10,000 steps, 1 step at a time.

As always with the start of these, long time lurker, first time sharer. This past year I’ve become very serious about my finances and it’s paying dividends (excuse the pun!). The purpose of this post and blog is to share my journey from the past year, what impact it has made, and be a record going forward of what happens next.

I’ve found immeasurable information and support here just by lurking. Thank you for everyone I’ve been following, there are far too many to list.

 

Headline numbers:

I have a personal take home income of £2217 after tax, NI, student loan, and pension.

I have credit card debt of £8,792.55. 2 balances on 1 card.

Of which:

£2,581.61 0% until 28th February 2024 (24.46% after)

£6210.94 0% until 29th December 2024 (APR as above after)

Minimum payment is 2.5% and the earliest 0% decreases when paid leaving the other balance steady. I currently pay £290 a month.

I also have a loan jointly with my wife with c.£11.5k left (including interest). It is due to end in summer 2027 but we are overpaying which takes 2 years off that. Great feeling seeing the interest ‘refund’ come off the amount owed each month. I pay £300 a month towards that.

This is about my own personal finances, not my household. My wife is on the same page as me. However, this is not about anyone but me and my behaviours.

Back story:

Like many others I grew up without much money but not really aware of that. I’ve only recently come to really understand how hard things must have been for my parents. The long-term consequences of this are I know how to survive on not a lot but have had to learn how to handle actually having money, so it isn’t wasted.

In 2019 I finally started a proper career as I turned 30. Before that I spent 10 years under-employed or unemployed after my degree. Life events really ramped up in my late twenties so 0% credit was a way of dealing with costs when they arose and then try and pay it off, but always creeping up with variable income. Things didn’t settle immediately with having my current job. For example, I bought my first car for the new job in cash, but it was so expensive to keep running with the repairs that a finance deal on a £6000 car was cheaper per month. Christmas each year would be on a credit card to be paid off later.

I’m amazingly lucky in that Covid lockdown was a good time for me. It limited expenses just after getting married (3 weeks from wedding to lockdown) and we both kept working remotely. I still work from home and the company I’m with will stay remote from now on.

I still sometimes struggled as life got going again for a few reasons, chiefly I never budgeted properly. I paid my bills and then what needed to be spent that month came from what was leftover, be it MOT, holiday, emergency, hobbies (I have an allotment (growing your own is NOT money saving I tell you now!) and enjoy painting toy soldiers) etc. I sometimes wanted to clear my debt fast so some months would throw all I thought I could at the credit card only to then need it later to cover something.

A few lightbulbs started going off in early 2022. I realised if I had zero debt, I could take my family away once a month on a holiday and it wouldn’t affect me financially. This made me feel a little sick. I then realised that meant I could be more sensible and invest, dream of a second house, or save for big BIG purchases (like a garden office – one day I’ll have that and leave the bedroom). I then started looking at what I would want to have in my retirement savings and realised I was a long way behind, and the best strategy financially was to die before age 68. This made me feel worse. I have had very generous bonuses in work and that either disappeared paying off debt that returned or a week away in the summer holidays (in the UK – we don’t fly and with kids term time breaks are a no go) with little lasting impact to show.

I am an optimist though, so started lurking here, reading books (free on kindle unlimited trials) watching YouTube (being wary of gurus and get rich quick – there is no such thing), and developing a spreadsheet to track (and later predict) my income and spending. All with the aim of freeing up money to pay off the debt. Late in 2022 I read and watched Dave Ramsay and that made sense. It seemed like a good order of operations but was relevant to the US more than to me in the UK. Plus, I didn’t want to live on rice and beans. I’ve been through lean times, I’ll put the pain somewhere else and avoid doing them again if I can. I am now comfortable and having my debt is not a problem, as in I can pay it each month no worries. My mindset has changed though. I’d rather not have the debt there.

