Fiwen takes flight(?)

in Debt free diaries
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fiwen30fiwen30 Forumite
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I had an unpleasant wake-up call recently, in which I realised at the grand old age of 29 I have always been living off the money of others, and that this life-long experience has massively warped my perception of the value of money, and given myself a very undeserved perception of having ‘wealth’. The reality is, there has never been a point in my life when I’ve had more money coming into my bank account, than money going out, but I’ve just been incredibly lucky(?) that someone else has always been parachuting my fall.  I’ve never felt ‘wealthy’, but I’ve always felt ‘secure’.

For context, I’ve never had any good role models for money management growing up, or in my adulthood. I’ve never had a full-time job, but I’ve never needed to - I’ve spent my life financially supported in turn by wealthy grandparents, student finance, benefits, a high-earning (ex)husband, and my mother’s large inheritances from each grandparent. Each one of these financial safety nets has been stripped away - when each grandparent passed away, when my husband left, when I graduated university - and each time I panicked, but through each of these ‘parachute failures’ there had always been a back-up, until now.

My mum’s recent, untimely passing, and her final, small, inheritance to me is the last free ride, the last parachute, the final safety net; and it’s only now that I’m realising what it means to be financially cold and alone in the world, with nothing standing between me and hard, stark reality.

I know it smacks of privilege to be overwhelmed at the realisation that I’m not this ‘rich’ person I thought I was, just because I could always rely on being able to pull out a few hundred, or even thousand, pounds from somewhere to visit friends, get a new tattoo, or hand my debit card over to the vet to pay anything at all in the hopes that it will save a pet, without even asking what it will cost. I have lived my life with vague childhood awareness and then certain adulthood knowledge that there was a solid, comforting cash wall behind me, and so I’ve never needed to worry about paying into that wall.

Every facet of my adult life has been shaped by zero financial responsibility, even as the rest of my life has been mercilessly hammered by every other responsibility under the sun. I have shouldered burdens, stresses, problems, worries, decisions, heartbreaks, of every kind...except financial. I’ve always known in the back of my mind, that even if everything else in my world crumbles and falls to pieces, and I’m left with nothing in this world (and it did, when my husband left), that ‘at least I won’t starve/be made homeless/fall behind on my bills’.

I realise that this knowledge has been a simply enormous, incomprehensible umbrella of privilege that has kept of the worst of the metaphorical rain, and kept me from metaphorically drowning all my life. I recognise the sheer luck that I’ve had to be in this position for as long as I have. But I mourn it and am terrified without it; now that I’ve had the very worst happen, my mum has passed, and that final, small safety net is now mine. It’s taken 29 years, the breakdown of a marriage, and the death of my parent, but I think I’ve finally grown up. And it’s horrible, and scary, and uncomfortable; and I just want more than anything for everything to go back to how it was, for someone else to take care of me, to stick my head in the sand and go back to being a dependent, or being able to depend.

But the reality is, I’ve always lived beyond my means, every single day of my adulthood - I was just able to not see it, or recognise that it was happening, because I was able to draw the difference from cash amounts or the pay checks of others, rather than credit cards or loans.

So here I am, with 9k inherited from my mum - the last ‘free’ money I’ll ever receive, no more parachutes slowing my financial descent, and so I have to try to learn how to fly by myself.


Hi, I’m Fiwen, I’m separated, and I live in an unmarried couple with my partner. We rent, and are hoping to buy together within the next year. We’re child-free, with lots of pets.
As of right now only my partner works, and I’m job hunting. Partner earns approx 22.6k/yr, he has 4.3k in savings, I have 18k to my name.

We each have student loan debt - partner has 10k, I have 21k, he pays bits back from his pay check and I’ve never earns enough to start paying mine back. No other debts or loans.

As a couple, we’ve been collectively losing money each month, as I’ve been paying my half of the bills from my savings, plus my own monthly personal spending, and my partner has been saving a nominal amount each month and then paying off big purchases from his (now cleared) credit card and has his own personal spending.

