytime I spend at McDonald’s)
      • Put away £1 with each blog post (also a good way to keep track of blogging progress)
      • £50 more spending budget (withdraw from pot) on my birthday because why not

      I know there is also one that documents all expenditure onto Excel but I kinda like doing it myself every week.

    This week's Blunder:

    Paid for groceries using Google Pay and missed out on £0.15 cashback which I would’ve gotten had I paid with Curve. Notice that all my blunders are Curve-related.
  • db2016db2016 Forumite
    341 Posts
    Fifth Anniversary 100 Posts Name Dropper
    you mention "curve"? what is this?

  • kikkimekikkime Forumite
    28 Posts
    Second Anniversary
    db2016 wrote: »
    you mention "curve"? what is this?


    Curve is a card where you can keep all of your cards (credit and debit) in one single card and you control it using their app. Switch to the card you want to use on the app, and the physical card becomes that card. You can use it like how you use regular credit/debit cards, contactless, pin, and cash withdrawal.
  • edited 26 May 2019 at 4:31PM
    kikkimekikkime Forumite
    28 Posts
    Second Anniversary
    edited 26 May 2019 at 4:31PM
    Expenses for Week 19/5-25/5

    Eating Out: £16
    Groceries: £28 (basically bought snacks to share with colleagues)
    Bills: £2
    Skincare: £45.50 (earned 1760 Boots Advantage points)
    Cashback: £3.96

    Extra income:
    Sold old phone £75 (bought for £120 back in 2016)
    First Direct switch bonus £100

    Chip savings: £100 manual save + £18.46 auto save

    Gym sessions: 2

    Calorie count: Goal 1200kcal/day or 8400kcal/week
    19/5/2019 Food 1003kcal, Exercise 138kcal
    20/5/2019 Food 1548kcal, Exercise 257kcal
    21/5/2019 Food 1025kcal, Exercise 0
    22/5/2019 Food 1211kcal, Exercise 0
    23/5/2019 Food 1232kcal, Exercise 0
    24/5/2019 Food 1060kcal, Exercise 0
    25/5/2019 Food 1253kcal, Exercise 0

    Total calorie intake: 8332kcal
    Total exercise: 395kcal
    Goal deviation: -463kcal

    This week's Blunder:
    1. So I now have 2 SIMs on my phone, one personal and one for work. Forgot to switch data plan to my own and was using my work SIM data plan the whole time. Received a notification saying that I have hit 80% of my bundle on the work SIM, of course my employer got the same notification as well. Oops.
    2. Forgot to use my Subway card to collect double points. Missed out 54points.
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