Bye-bye Annie!

Today was a special day for me… I bought shares for the first time in my life. Probably seems like something so insignificant to a lot of people (particularly those who are holding their financial situation by the balls already) but to me this is a major shift.

For the first time I am not using all my spare money to pay off a credit card (or some other debt), for the first time I’m not following the urge to simply buy something (“anything! Think about all the niiiiice things you could buy with that!” – that’s my inner voice).
For the first time in my life – largely after listening to hours and hours of The Minimalist podcasts, I feel like there is a different way of doing things.

Overwhelm steps in briefly… and I feel the anxiety around navigating the issue… “how do I trade? Surely there is a minimum? How do I know what to buy? is this all too much?!”
I push on and decide to start by simply.. you know…asking those around me. Lately, I have lost the guilt of my financial immaturity. If the conversation is going that way then I will openly tell you that I’m a financial trainwreck but in recovery… I’ll tell you that I’ve considered joining the S.A. Programme (shopaholics anonymous… and no this is not a joke and neither am I trying to be funny… SA actually exists as an organisation).

So since I now feel a bit more comfortable with not being an overachiever at life… I ask the girl at work if she has any shares. Turns out investing in shares and indices is literally as easy as downloading an app. It took me 15 minutes to set it up and within the next hour a nice lady called me to inform that I’m now proudly entitled to an account manager… I ask her a million questions and just like that I own a few shares.

It’s not a lot but it’s a start.. and I’m getting my lazy ass used to the idea of financial intelligence. I also invested in ” share trading for dummies” – and following the advice in the book went and researched a bunch of companies.

To start with I went with not a huge amount of money and invested in something that I would be prepared to hold for a few years or more. I also decided to invest an amount that I would be comfortable to lose… although that’s obviously not the intention and I’m not taking on unnecessary risk.

I must admit – this whole process was almost therapeutic… it made me feel like I was a grown up (something I had resisted for oh so long! and ironically am now striving for) and also that I was finally moving in the general direction of having my sh*t together…

It reminded me of when The Bridesmaids movie first came out… everyone was raving about how funny it was… But when I watched it – I wanted to cry… everything about Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) resonated with me.. her desperation, her jealousy, her sense of isolation and the fake sense of “choice” felt oh so realistic to me. That’s basically what my life felt like… Scrambling around with money, feeling left behind, dating “dead-end” guys and not having a purpose. I honestly could not see anything humorous in that movie. (Except for the pooping scene… the pooping scene was funny..)

Looking back at it now, I wonder why the hell it then took me another five years to actually sort my life out… and more importantly… how did that not even give me a kick up the ass immediately (oh no! I would be lying if I said the travesty of that movie made me change my ways…)

Today I finally feel that overwhelming sense of freedom… financial freedom..
I still have a long way to go. But I’m working my butt off to stay on track.
I really do feel like something is finally shifting in that dumb little head of mine and I am managing to change not just my behaviour but general my perception of life….I mean it probably also helps that it’s summer and life generally feels better in summer but nonetheless for the first time in a while I’m feeling really hopeful and it’s an amazing feeling!


awkward conversations

From then I basically spent the next 12 months focusing on reducing my debt.. it was tough but I finally reigned in my spending somewhat.

There were two particularly bitter moments from that time – one was that I got my very first bonus… it wasn’t much but it was my first significant one… sadly the minute it hit my account it had to go straight onto the credit card… that sucked. It was 12 months of hard work and late nights and this was my reward that turns out I managed to “pre-enjoy” and now it was pay back time.

The second bitter moment happened when I, all of sudden, found myself dating someone somewhat seriously. That’s the thing you see when you are trying to spend less, the first thing to get cut is the obvious one – alcohol. Turns out when you are no longer a hot mess (or at least a milder version of your trainwreck self), you actually become likeable enough to be dated.. funny that…

Anyway so one night we were meeting some people for dinner, it was the day before payday and I had about £10 left in my bank account (fairly standard situation back in those days)…So trying to be semi-shy, semi-cute I awkwardly asked the boy if he could sponsor my dinner tonight… I remember this look of disbelief mixed with disappointment on his face.. all he said to me was that he didn’t know any other 30 year old with a well paying job who was living payday to payday.