If we want to buy we’ll be paying most of the deposit from my savings, so until I’m able to find a job, it’s in our best interests as a couple for my partner to start covering 100% of the bills from his income, giving each of us a very frugal personal spending amount, and putting anything left into savings. This should be the best way of protecting my larger amount of savings for a deposit. As my partner moved into my rented house, the bills are in my name - partner will be transferring all his pay check, bar his fixed personal expenses (phone contract, petrol, etc.) and his small personal spending amount, into my account, so I can pay the bills and deposit the remaining into savings.

I’ve been reading and following ‘The Budget Mom’ budgeting methods recently, and have a pretty good grasp on where we’ve been haemorrhaging money - it’s just the implementing it that might be tricky! So this thread is here to keep us accountable, and fingers crossed help us keep heads above water until I can get a job and manage my own income like a real adult.
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Replies

  • blue_eyed_girl123blue_eyed_girl123 Forumite
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    Have you tried a “budgeting account” like M0nz0? You can separate all your money, bills, etc into pots, and at the start of the month you put the necessary into a pot, so you know what you actually have left over? After a few months, if you set up a bills pot with all your direct debits, it also predicts in advance how much you will need to put in. Hope you get on track with your budgeting! I’m 29 minus one week, so understand your need to get your head and money where they need to be 😊. 
  • blue_eyed_girl123blue_eyed_girl123 Forumite
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    Also, have you looked into getting a LISA for your house deposit?
  • fiwen30fiwen30 Forumite
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    Have you tried a “budgeting account” like M0nz0? You can separate all your money, bills, etc into pots, and at the start of the month you put the necessary into a pot, so you know what you actually have left over? After a few months, if you set up a bills pot with all your direct debits, it also predicts in advance how much you will need to put in. Hope you get on track with your budgeting! I’m 29 minus one week, so understand your need to get your head and money where they need to be 😊. 

    Hi blueeyedgirl, thanks for reading!

    We’ve both got Mn’zo accounts, albeit both not in use right now - we used to use them for our personal spending. I might suggest to my partner that he keeps £X in his bank account to cover his personal fixed expenses, since that’s where the DDs come out, and to transfer his personal spending into the Mn’zo account again, so he’s not accidentally over spending. I’ve got bank accounts (current accounts and instant access savers) out the wazoo, so my money is always neatly separated by category.

    We also both have Help To Buy ISAs, mine accounts for 2k of my total money, and my partner has £600 in his and tops it up monthly, when he hasn’t been paying off his credit card.

    I think we’ve both just become used to coasting along buoyed up by my dipping into my ‘safety nets’. It’s been an unpleasant bump to find that we actually both need to become much more frugal, if we want to become home owners.
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  • edited 21 August 2020 at 9:38AM
    fiwen30fiwen30 Forumite
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    edited 21 August 2020 at 9:38AM
    The first bit of good news I’ve had in a very long time - I got a job offer!

    It’s at a hobby&homeware chain store in the next town over, opposite my partner’s workplace, so we’ll be able to carpool in my cheaper car if our shifts ever line up.

    I’ve worked in various retail environments for 10 years, most recently in grocery retail for the first time. The grocery chain treated me appallingly throughout COVID and the death of my mother, so it was a relief to give my notice there. I got so burnt out in the few short months of having to deal with them, that I forgot that I actually enjoy working in retail - just not grocery retail.

    I’m excited to start this new job on Saturday - the store is much more sociable hours, the job is more varied, and there’s opportunity for promotion down the line. It’s an 8 hour contract, but I’m told the hours will be flexed up each week to meet the demands of the business.

    I pulled the sums together again, and at our current IN/OUT on 1 income (partner’s) we are working at a loss of -£446.82/month. This shortfall has been coming out of our deposit money, and this must stop. In order to make up the shortfall, I’ll need to be working 12.8 hours/week to break even on our budget, and stop the haemorrhaging of our deposit money. Needless to say, I’ll be taking all the hours this new job can offer me.

    Will give a break down of our budget in the next post.
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  • edited 18 August 2020 at 4:50PM
    fiwen30fiwen30 Forumite
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    edited 18 August 2020 at 4:50PM
    Monthly Budget.

