Half a world away

This is my second attempt at keeping a DFW diary. The first fell by the wayside quickly.

I've had several LBMs over the years and recently had another. Not illuminating the state of my finances as I've been keeping a relatively steady watch on them. However, when I checked back on this forum at my first diary attempt I saw that my total debt was under £13k in 2015, and it now sits at just over £31k. I can trace where that debt has come from and it wasn't major spending so that is some consolation. The majority of my debt is older and already defaulted years ago, and came as a result of living beyond my means for many years. I have been gradually paying this off over the years but was a single parent on benefits, or self employed part time, so money was always tight.

Since 2015 I graduated with an undergraduate degree in education, and started and then dropped out of a postgraduate university course which proved difficult to juggle the travel and childcare as a single parent with no family support. This left me with a £7k student finance overpayment.
I started working as a self employed childminder while I was deciding whether to go on to do teacher training, and was finally earning a reasonable amount and had improved my credit to the point where I could afford a car on finance. Many of the children I looked after relied on me to collect and drop them off so a reliable vehicle was an essential at that time. And their contracts easily paid for the £300 a month for the car. It made such a change to be able to treat my children or myself that I hadn't started saving any emergency fund, I was just spending, and then the pandemic struck and I had no work for 9 months. The car company would only let me reschedule 3 monthly payments so the car had to be surrendered and was sold at a loss at auction leaving me with a £3k debt to the car company.
Stupidly I took out the government bounceback loan of £5k as my business was under 1 year old and had no previous tax returns to get any other support. Once I was able to reopen I had lost so many parents who had changed jobs, started working from home, or become stay at home parents that I had to rethink what to do.
I still owe the majority of this money.

After my business closed I made the decision to go back to university and retrain as a radiographer and eventually a sonographer (ultrasound). It was my original plan for university but my children were much younger then and I chose to study at a closer university which offered a much more limited selection of courses. My dream has always been to move to New Zealand and work there for a couple of years or maybe even stay permanently, but it felt like something I would never get close to achieving. I turned 42 last month and my time is running out to be accepted based on the age requirements. After doing some research I have a 5-10 year plan (of sorts).
  1. Qualify as a radiographer
  2. Work for a year to get some experience of working independently
  3. Ultrasound training for a year
  4. Work for a first year as a sonographer to get experience
  5. Work for a second year as a sonographer to get experience
  6. Apply for jobs/visas in New Zealand - must have a job offer before I can apply for visas
I feel better to have a plan in place and know what I'm working towards. However, my finances are not in a situation where this plan will work out. I have estimated that I will need approx. £20k - £30k saved up to move to NZ. This needs to cover moving expenses and renting a house for the first few months until my wages even out from whatever job I get.

Of course, I also need to pay off all of my debt before I go. So I'm looking at needing £50k to £60k in 5 or 6 years. Half saved and half paid off my debts. I can't go for any kind of insolvency as it jeopardises my HCPC registration and may mean I can't start working as a radiographer until the insolvency is discharged. I'm due to graduate in July 2023. Worst case scenario I can't go to NZ, but I've paid off all my debts, improved my credit and have a deposit saved to buy my housing association house.

I know I am a spendthrift, I buy things without consideration and my biggest downfall is buying takeaways and snacks from the local shop. I loathe food shopping. So I don't do it very well. This means on days when I'm exhausted from hospital placement or work I will order takeaway or we'll get meal deals from T3sc0. Looking into my budget record over the 3 months between June and August 2022 I spent £1167 on takeaways or eating out, which is a disgusting amount of money. I find it almost impossible to hit any NSD/SFD challenge, I'll 'pop' to the shop to get some milk for breakfast and come home with sweets for everyone too. Or I'll go to the shop and get home and think 'why on Earth did I need to do that?' It's almost like a habit now. Even while writing this a part of my brain is thinking I should pop to get something for lunch :/

I need to change my ways or I'll still be here in 10 years bitterly moaning about my regrets and the things I missed out on when I was younger. I feel like success is half a world away, but if I succeed I may be living half a world away.

