How I took financial control of my life

Yep you read that right, at the grand old age of 34 I’ve finally got complete control of my finances and not ending each month wondering where it’s all gone. 

Piggy bank

I’ve always had a bit of a blasé attitude to money, very much buy now and worry about paying for it later, which is how I manged to get myself into a bit of a debt pickle with credit cards and loans. That’s not to say that I was bad with money, I always made repayments on time and never missed anything so I have a really strong credit score, it was more that I’d just spend what I didn’t have on things I didn’t really need.  

I can pinpoint the moment this all started, Freshers Fair at uni in Southampton. A lovely representative from Barclays was there signing people up to ‘emergency’ low rate credit cards. They said all the right things and mentioned how it would be a good back up should anything ever happen. Well, of course I took all this in and signed up but somewhere in my brain a little voice was there yelling ‘yay, free money’. I was 18, living away from home for the first time and out in the world with my new found independence.

Roll on 16 years to today and a few paid off loans and credit cards later here I am. I’ve tried many ways through the years to take financial control from debt consolidation and balance transfers to 0% interest cards to writing budgets down but for one reason or another they never quite worked.

twenty pound bank notes

What actually kicked me into action was an article I read on Stylist about a finance coach and how investing in one could help. In the article the coach talked about emotional responses to money and the reasons people spend in certain ways. She also talked a lot about budgeting which I’ve always been a bit hopeless at. I’d start a notebook writing down everything I’d spent in a day only for it to all stop on day two when I’d forgotten to do it.

But, I couldn’t help but think budgeting would be the key for me to sort out my finances. I’m really crap with Excel and formulas but did some googling and found a seller on Etsy selling budgeting templates with all of the formulas already set. It works in G-Sheets which I have downloaded on my phone, making it easy to update instantly. This was possibly the best £2.99 I’ve ever spent!

travel map with money

The front page is an overview, what comes in, what fixed expenses have to be paid each month, variable expenses (this is where I budget for things like clothes, new car tyres, savings etc) and what the surplus should be by the end of the month.

By having the numbers in front of me I can see exactly what I’ve spent on what. E.g. if I’ve got a bit too boujis with work lunches since the new Itsu has opened up I can see instantly that I need to rein it in.

Now I know what you’re thinking – why don’t you just use your bank account and track the spending there? Well, because I have a Nationwide account it always takes a couple of days to update so I can be merrily tapping away thinking I’ve got more cash than I actually have. It’s also a great place for me to track the money I’m owed through work expenses.

I’ve also used this template for our house joint account, we were spending a ridiculous amount on food shopping without even realising it. So now I can see a running total of what we have left in the budget during food shops.

I know it doesn’t sound like a massive thing but for the last three months I’ve ended the month with money in my personal account and money left in our joint account!

Although I won’t be entirely debt free by 35 I will be in complete financial control!

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