That’s the thing you see, I got so good at faking that I had it together and pretending to be a grown up that it took him by complete surprise.
All of a sudden it occurred to me that if I don’t get my sh*t together I will be having lots more of these awkward conversations… because you know.. relationships may get serious and you may find yourself doing grown up things like talking about a deposit on a house or travelling together or whatever else grown up couples do.

Sounds stupid but since I had been more or less single most of my life (or at least never managed to make it to the serious part), it never occurred to me that I would one day have to be accountable about my money to someone else… I thought the accountability part ended when I turned 17 and left home?! Turns out that’s where it is meant to begin…


how did I get here?!

After a particularly financially frivolous couple of months I was completely skint. My loan still had a few months before it was paid off and I was struggling meeting my credit card repayments.

Strangely even at a time like this my bank was stupid enough to offer me another smaller credit card… I mean who does that?! How is that responsible?!

Now I had three credit cards, two of them maxed out plus a loan.

All through this I kept buying more stuff. I’m pretty sure ASOS warehouse staff must’ve known me by my first name at this stage.

I felt completely caught up in my own pretence and was a victim of my own irresponsible behaviour. I was too ashamed to tell anyone and I was too ashamed to ask for help. I don’t mean financial help but at least some advice.
For some stupid reason I thought I must’ve been the only dumb-dumb who got herself in this situation as I surely as hell didn’t know any other normal person with a good career and a decent paying job in this predicament.
It seemed like everyone around me was either buying flats or desperately saving for one… I in the mean time was getting myself deeper and deeper into trouble.

Then one day my then boss and I were having a chat and he shared with me that his partner had a shopping addiction. He said he was helping her through it and that they have since made significant progress and she was well on the way to her “recovery”.

His partner was a thirty something woman living in Essex, with a serious career and further education that she was doing on the side. All of a sudden I felt a huge sense of relief at the fact that I was not the only trainwreck who was “good on paper” but far from good in real life. This happens to other people! I was so impressed that she had the guts to share this with her partner and seek help – I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my mum let alone anyone else in my life!

The problem with shopaholics – and her and I had this in common – that you don’t really care what you are buying. Sounds weird but it’s true. If I was trying to limit my consumption, then I would go to Boots and buy a new lipgloss… because it was the action of purchasing that gave me the kick… rather than the item itself. The anticipation of opening the box when you get home and putting on the dress/shoes/lipgloss… the feeling of something new in your life. Something that would surely make you a better version of yourself…(trust me I am fully aware of how stupid this sounds…in hindsight)
I guess it was around then that I unknowingly and rather clumsily started dipping my toes into minimalism. More specifically I started selling all my crap… however this “minimalism” wasn’t as much of a choice at the time as it was a necessity – I simply had run out of money.

For the next couple of months my life of a recovering shopaholic was characterised by daily visits to the post office (not even joking – DAILY). That’s basically where I spent my lunch breaks and the post office personnel would wave at me enthusiastically every time I walked through the door.

Business was going great and as soon as I started selling my clothes I felt like I could breathe again – one man’s trash is truly another’s treasure….
Except then one day I got told that I had to move house and for a number of unforeseen circumstances I had to fork out a sizeable amount of money associated with the move. No amount of second hand clothes sales can actually account for some real life financial emergencies – sadly I was in a rut again.

That was a very tough month. It was November, lead up to Christmas, I had no money to pay for a ticket to visit my family let alone to buy presents… by this stage I had moved beyond selling my clothes and was now onto my laptop, iPad and (sob sob) my biggest most loved possession of all – my SLR camera complete with the lenses and accessories.

Selling my camera for me was akin to killing my dream. Photography was the only thing that was making me truly happy back then. Like truly truly happy but it was also sucking a lot of my money. I had attended workshops (£200 a pop) and organised shoots in conjunction with other photographers.

But it had to go.. simply because I had nothing to live on. And partly because it was a constant remind of my stupid fantasy life that led me to this low point.

It never occurred to me at the time to downsize my living situation because it was by far the only stable thing in my life and a haven where I could hide out. I loved my flatmate and she looked after me, making dinner most nights and counselling me on my never ending bullsh*t problems.