So, the plan for 2023 was:

From Ramsay approach. Go into the year with a £500 emergency fund saved. This would be what I would draw on if something came up unexpectedly, not the credit card. If this gets used, then it becomes debt no.1 to pay back ASAP so it stays at £500.

From the advice on this forum. Save each month for annual/intermittent expenses. I set up categories the dog, car, holidays, Xmas and birthdays, dentist bills, and subscriptions.

Divide monthly planned expenses into separate categories. Bills, supermarket shops, takeaways, spending money, fuel. Both these, dividing and saving have been made easier by setting up a Chase account.

Operate a zero-based budget. Every penny is assigned, accounted for, and spending tracked against goals.

Move the pain. Like I said above, I could be more efficient at paying off the debt and make larger changes to my lifestyle (and that of my family). But I don’t want to. I am still more comfortable than I have ever been, and paying off the debt at a rate that I am happy with. So instead of being uncomfortable, this debt will last longer, which I’m ok with as long as it doesn’t grow (see below).

I can ignore my student loan. I was super lucky attending university 2008-2011. Only £3k fees, qualified for max grant vs loan so never had to pay back most of what was given to me (very low-income childhood) and is wiped after 25 years (from 2011). £96 is taken from my salary each month (more if I get a bonus). I’ll not pay it off before it is wiped in 2036 and will pay less in total staying as is rather than overpaying and wiping it early. If my pay rockets up and I pay it off before 2036 through the standard deductions I’m fine with that also.

I get paid on the 27th of each month and most bills happen within a week of this date. I treat the 27th as the first of the month, so my January 2024 page on my spreadsheet contains everything for 27th December until 26th January. The biggest variable to account for is how many weekends there are between the 2 dates, 4 or 5, as that I when most spending happens (e.g. food shop and a takeaway).

2023 progress:

1st January 2023 credit card debt was at £6529.76 across 3 0% balances.

Paid £4,273.96 off CC in all of 2023.

Balance end of December 2023 £8,792.55.

What happened? 2 large projects that the house needed (we’re homeowners with a mortgage). The floor in the bathroom had rotted from a very small undetected leak under the bath. To top this off the boiler was found to dangerous from a real cowboy job many years ago. Wrong size pipes, not enough ventilation, generally poor-quality workmanship leading to rapid deterioration of the boiler and the radiators. With jobs like this I really only want them done once. Now have brand new boiler, radiators, and the bathroom we always wanted. And never again. £6500 added to 0% balances.

The good news, I’ve never paid off that much in one year before and I still have what I think of as a lavish lifestyle.

I was fortunate to have a larger than usual bonus this year in July, an additional 2 months’ salary (though with deductions this didn’t triple my take home pay – still an amazing amount). I had two plans for this.

Plan A – ignore it and throw it at the debt.

Plan B – treat my saving pots as debt, fill them up to the goal amount I wanted and then pay the rest towards the CC. Then pay more off the CC each month as no need to save in the pots.

Went with Plan B and this was a big mistake in the long run. Withdrawals from the annual pots don’t all happen at the same time, so each month since then there has been another pot reactivated for saving monthly and less to go on the CC. In hindsight I should have ignored the bonus and just put it all on the CC. Lesson learned for the future.

More successfully I have been selling off parts of my toy soldier collection. This has funded the ongoing hobby and extra payments towards the CC.

Effects:

The biggest effect is I am thinking and acting intentionally. I’m a bit obsessed with my spreadsheets. In 2022 it went through several iterations and has now mostly stable in design for a whole year. Good outcomes of this are seen below. One negative is I am thinking about money almost constantly, and it is a distraction. I am enjoying it as a hobby but do hope it will pass as I become more and more financially stable and secure.

Thinking about what I’ll need to spend, when, and dividing that amount by how many months until that point has been such a wonderful revelation! It is like taking small steps in the right direction adjusting all the small steps in the wrong direction in the past. Slowly, moving inexorably.  

