Wow, is it cold or what!? I’m not sure if you are aware, but my boyfriend and I are currently residing in an old, Victorian building that has been converted into flats. It’s freezing, but we’re trying to keep things as cheap as possible. Not to mention, we want to keep our carbon footprint to an absolute minimum where we can. This is why we manage to keep our heating on for no longer than an hour a day. How? We have our very own list of hacks to stay warm and save money on energy.
If this last year has taught me anything, it’s that although money shouldn’t matter, it does. I used to struggle with money a lot, and although I am over most obstacles that I have had to face and am now financially stable, there will always be something that will turn up unexpectedly.
The last two years have been a rollercoaster for my career and my ability to stay financially stable, but last year I hit a low. Unemployment hit me hard and I had to stretch out every penny I could to get by. Though I am much better for it now, there is so much about money that I have taken on board so that if anything knocks me sideways again, I will be ready to deal with it and I will remain financially stable.
Is it too late to become financially stable?
At 24, I already feel keeping myself financially stable is something I should have prepared for years ago. I wish so much that I had been educated about money in high school. Though as a teenager I would have probably been uninterested, I would have left feeling with more knowledge on how to get by.
This is all I knew: In order to live, you need to get a job and earn money. There may have been a few small things surrounding this, that was the gist of it. I also thought that going to university was my best choice for getting a good career. I now know better, but this lack of information has led me down an emotional road that I wish I didn’t have to go through. Regardless, I don’t believe it is too late. I just think I have a bit of catching up to do.
The struggle isn’t the problem. I believe we need to struggle somewhat to fully appreciate the things we have in life. Pain makes you stronger, but there is a difference between working hard and surviving just fine and swimming against a tide. This week I want to talk about ways to keep yourself financially stable now as well as what you can be doing to be prepared for the future.
How can I become Financially Stable?
I can’t fix your problems, I’m not a qualified expert, but I can tell you the things I have done in the last year that have helped me get my life back on track and give myself a healthier mindset on staying financially stable in the future.
1. Divide your finances
I have recently come to learn that being with one bank hasn’t always been my best choice in life. Though I have two accounts under the same bank, it’s too easy for me to transfer my savings back into my graduate account and spend it. I needed to split my money in order to stay financially stable.
I now have four bank accounts for different purposes. I am still with my current bank, but I have also joined Monzo and Starling. My current bank is where my paycheck goes in and my bills go out and my eSavings account has a small amount deposited into it every month for a rainy day.
I plan to transfer a budgeted amount from my graduate to my Monzo account each month to be used for shopping, dining out, and other activities. This means I’m still enjoying life, but I’m not allowed to go overboard. Once that money is gone, that’s it.
Starling is a special account. I have always wanted to travel, but saving for it has always been a struggle. With a Starling debit card, you can spend abroad for free, and the app allows you to create “goals” for your money to be stored until you reach the desired amount. I’m almost halfway through my Italy goal, where Larry and I will be heading later this year.
2. Have minimal money months to stay financially stable
If you haven’t read my articles around Money Free MarchMoney Free March, I suggest you do if you want to give it a go. Though I have a set spending budget each month, that number will change depending on what I can afford. To make it easier, I’m continuing to have months that are quite similar Money Free March.
3. Learn to say no
Something I have carried with me since Money Free March is the importance of saying no. There are some things in life that are not as important as it is to remain financially stable. I used to have this naive approach to money. I would think to myself “Oh, well I have been paid this much money this month, therefore I deserve to buy this handbag”.
This really isn’t the case. Though it’s not wrong for you to treat yourself once in a while, it is also very easy for this “treat” to become a bad habit. If you want to stay financially stable, you need to keep asking yourself if you really need whatever it is that you are tempted to buy.
4. Start Investing to be financially stable in the future
“Wait a minute Lacey, aren’t we supposed to be saving money here?”
Keeping yourself financially stable is about saving where you can, yes, but a saving and making an investment are not exactly two worlds apart. I want to go into further detail about this at some point, but I think it is extremely important to get thinking about your pension.
If you are earning above £5,876 a year, you will be part of auto-enrolment. If you aren’t already aware, this is essentially a minimum contribution to be paid into your pension by you and your employer every month, but it’s a good idea to be saving on top of this as well. There are some options available for you to remain financially stable during retirement, and I believe that it is never too soon to take this into consideration.
