I had an awareness of money very early on in life. My dad was made redundant and really struggled to get another job so he decided to semi-retire. My parents had a lot of money in savings but this started to drain quite quickly so my dad took temp jobs and my mum worked part time as a cleaner. My mum had a weekly budget and I used to watch her counting up all of her change and putting it into a change jar every week. She would check the price of everything in the supermarket and was very careful not to overspend. My brother and I were not allowed expensive things and a lot of our clothes were second hand. I’ll admit wearing what I considered to be ‘cast-off’ clothing was repulsive at the time. Now that I’m more mature I have no problem buying clothes from a charity shop but as a teenager I didn’t like it.
My first real experience of seeing my mum struggle for money was when she bought a new computer for my brother and I. I think I was about 13 at the time and she paid for it on her credit card. This time counting the small bits of change took on a new meaning. The computer cost about £600 which she paid on a credit card. This was the first time I had heard of a credit card and all of the change that my mum was counting up went to pay off the credit card. I loved sitting with her at the end of the month and counting out the money. She would then take it into the bank. With the interest it took my mum just over a year to pay the card off in full.
It was when my mum started looking at the interest she was paying that I decided I never wanted to be in that position; I wanted to always have enough money to pay my bills and never to have to use a credit card and pay the sky-high interest rates. I was very fortunate that when I started sixth form the government had introduced the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to encourage children aged 16-18 to stay in full time education. As my parents had such a low income I qualified for the full £30 per week which was a godsend. The only conditions were that I had to actually attend school in order to get paid. If I took a day off ill then I received nothing. This certainly encouraged me to up my attendance and it allowed me to pay for school supplies without having to constantly rely on my parents.
I got my first job in a shop as I turned 18. My parents wouldn’t let me work whilst I was at school because they wanted me to concentrate on my education which wasn’t such an issue because of the EMA. As soon as I finished my A-Levels I got my first job in a shop and decided to take a gap year before University in order to save some money.
Despite watching my mum struggle with paying off her credit cards one of the first things I did when I turned 18 was visit my bank to sign up for one. Hypocritical right? Actually there was a purpose to it. I left school in 2007 which was around the time that the financial crisis started and I suddenly decided that I needed to start building a good credit rating as soon as I could. My first credit card had a limit of £400 and I paid off the full balance every month. I never spent more on my card than I could afford to pay off and I was very careful with it.
Another financial shock came in 2008 when my dog, Sammie, was diagnosed with cancer. He’d been ill for a little while and my dad took him to the vets. There were two options: Pay over £3000 for surgery or put him to sleep. There was no guarantee that the surgery would work. Of course we chose to pay for the surgery. I would have sold my soul to pay for the surgery. All of us contributed but it was difficult and were all concerned how we could afford it. Sadly the surgery only gave Sam another two weeks but it was worth every penny.
Watching the financial crisis unravel over the next few years further confirmed that I needed to be financially self-sufficient and not rely on debt or other people for support. I continued paying off my credit card and started saving my student loan. I also worked throughout my three years at University. My goal became to buy a house with a 15% deposit which I had saved myself. I achieved this in July 2016 after paying off my student loans (I made the office January 2016 but it took a long time to go through!).
I still have a credit card now and even though my limit is £3500 I never get anywhere near that. The bank keep offering to increase it but I’ll never take them up on the offer because I simply do not need it. I’ll talk about why I believe credit cards are important in another post.
I was very lucky that my parents had paid off their mortgage and despite being short of money there was always food on the table and clothes on our backs. I certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time but I know there are thousands of other children who aren’t so fortunate.
Frugality and saving money is incredibly important to me and I will be sharing my tips for saving money in future posts. If I hadn’t sat counting money with my mum every week I may not have realised how much being short of money can impact your life. It is thanks to this that I was able to pay off my student loan, buy a house and have the money to work on the house as well without depriving myself.
Is saving money important to you? What are your financial goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts about saving and whether you think it is worthwhile.
Lots of love
x Beth x