Currently, I'm working 1 day a week on a Saturday. I'm about to start year 3 of my radiography degree so that means lectures or placement blocks which limits my availability for working extra shifts. Of course, this is also limiting any time I can spend with my children and we're still barely scraping by financially. I'm also short on my placement hours and need to fit in extra so that I don't graduate late, but with limited childcare availability in my area I'm struggling. So far, I have thought of 2 options, each with financial implications:
  1. Stop working on Saturdays during placement blocks, this would allow me to do placement on the Saturday instead, but I'd lose the wages
  2. Continue working the Saturdays, but do extra placement in the evenings between 8pm and 11pm when my youngest is in bed. My teen can then babysit but I need to buy a car as we live in a dodgy area and the bus stop is a fair walk. 
The car is seeming a necessity anyway as my aunt is elderly and lives about 15 miles away, her eyesight is going and I feel like she will need more support soon. My last car failed the MOT badly and had to be scrapped and I was trying to do without.

My health is taking a hit due to stress, plus I'm overweight (that's where the takeaway/sweetie money has gone), have no energy, have had to take days off placement that I can't afford to miss because I feel terrible when I get up because I don't sleep well despite medication from the GP. Phew, it's exhausting and I'm sure it's all self-inflicted. Lots of things need to change, and they need to change from now onwards.

With costs set to rise even higher I feel like I'm setting myself up for an impossible challenge. But I'm hoping that by writing in this diary regularly - maybe not daily - and making a significant effort I will see improvements, learn to save money and have a good chunk of my debts paid off.


Debt in 2015 was £13k
Debt now is £31.5k
5 year plan needs debts paid off and £30k saved
Limited to how much I can work extra shifts due to uni
Can't go for insolvency or DMP
I suck with money and need to not suck
Restarted my journey toward financial stability on 1st September 2021 - I will succeed!

Total debt - £39888.13 @ 31.08.21

Current debt - £21270.51 @ 29.12.2023
Paid to date: £18617.62

DFD: Aiming for end of 2028


  • Welcome and good luck. First challenge this week I think is to eat what you can from what you already have home. If you can meal plan and cook larger sized meals you can take leftovers for lunch, or have ready meals for when you are running late. V x

  • cybertortoise
    cybertortoise Posts: 269 Forumite
    First Anniversary Name Dropper Photogenic Combo Breaker
    edited 22 October 2022 at 11:59AM
    List of debts, balances correct as of 22/10/22. Priority debts shown in bold.
    1. Universal credit budgeting advance - £67.63 - only 1 payments left
    2. Three - £100
    3. Three - £110
    4. Lowell - £125
    5. Lowell - £198 - settlement arranged saving £54
    6. Lantern - £210
    7. Lowell - £235
    8. Cabot - £240
    9. Lowell - £265
    10. Lowell - £280
    11. Cabot - £320
    12. Capital One - £365
    13. Lowell - £390
    14. Lowell - £430
    15. Lowell - £440
    16. Brighthouse - £483.43
    17. Lowell - £500
    18. Anglian Water CCJ - £506
    19. Studio - £595
    20. Lowell - £615
    21. Lowell - £670
    22. Universal credit overpayment - £708.61
    23. Lowell - £715
    24. Cabot - £855
    25. LCS - £920
    26. Tax credits overpayment - £2229
    27. Student loans childcare grant overpayment - £2655
    28. Specialist Motor Finance - £3139.45
    29. Starling - £4999
    30. Student loans postgraduate overpayment - £7070
    31. Lowell - £10 - Paid off
    32. Lowell - £45 - Paid off
    33. Creditspring - £110 - Paid off
    34. Capital One - £160 - Paid off
    35. CCI - £183.96 - Paid off
    36. Lowell - £105 - F&F settlement paid off
    37. Lowell - £200 - F&F settlement paid off
    Total balance - £31558.85
    Balance now - £30436.12

    Restarted my journey toward financial stability on 1st September 2021 - I will succeed!

