This year has been a time for reflection especially during lock down; it has given me lots of food for thought on how nothing is really stable in life. I've come to realize that it’s important to have a back up plan or moreover some money reserves for when a time comes when you’re out of a job or your rent goes up or something happens and you need money ASAP. In the latter half of this year not only have I paid off the debt I owed my mum but I have also gotten out of my overdraft and have started putting lump sums of money away each month into an account that is my 3 month emergency fund.  I just want you to understand how big of a deal it is to be out of my overdraft...like ever since I made the decision to have one I have forever been a slave to it, always spending money that wasn’t mine and causing myself stress and money anxiety because I couldn’t get a handle on this notion which is: if you don’t have the funds to buy something without going into your overdraft then don’t buy it. I don’t care what it is you want or think you need, don’t do it and don’t buy it.

I finally feel like I have turned a corner with my money spending. That isn’t to say that I’m perfect or have fine tuned my spending to an art form where I’m being sensible with the money that I’m earning but I definitely feel like I have more control. That doesn’t mean that a big part of me isn’t worried that I may slip up if I get high and spend all my hard earned cash.  Yet, I’ve come to a conclusion that the only hope of having some money in the bank is to create an account by which it only allows you to put money in. I would say most banks have this system in place if you take the time to set one up.

My family would be the first to tell you I’ve been hopeless with money ever since I got given my debit card as a teenager. A big part of me wants to blame my bipolar as I’m either spending like there’s no tomorrow or I’m not spending a dime. I even find the mundane act of food shopping enjoyable. I just love spending money. What I’ve discovered is that if you deprive yourself too long of buying things then this often (for me anyway) leads to a binge spending spree. What I’ve tried to do is treat myself but only if I’ve been able to put say x amount into my savings or been sensible with how much I’ve spent in a given month. I find that a big part of me feels like I deserve a reward and the way I reward myself is a bit of retail therapy.

 For anyone struggling with money woes, what I would say is do what you can to pay your debt off first before you start putting money into a savings as if for example you have an overdraft by not clearing it most banks charge you for the very privilege of having one and being overdrawn. I had to learn the hard way, whereby each month I was paying around £28-£30 a month to have the luxury of an overdraft which was never my money to spend in the first place but the banks. I was therefore buying things that I couldn’t afford all so that I could give off this air that I could have my cake and eat it. Now seriously how foolish is that?!? Like if you don’t have the money for something then it’s simple don’t buy it, don’t use your overdraft for that. The soul purpose of an overdraft is for emergencies and quite frankly it’s just best not to have one at all. I would say for the majority of folks the temptation and need for instant gratification is just too high. If you are the rare few who can manage an overdraft then I take my hat off to you. I can honestly tell you being able to buy something that you really want outright and still have money in the bank and a savings account with money in also is one of the best feelings. For too long I was living pay check to pay check, whereby I would clear my overdraft but only get back into it by needing to pay rent, bills, gym memberships and so on. Always being in a negative figure just caused stress, anxiety and down right worry over my lack of willpower to stop spending money and only buying what I could afford.

I recently read a couple of books about how to save money ( The no spend money challenge guide by Jen Smith and The no spend year by Michelle McGagh) and tips and tricks to cut and save money in areas of your life. The one thing that I really liked was doing say a no spend day or a no spend week. It really challenges you and gives a lot of insight into how much money you could spend here and there. I find working for a supermarket has its down falls as well as you’re always surrounded by offers and reduced bargains that draw you in with the ultimate goal or you parting with your well earned cash. It was a great challenge to reign in control over impulse buys and I would highly recommend not only reading these books but implementing some of the suggestions put forward. The next challenge for me is to do a no spend year! Yes you heard that a whole year of not spending a penny, the exceptions to this are bills, rent and food but apart from that the purse stays closed and the cards go into hibernation. I think it’s about time we all and I’m not just talking to my bipolar brothers and sisters but to everyone when I say we need to start being open about money and not burying our heads in the sand about our finances and our spending habits.