Our holiday this year, (Isle of Wight, where I spent my teenage years) was paid for, all cash savings with some left over to go towards a different trip next year. Xmas 2023 will be my first without using a credit card in a long time. There have been unexpected emergencies and the £500 has covered it and been replenished. When my car needed new brakes that came out of the car pot, as did the MOT. It is a great feeling knowing that big atypical spends are accounted for.

I’ve only paid for my car insurance monthly before. This year I’ve paid monthly and set aside a similar amount each month so have enough to pay annually going forward reducing the cost by removing interest. I’ll carry on saving as though it’s a monthly bill so it will be there next year and every year. Also negotiated my AA renewal down to £6 per month including home start (vital when working from home and the main reason to call is probably when sat outside the house!). Switching to the annual payment would have been more complicated, I would have to cancel and restart my account, but not save any money on the total figure for the year.

2024:

The plan for 2024 is to continue on this path. I’ve set up my spreadsheet for the whole year based on my current salary. Currently I predict to meet all my saving/irregular cost goals and have £500 leftover for the year. This is going in a separate CC overpay pot that is my emergency fund’s emergency fund. This assumes a constant payment of £290 towards the CC each month.

I am due a small pay rise that will happen as of 27th December pay to start the year off, expected to increase my take home pay between £30-£40 a month. The National Insurance change from 6th January will also mean about £20 a month more. I’ll update the spreadsheet when I get the payslips with the exact amounts on. These numbers will be allocated to the CC overpay pot for now. The move to paying for the car insurance annually will free up another £20 which I’ll keep paying into the car pot.

If I get a bonus, it will all go on lump payment to the CC. If the CC overpay pot reaches £500 anything else to go into it will be sent straight to the card.

I do have to watch out for the ending of the 0% periods, end of February and end of December 2024. I still get offers on existing cards which is good to dance them around. I’m leaning towards transferring just the c.£2000 that will run out February and pay towards 2 cards. Moving everything is slightly easier to manage but more expensive with fees.

I’ll also continue to increase any additional income if I can. There’s still some stuff that can be sold off, but not to the value of last year. I cannot do any surveys. I work in research, so it is against professional and ethical standards for me to be a participant for others.

Ways that small steps can be made are through my Chase cashback, typically £6ish a month, and roundup savings. Also offsetting any vouchers or freebies. Such as when a cup of coffee is through a phone provider’s reward app to put the cost buying it aside to pay off the CC (and only getting it if I would have bought it anyway!).

Assuming no bonuses or extra payments expected debt free dates are August 2025 for the loan, and January 2026 for the CC. That’s my target to beat.

If you’ve made it this far in my rambling, thank you, you deserve a medal.


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Comments

  • Excellent first post. I wish you well with your plans. Have you a list showing how you allocate the £2217 each month?
  • Excellent first post. I wish you well with your plans. Have you a list showing how you allocate the £2217 each month?
    Thank you. Fingers crossed it all goes to plan.

    Yes, my spreadsheet doesn't follow the typical SOA template but I've tried to make it similar here.

    Based on January 2024 figures (so 27th December-27th January)

    Income:  £2217.81

    2 adults (1 car each), 2 children (minion 1 and 2).

    My half of Mortgage, gas, electric, water, home insurance, pet insurance, kids savings, TV license, broadband phone and tv package, council tax, etc. £547.50.

    Bills I pay:

    Life Insurance: £10.01

    Food and groceries: £450

    Car fuel: £50

    Car insurance: £19.34 (will go to annual in February)

    Breakdown cover: £6

    Mobiles: £20 (2 x sims at £10 each)

    Spotify: £17.99 (family plan and used constantly)

    Ring: £6.98

    Netflix: £10.99

    Spending money: £100 (entertainment, pocket money, hobbies, or if we need to buy anything – the other month this went on a new kitchen table as the old one couldn’t take any more screws and scrap wood to hold it together)

    Saving pots:

    Emergency Fund: £0

    Xmas and Birthdays: £80

    Dog: £10

    Car: £50

    Holiday: £167.50 (£67.50 of which goes with the bill money to my wife. This will pay for the accommodation already booked end of July)

    Dentist: £30 (I have bad teeth from past neglect, this amount has been enough to save up to pay for appointments and work privately)

    Phone insurance for minion 1: £0 (will be £5 from February as I pay annually)

    Guitar lessons for minion 1: £0 (there’s enough in the pot to see me through to near the end of 2024 but usually £50)

    Disney+: £0 (£3.40 from March and share login with my sister. If they do a Netflix and stop password sharing this will be cancelled)

    CC overpay pot: £51.50 in January

    Cash in pots right now: (odd numbers are a mixture of odd prices for payment and accrued interest in Chase accounts)

    Emergency fund: £500 (interest always moved to another pot)

    Xmas and birthdays: £176.10 (all shopping and posting done for 2023!)

    Dog: £33.96

    Car: £521.39

    Holiday: £361.76

    Dentist: £149.70

    Phone insurance: £60

    Guitar lessons: £545.46

    Disney+: £40

    CC Overpay: £1.44 (emergency fund needed topping up after a vet visit, we lost the cat)

    Chase roundup: £186.49 (this will be moved into holiday fund on 27th December and restart)

    Total cash: £2576.30

    Loan repayment: £300 including overpayment (this is my half)

    CC repayment: £290

    Total debt payments £590

     

    As you can see there is a lot of slack that if I wanted could tighten up to speed things along. As said above I’m happy with the current timeline.

    Considering this time last year, I had £500 saved in an emergency fund only, I’m really overjoyed to see £2076.30 extra put away. It does also show me how much I do need to plan in advance and why dividing up annual/irregular spends into amounts per prepay is such a powerful thing.


  • Baron_Dale
    Baron_Dale Posts: 899
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    edited 13 December 2023 at 1:07PM
    Very impressive planning. Are you pots virtual and the money in one savings account?
    Are you the higher income earner in the family?
    Do feel free to look at how I do things. Only difference is that I am now retired and have no mortgage but still have a budget to keep too lol!
    I have bookmarked your thread to follow your progress.
  • jokono
    jokono Posts: 739
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    Well done so far! A couple of tips:
    • Club Lloyds current account offers 12 months free of Disney+, you need to pay in 2k a month but can move it back out immediately
    • NatWest and Santander have a no fee BT card, I think barclaycard too. The offer is for less time (14months on NW) but it's free!

    01.12.2020 - CC £16,839 / Loan £18,820 / EF £0
    03.07.2023 - CC (0%) £9,859 / Loan £0 / Savings £10,110
  • Very impressive planning. Are you pots virtual and the money in one savings account?
    Are you the higher income earner in the family?
    Do feel free to look at how I do things. Only difference is that I am now retired and have no mortgage but still have a budget to keep too lol!
    I have bookmarked your thread to follow your progress.
    Many thanks I will check it out. The pots are mostly separate Chase savings accounts, you get up to 10 with a current account with them. The phone insurance, guitar lessons, and Disney are in the same account so I have to track those totals carefully.
    I am not the higher earner but my wife pays more regular kid related outgoings, and the pension is much better than mine (at the 'cost' of much greater reductions). We were racing each other at one point but she has a lead now that I don't think I will catch. 

    jokono said:
    Well done so far! A couple of tips:
    • Club Lloyds current account offers 12 months free of Disney+, you need to pay in 2k a month but can move it back out immediately
    • NatWest and Santander have a no fee BT card, I think barclaycard too. The offer is for less time (14months on NW) but it's free!

    Good to know thank you. I may look into Club Lloyds if Disney clamp down but for now it is a very minor expense. I'm oddly attached to my HSBC account I get paid into, I opened it age 11 a week before my dad passed away. I may consider a way of bank switching in the future to take advantage of offers.