    Total debt - £39888.13 @ 31.08.21

    Current debt - £21270.51 @ 29.12.2023
    Paid to date: £18617.62

    DFD: Aiming for end of 2028
  • Ok. So it sounds like you have a fair few challenges ahead there. But well done on taking the first steps and realising that something has to change.

    Tackling some of the smaller changes first might just help make the bigger changes easier to handle.

    I agree that starting with the food and shopping habits will probably make a massive improvement for a start not only with the budget but also with your health and your energy levels.

    Make a weekly list of meals for the week. It makes shopping and planning mealtimes much easier. On busy days make meals that can be put in the slow cooker so that the majority of the meal is ready when you get home (also has the benefit if using cheaper cuts of meat for slow cooking)

    Batch cooking helps keep both costs down and prep time down in the longer term.

    To meet your goal of £50k-£60k in 5 years you need to be putting aside or paying off between £10k-£12k each year. That's £830 to £1000 a month. Is that realistic given your current situation?

  • @RelievedSheff Hi. Nope not at all realistic currently.
    After my uni course is finished I will be working full time and earning a higher wage with the option of overtime on the side to increase my income. Also when I have completed the ultrasound course, I will be on a higher wage still with the option again of overtime.
    I think my best bet for the next year is to focus on maintaining the payments I am making to my debts, reducing outgoings so that any spare can pay off my debts a little faster and then when I've got higher income I can focus on really saving and paying off in a major way. Plus I'll be more used to being careful with money and living on a lower, stricter budget when my income does increase.
    I definitely need to make more use of the slow cooker and plan on batch cooking once I've been paid at the end of the month as it really saved me time to have something in the fridge that just needed to be reheated. Thanks for the tips!

    Restarted my journey toward financial stability on 1st September 2021 - I will succeed!

    Total debt - £39888.13 @ 31.08.21

    Current debt - £21270.51 @ 29.12.2023
    Paid to date: £18617.62

    DFD: Aiming for end of 2028
  • foxgloves
    foxgloves Posts: 11,073 Forumite
    First Post Name Dropper First Anniversary
    edited 13 September 2022 at 5:53PM
    Hello Cybertortoise, Yes, as you have already identified, that £1000+ is an insane amount to be spending on takeaways, etc, when you have a lot of debts to pay. I wouldn't suggest you never eat one again, but maybe 4 times a year while you get on top of your financial situation with a realistic budget..That's what we've done as it soon became obvious once we'd started debt-busting that a weekly or twice weekly takeaway habit wasn't going to be compatible with a workable budget.
    What seems to be missing on the food front here is any element of planning, & I can tell you from experience that there is a lot of money to be saved here. That old school subject back in the 1950s to 70s wasn't called 'Home Economics' for nothing! I'm not speaking in judgement here as although I may be a reformed character these days, I came to budgeting quite late in life (in my early 40s) & was a shocking fritterer of money before that. 
    Meal planning is going to be key here. Do this in detail & be realistic. It's pointless writing 'lentil soup' because it's cheap against 3 days if the thought of it by Day 2 has you reaching for the takeaway leaflets. Plan a week of main meals, then what you will have for lunch (taking packed lunches on work days btw, saved us a shocking £2k a year!!) & breakfast. Write your shopping list from this plan, crossing off any item you find you already have in stock. And stick to the list when you go shopping. Even yellow-stickered reduced items are just money-wasters if you don't need them or they're little snacky bits & bobs which won't make a meal. The amount you budget for groceries per month will of course depend on your overall available budget. If you have £50 a week (just as an example), it's pointless planning meals which will instantly put you over budget. Cooking from scratch & batch cooking is a good potential money saver because it provides home made ready meals in the freezer on days where you have little time or inclination to cook.
    There are lots of changes to be made here, but even longstanding bad money habits can be changed for new positive ones. Cheering you on anyway.