    Current IN - 1 salary, not including my new job.
    Partner's salary, after tax & deductions - £1583.00

    Total Income - £1583.00



    Current OUT
    Shared Fixed Expenses
    Rent - £475.00
    Oil (saved monthly and bought every few months @ approx £300/fill) - £80.00
    Electric (Power NI) - £65.00
    Landline & Internet (Virgin Media) - £41.00
    Spotify - £ 14.99
    Netflix - £11.99
    Amazon Prime (TV & delivery) - £7.99
    Total Shared Fixed Expenses - £695.97

    Partner’s Personal Fixed Expenses
    Petrol - £120.00
    Mobile phone plan + insurance - £73.00
    Xbox subscription - £3.99
    Google storage plan - £1.59
    Total Partner’s Personal Fixed Expenses - £198.58

    Fiwen30’s Personal Fixed Expenses
    Car insurance (saved monthly, paid annually to totalling approx £500/annum) - £42.00
    Mobile phone - £35.79
    Petrol - £30.00
    Apple storage plan - £13.48
    Total Fiwen30’s Personal Fixed Expenses - £121.27

    Additional Fixed Expenses
    Food (groceries) - £400.00
    Eating out/takeaways -£60.00
    Pets (1 dog, 2 cats, 2 rabbits, 1 hamster) (Food, Medication) - £254.00

    Total Fixed Expenses - £1729.82

    Variable Expenses
    Miscellaneous (household expenses, unexpected necessities, any excess remaining put into savings) - £100.00
    Partner’s Personal Spending - £100.00
    Fiwen30’s Personal Spending - £100.00

    Total Variable Expenses - £300.00

    Total Fixed Expenses + Total Variable Expenses = £2029.82


    Total Income - Total Expenses = -£446.82



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  • edited 18 August 2020 at 4:50PM
    fiwen30fiwen30 Forumite
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    edited 18 August 2020 at 4:50PM
    Bit of an explanation of the budget above - I really hope this doesn’t come across as making excuses for coming in at a minus figure, but it’s a honest account of where these numbers are coming from.
    I’d accept any and all advice on how to reduce these OUT numbers so we’re not in the red each month!

    Rent is incredibly reasonable for our house in our area, I’ve lived here for 4 years and the LL has very kindly kept the rent fixed. We have a good relationship, wherein we have no need to contact each other, and we get along just fine.

    Oil is a faff. We run the heating between September and March, and use about £600 of oil in that time. As it’s a lump payment to fill the tank, we save throughout the year, and overestimate a little to account for fluctuating oil prices, or having to run the heating a bit more in bad winters. 

    We used to spend £50.00 on electric each month (it’s a top-up meter, not a monthly bill). I’m not sure if it’s been a price increase by Power NI, or a usage increase by us. Partner runs a lot of electric-heavy items, we use a tumble drier as have no space to air clothes, and we can only heat water using the immersion heater, if we’re not running the central heating in the summer. We have the immersion heater on a timer when heating water for dishes/showers, and it’s run for about 40 minutes, up to 4 times/week. Any advice on reducing this bill would be much appreciated.

    Partner’s hobbies revolve around his gaming PC, which includes a VR headset, and games consoles, and so we use every inch of our £41.00 Virgin 500mbs fibre broadband package. We already haggled this bill down - it had been £37 for our first 12 months and then shot up to £53. We threatened to leave and they reduced the cost to £41/month for the next 12 months which expires in Feb ‘21. If there’s a way to get that down further, I’m all ears.

    Partner has already cut down his Personal Fixed Expenses quite considerably - he used to subscribe to Disney+, a sports channel, and another games subscription service. His petrol cost is so high as he drives a Jeep - this is a Motability vehicle, so there is no extra insurance, tax, or maintenance cost on the vehicle.

    We are both looking to reduce our phone payments when the contracts end, and don’t plan to upgrade to new handsets.

    I drive a Renault Twingo, so my car tax is free, and it’s economical on petrol. I pay my insurance annually and so save for the next year monthly, and it’s been averaging £500 the past few years.