5. Think about other investments
At some point in your life, you will probably want to buy a house. In order to get that house, you will need a deposit. You may not be in the position to be saving a lot at the minute, but a little can go a long way. It’s a good idea to ask around for the best saving options available.
The way I see it is this: If you can afford a Netflix subscription, you can afford to pay £5 a month for a help to buy ISA. This goes back to thinking about what you can do without. If you want to be as prepared as possible, and with interest rates currently being a big concern for investors, then perhaps it’s time to rethink your current investments if you want to be financially stable in the future.
Have your say
Do you have any advice for staying financially stable? Whether we like it or not, money matters, and being in a bad financial situation can be terrible for your mental and physical health. I really hope some of you found this useful. As mentioned, I’m no expert, but these are based on my own learning curves and choices that I have made over the years that have had an impact on how I handle my finances.
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This is almost a week later than planned… Oops!
Many of you have been asking me how Money Free March went. I wanted to write halfway through the month, but a lot has been going on and I feel like I have barely stopped! I didn’t have much time to sit down and calculate my savings, but I can happily say that I saw a significant impact by the end of Money Free March.
There were a lot of obstacles during Money Free March
I will be honest. I tried to be as prepared as possible during Money Free March, but there were so many unexpected obstacles that interrupted my plans. As a blogger, I go to a number of events, but there were many where we were expected to eat, only to find that there were mostly a few nibbles that wouldn’t fill a person.
Too many times did I have to buy food afterward to avoid feeling queasy on the bus home. I was sensible, however, and opted for what was cheaper, though I will admit that didn’t always mean healthy.
My habits dropped dramatically
In the first week of Money Free March, all I wanted to do was spend. I felt the need to keep myself indoors as much as I could at the weekend to avoid nipping to Primark for this that and the other. I also had two moments of weakness where I felt the need to buy a coffee on my way to work and I caved. However, two coffees in a month as opposed to my usual… thousand? Definitely an improvement.
The only times I really left the house was if I had plans with people or if I were going away for the weekend. When Money Free March was over, I had a new mindset on shopping. I can now stop and ask myself if I truly need it, and if not then I can walk away without thinking I’m lost without it.
I’m glad I put money aside for certain activities
I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who can’t do nothing. Money Free March came with a lot of prearrangements, and I’m so glad they were, or I would have gone insane. I’m also glad that I put a budget together in order to do these activities. Keeping within budget meant that I wouldn’t go overboard, but I could still enjoy myself.
I don’t think that saving money means you should stay in all the time until you have reached your goal. I also spent days at my friend’s house, sharing a bottle of wine and simply relaxing. I didn’t get as crafty as I had planned, but that’s due to having a busier schedule than expected.
Money Free March certainly paid off
As mentioned, I didn’t get time to calculate as I went on, but I can happily say that there wasn’t a day where I felt worried about how much was in my bank and the only times I checked my balance was to see if any necessary payments had gone through.
By the end of the Money Free March, I had enough saved to finally purchase a new laptop, something I have been needing for two years. I even have some left over, but I have moved it into a savings account for a rainy day.
So, what did I learn by the end of Money Free March?
Saving money is hard, but it’s certainly not impossible. The biggest thing you need to change is your view on what you really need to buy. I also think that to constantly remind yourself of what your savings can or will go towards, then you’re more likely to stick to the plan.
What advice would I give for saving money?
So here’s a breakdown of things to consider
- Think of what you have planned for the month – put a budget together
- Avoid hitting the shops at all costs, and uninstall any shopping apps on your phone
- Have an emergency cash stash for any unexpected bills – you never know what could happen
- Make time for meal prep – don’t forget to include snacks for potential emergencies
I would love to know if you tried Money Free March, or perhaps you’re going to try Money Free May instead?
Being frugal is easy when you enjoy one pot wonders. Larry and I are big fans of our slow cooker, and tend to make most dinners that way. Though we both tend to follow recipes, I’m also rather drawn towards making it up as I go along, and this recipe is one of them.
We love Mexican food, but sometimes we can get a little bit bored of chilli and fajitas (okay maybe not fajitas, they are the best). I created this recipe when I was about to write one down from a vegan cookbook, but the list of ingredients was insane, and I got bored. Instead I just followed the idea behind the recipe to come up with this.