    I have an empty Barclaycard and Tesco. I will look into Santander for the Feb 24 transfer. Natwest seem to be consistent with no fee so I was hoping that might be available end of 2024 when I'll need to move the larger balance.
  • It is a partnership not a competition!
    Only ever a friendly one!

    Wanted to share my car related woe and how it is so much different than the past.

    3 weeks ago, I got a screw in my tyre. Paid my neighbour £10 to repair the tyre, which came out of the car fund pot. This weekend I got another screw in the same tyre! First one was in a supermarket car park, the second was in a different town.

    Had to replace and cost me £55 from the car fund pot. My tyres are quite new so doubly frustrating. Thankfully the garage checked and, with so little wear on the others, I only had to pay for 1.

    Frustrating but ultimately only an inconvenience. 1 year ago this would have been from the emergency fund. 2 years ago, this would have been a credit card purchase. Starting to learn to budget I would not have had the spare cash as everything was balanced too tightly, and I wasn’t looking ahead to potential risks. Longer ago than that and it would have been on a CC as I simply didn’t budget and probably wouldn’t have had the money. Or if I did, I would have used a CC later on in the month as I ran out of money.

    Now by putting aside extra each month I don’t need to and I can’t describe how liberating that feels. Without it I’d still be spiralling down into more debt. It has realistically taken me years to be in a position where £55 isn’t an issue despite increasing income. But I’ve got there.

    Really tells me that me debt pay down is a result of good money thinking and behaviour, not the other way around.

  • Payslip day and a nice surprise. My pay rise means I am £46 better off a month which is huge. Tempted to put into spending money as it is my birthday in January but I think I will behave myself, stick to the plan, and assign it to CC Overpay. I have adjusted my spreadsheets with updated figures. This doubles what leftover was expected to be in CC Overpay to £1000 and that is going to be really helpful.

    I am also going to be paid on the 22nd December and not the 27th as usual. January will be back to the 27th so 6 weekends! To counter this I will keep the salary in a Chase pot (probably emergency fund) until the 27th so it gets a week’s interest and doesn’t interfere. Another win for sorting everything out as I know I am set until the usual 27th reset.


  • Baron_Dale
    Baron_Dale Posts: 899
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    Looking forward to an update soon. Best wishes for 2024.
  • 13thlegion
    13thlegion Posts: 48
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    Thanks @Baron_Dale

    It has been an eventful few weeks. Xmas, my birthday, and a bout of covid.

    Xmas was paid for entirely by what I saved all year. Was also fortunate to receive some amazing gifts for Xmas and my birthday. Even received a large amount in vouchers to use on my toy soldier hobby. With 2 weeks off work I used 1 of them to sort through and sell off a lot of stuff I won’t be using anytime soon. The amount raised joined the vouchers for a little birthday shopping.

    Small bumps in the road with the dishwasher biting the dust last week. The wife’s Argos card has been used to get a new one on clearance and this can be quickly cleared between us. On a larger scale the roof is leaking around the chimney. We don’t use it and several builders have said the best option is to take it down.

    The house is semi-detached and chimney shared so some negotiation with the neighbour was needed. They don’t really want to have it taken down and it doesn’t leak on their side. Thankfully their son could see the issue and convinced them it needed doing. We’ve offered to pay as we are the ones with the issue. My share of the cost is £1100. I can make this work in cash by raiding the annual pots alongside the emergency fund (also the reason for using Argos card on the dishwasher).

    The monthly budget will need a rewrite to fill these up again. Another lesson in using any bonus to clear debt first. Not much needs to be rearranged and the small increases in take-home pay mentioned above will help. I will also continue to have a clear out and sell hobby things on FB and ebay.

    One big win is the car insurance. The price did go up like for so many others, however renewing was by far the cheapest option. Last year I paid £19.46 a month. This year I’ve paid £245 as an annual amount. Less than a pound increase equivalent per month and £2 month cheaper than renewing and staying monthly.


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