    The grocery food estimate is on the higher end, as it comes in between £80-£100/week. Partner has medical issues which mean he has to eat a high calorie diet, and I have coeliac disease which means buying £££ gluten-free food. When we had to shield, we started shopping at Tesco using their online delivery service, and not ‘popping out’ to the garage for an extra few items, or grabbing food while we were out, has managed to save us quite a bit already. Any remaining will go back into savings, if we have a few grocery-light weeks.

    The takeaway estimate is also on the higher side, as we would have ordered pizza a couple of times a month at £30.00, however we’ve recently started making our own pizzas at home instead. I don’t think we’ll spend this entire £60.00 every month, and the remaining will go back into savings.

    I’m going to look into swapping the pets onto a slightly lower-than the-current-best quality food, or at least shop around for offers on their current food. I have them on a subscription service at the moment, which saves a bit on full retail price, but if they swap brands that should save a bit. The dog and 1 cat are on life-long medications which total £116.25/month, which accounts for a considerable portion of the Pet cost, but nothing to be done about that I don’t think.

    Miscellaneous variable spending covers all those extra oddity purchases that seem to crop up, and don’t fall under any other umbrella.

    Personal Spending variables are just that - personal allowances to spend on whatever we choose, as fast or as slow as we choose. Zero pressure to save any of it as a couple, though we can if we choose to personally save up for a larger individual Personal Spending goal. If we blow through our Personal Spending amount in the first few days, then tough, we don’t get any more. Zero judgement on whatever we each choose to spend our personal allowances on.
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  • edited 18 August 2020 at 5:47PM
    fiwen30fiwen30 Forumite
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    edited 18 August 2020 at 5:47PM
    Financial goals.

    Short term:
    - Get out of the red! Between a combination of covering the shortfall with enough hours/week at my new job (hopefully, will require a minimum of 12.8hours/week to cover current shortfall), and reducing OUT expenses (looking into Pet costs, potentially reducing utility bills, eventually downgrading phone contracts, cutting back grocery costs, cutting back/out takeaway costs, reducing Partner’s petrol cost if we’re able to carpool).

    Sustain current amount of Housing Deposit - currently 22.3k between the both of us. No dipping into this amount, kept strictly locked down once current monthly shortfall has been dammed - bar extenuating circumstances.


    Medium term: (after the monthly shortfall has been dammed, and we’re in the black again)
    - Begin to save into Sinking Funds. In order, the most pressing of these would be ‘Emergency Vet Fund’, ‘Home Improvements’, ‘Christmas 2021’, ‘Birthdays 2021’, and ‘Other Annual Holidays 2021’ (Valentines, Anniversary, Mother’s/Father’s Day). Aim will be to save for and budget all expected future expenses - leaves no financial surprises, no spending beyond means, no using credit cards for unexpected expenses/purchases.

    - Begin to save into Emergency Funds. Starting goal would be £1000, moving up to 3+ months of monthly expenses, which would currently total £6089.46. This amount would be again kept strictly locked down, for true emergencies only.

    Long term:
    - Over payments on a future mortgage??
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  • Hi , Well done you!! fantastic news on the job  :)
    Sam
    Grocery challenge Feb £107/£100-epic fail due to cake and biscuits
    🌟
  • vampirotoothusvampirotoothus Forumite
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    Hi with the pet costs do you buy the meds from the vet? If you ask they will provide you with a prescription that you can then use to buy on line (you will need to email it to the provider). It worked out lots cheaper doing this for my cat who was on thyroid tablets. Good luck V
  • fiwen30fiwen30 Forumite
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    Hi with the pet costs do you buy the meds from the vet? If you ask they will provide you with a prescription that you can then use to buy on line (you will need to email it to the provider). It worked out lots cheaper doing this for my cat who was on thyroid tablets. Good luck V
    I do yes, thanks for the tip, will ask my vet the next time I have to order.
    Our dog is on 2 types of medication for a heart murmur, and one of our cats takes a calming supplement. As you can see, these account for almost half of our monthly pet costs, so it would be good if we could find those a bit cheaper.
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