I wanted to create something filling, full of flavour and ideal for the weather we have been facing recently (snow in March, really?). All ingredients were bought at Lidl, totalling £5.34, and the entire thing serves eight people. That makes each portion just under 67p!
I also put the recipe in on MyFitnessPal. Each serving is around 260kcal, has 45g of carbs, 1.4g fat and 7.2g protein. Is it too bold to say I think I accidentally created the healthiest comfort food ever?
Though I made the hotpot in a slow cooker, you could use a big pan on a high heat. It will take a couple of hours to cook, so remember to stir regularly.
- 3 tins chopped tomatoes
- 2 packets fajita seasoning mix
- 2 tins kidney beans
- 2 large sweet potatoes, chopped
- 4 medium potatoes, chopped
- 2 peppers, chopped (or torn with your hands like I do)
- 1 tsp basil
- A pinch of salt
- 500ml water
Though it’s basically a “throw it in” method, I would always suggest chopping the potatoes an peppers after you have thrown in the other ingredients as it gives the seasonings time to sink into the tomatoes and water.
Did you give it a try? Let me know how it goes and tweet me/tag me in your photos!
I didn’t think I would be writing another blog post about GiffGaff, but I’m really glad to be doing so. Last weekend I joined them at the Principle in Manchester for a day of all things frugal, followed by an in depth break down of their new Game plan service. Though I learned a fair bit from them before, this taught me more about my own finances and improving my credit score. I decided that it would be a good idea to use this information and take on the challenge of Money Free March, but I will go into more detail on that later.
The day was filled with activities based around being thrifty, from a cooking workshop to finger knitting, it put so many ideas in my head of ways I could be saving money. I already have a natural knack for cooking, but I have so much inspiration for getting crafty this month in order to leave more money in my pocket!
I really did enjoy the finger knitting. We all made what was either worn as headbands or necklaces, and of course I opted for pink. It gave me a great idea for my old bath towels that are falling apart, so I’m gonna have a fair few days of crafting planned.
So I went away from the event with a bit of a plan in place. I wanted to see if I could spend as little as possible throughout March. I first of all decided to sign up with GiffGaff Game Plan to check my credit score, which is apparently not doing to great. Money Free March is going to be my starting point to get some money put aside before I start building up my credit history. I also figured that by doing this in March and giving you guys feedback throughout, it will help any of you who are considering doing this yourselves, perhaps a Money Free May.
If I want to do Money Free March properly, I need to establish some rules. Though I have had a fair bit of experience with surviving days with next to no money, I don’t want to make my month so difficult I can’t enjoy myself. So here’s what I’m working with.
The first thing to address is that before I decided to start Monday Free March, I agreed to do a few things this month that involved spending, so I have purposely put a budget aside for those things in February so it doesn’t affect my plan. I’m still going to spend less than I originally wanted, but at least I won’t have to cancel.
Keep it healthy
My blog is based on healthy living, so it wouldn’t be right to buy any food simply because it’s cheap. If anything, this challenge should encourage me to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.
Nights in and Free Days Out
As mentioned, I want to get crafty for Money Free March, so instead of going out for dinner or drinks, I’ll be hosting a few nights in. A lot of this will revolve around crafting and cooking, but I will also host a few movie nights as well. On top of this, I have compiled a list of free days out so Larry and I can go on dates, or I can simply head out with friends.
The one thing I will still be paying for is Zumba, because after all, it’s only £1 a week. I’m going to hold off on paying for pole classes, but I’ll continue to train with my friends for free. I will also be trying out YouTube channels and break down my favourites for you guys to try.
So I’ll be cooking in bulk, but I already have food that I have stored in the freezer. Though I could have made a plan to eat everything before starting this challenge, I realised that’s a lot of food to get through. Instead I’ll take note of freezer food days.
Limit the Food Shop
Finally, the way I shop will be different. I am refusing to buy any more food until the kitchen is pretty much empty. I have more than enough for a few weeks, but it always seems difficult to put something together when you’re getting towards the end. I’m just gonna have to take that challenge if I want to save as much as I can.
Keep a diary
Hallways through Money Free March, I will be posting an update on how I have done with keeping my spends to an absolute minimum, and what I’ve been getting up to to keep myself away from any financial temptation.