    "For each of our actions there are only consequences" (James Lovelock)"For in the true nature of things......every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold & silver" (Martin Luther King Jnr)
  • Good luck it’s good you have a plan.

    just a little tip from me - we buy as much basics as we can from @ldi and then our must have branded stuff from t£sco, instead of everything from t£sco.  It’s saving my family of 3 around £15 a week.  Bit of a pain doing 2 supermarket shops but the savings pay for my weekly petrol! 
    Lightbulb moment - 17/08/2017 £17,033.  Current CC debt £1400 DFD 31/7/24 5 months to go…. 16 weeks 

  • In order to make my 5 year plan a reality I will:

    Reduce my grocery spending

    • Plan meals
    • Use what is in the house already
    • Research ways to save money on food
    • Not buy takeaways but allow one every 2 months IF saved up for
    • Take my lunch to work

    Reduce my household spending

    • Watch the gas and electricity usage – new meters Friday
    • Change light bulbs / fittings for energy efficient ones
    • Be aware of how much each device uses
    • Turn off standby mode
    • Charge devices at work if possible
    • Prepare for winter
    • Aim to pay for insurance etc in one go then save each month for next time
    • Get rid of any unnecessary direct debits and subscriptions
    • Apply for any heating grants available – EPC requested from housing association

    Reduce my debt and repair my credit

    • Pay off open accounts over closed ones
    • Do not apply for credit
    • Snowball payments when possible
    • Prioritise debt repayments


    • Ensure money is set aside for clothes and shoes and school uniform
    • Ensure enough money is set aside for travel expenses
    • Debts > Bills > Savings > everything else
    • Separate money into pots so it can’t accidentally be spent then at the end of the month transfer any money left in that pot to debt repayments
    Increase income
    • Check out the board for boosting income and see what I can do from there - Swagbucks joined
    • Ask for extra shifts if not placement/lectures - I can do 9.30 til 3pm with no additional expenses
    • Look around the house to see what I can sell

    Restarted my journey toward financial stability on 1st September 2021 - I will succeed!

    Total debt - £39888.13 @ 31.08.21

    Current debt - £21270.51 @ 29.12.2023
    Paid to date: £18617.62

    DFD: Aiming for end of 2028
  • Thanks @foxgloves planning is definitely my downfall! I also tend to buy random stuff and then have to go out again to try and get something to make a meal with it.
    I really need to sit down and write a list of meals we all eat, then their ingredients so I can easily do the food shopping. I'll prepare this in advance of my big shop next weekend. I've allowed for 1 takeaway every 2 months but this has to be saved up for over time not just bought because the money is there. I'll look up some fakeaway recipes too so we could even make our own instead.

    @BadBookkeeper thanks for the idea, I do shop at s@insburys as it's closer but I'm sure that's more pricey than other shops. We only have a small L1dl nearby but I need to make more effort to buy from there. And maybe seek out our closest Ald! as well.
    Restarted my journey toward financial stability on 1st September 2021 - I will succeed!

    Total debt - £39888.13 @ 31.08.21

    Current debt - £21270.51 @ 29.12.2023
    Paid to date: £18617.62

    DFD: Aiming for end of 2028
  • We found that paying off  the accounts with the smaller balances first gave us a bit of a moral boost and and gave us more to pay off against the bigger accounts. 

    It is a method that worked well for us and now we are down to having just two accounts to pay each month the monthly budget is much easier to take care of.
  • @RelievedSheff that's how I'm doing things at the moment, I've paid off the 2 smallest recently. However, most of them don't show on my credit reports so I'm trying to decide whether to prioritise those that do as that will do more to repair my credit in the long term.
    Restarted my journey toward financial stability on 1st September 2021 - I will succeed!

    Total debt - £39888.13 @ 31.08.21

    Current debt - £21270.51 @ 29.12.2023
    Paid to date: £18617.62

    DFD: Aiming for end of 2028
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