That was the lowest point – I got to my last £100 and payday was still more than 2 weeks ago with Christmas in between. IT SUCKED!
I was going through every pocket and every bag to see if there was some money that was accidentally forgotten. There wasn’t.

That’s when I vowed to get my life in order and to never take out a personal loan again [mixed in with huge amounts of desperation, some dramatic crying and asking “upstairs” to grant me some self control already!]…. NB: wrong again! self control is just another muscle that you can build up over time.

You could imagine my New Years resolutions and reflections weren’t the most exciting that year – I was 30 years old, broke, single gal with no plan and no direction in life. I wasn’t liking my job… I was living paycheck to paycheck whilst others were supporting a small family on my salary. I couldn’t even feel sorry for myself because it was my own stupidity that landed me here in the first place. The only question I was asking my self that Christmas is “how the f*ck did I get here”….


my life on credit – part 2


That of course was completely unattainable. Probably due to the fact that such men, although do exist, come with their set of challenges and insecurities… such as, but not limited to: socio-economic restrictions, b*tchy mothers, drug problems, commitment problems and other insecurities in which the hotness of your girl/car/watch is directly correlated to your level of success.

If there is in fact a unicorn out there, there is rid of all these vices, then I most certainly have not come even close to finding him. I also knew that unfortunately I was not borne with that ‘hotness’ gene… “upstairs” they also seemed to have misplaced my “height” gene along with my “long leg” and “perfect teeth” genes. I knew I would have to work harder for male attention. In my mind that was easily fixable with three things – clothes, shoes and my sense of humour. Clothes would make me cool (obvs) and so I would be the cool funny girl – my own little niche.

So my life of excess and credit ticked on… as I wondered through my twenties.. mostly hungover… mostly under-ambitious, living a life that was somewhat in between Sex and the City and the remake of Absolutely Fabulous. Somewhere in the middle I managed to get a personal loan, you know, to pay off the credit card and get my finances under control… but as always, life got in the way.. loan money was spent and the credit card was alive and kicking, getting fatter by the day.

The saddest part is that I don’t really remember what I spent that loan money on… I know there was a trip to Cannes for a weekend and a bill for a table at one of those Love Brunches…because you know… go hard or go home! £500 was half of the bill which I split with another mate partly because I was drunk and partly because we were the only trainwrecks stupid enough to do such a thing.

So to summarise… I pissed away a £10,000 loan on devil knows what, with nothing to show for it… what I do remember is the next 2 years that it took me to pay it off…payments that were at times crippling.. and yet I still hadn’t learnt my lesson.

In hindsight, I guess my biggest problem back then was that I was a “yes woman”. I would get terrible FOMO at the prospect of missing a night out, a girls dinner, a trip somewhere warm, annual pilgrimage to Ibiza, friends’ weddings overseas… all of which yet again called for a new outfit, a new swimsuit, new shoes and new sunglasses… because, you know, if it ain’t on Instagram – it never happened… and I won’t be caught dead wearing the same thing on Instagram… I mean DUUUUHHHH!!??!!

my life on credit…

Today marks roughly 6 weeks since I discovered Minimalism and I already feel better. Not because I have gotten rid of everything just yet but because I realised there is suddenly a choice. A choice whereby I no longer have to be overwhelmed by all the stuff in the house, by the feeling that one of those days the stuff will actually consume me and my friends will have to come and dig out my body from underneath all the skirts and the tops and the scarfs and the shoes and the miscellaneous.It has also given me the feeling of content… for a while now I have been searching and asking for contentment.

My immediate family has for as long as I can remember had this attitude of not having enough… all whilst being a comfortable middle class family. My parents always worried about not creating a safety net for their children, not having enough for a rainy day and generally just not having enough.

Growing up, I don’t remember having much choice in the clothing I wore. It was often bought for me by my mum and my sister, accompanied by an annoying habit of me digging through my sister’s closet whenever I had a chance and asking for hand-me-downs.

I think that probably was the reason why I went slightly cray-cray on clothes when I eventually went university and started living away from my family.

I was never the cool kid at school so this was my chance! These clothes would make it all the better, cooler and help me create the right persona. Or so I thought.. I would spend all my allowance on a new pair of jeans or a dress and then would go over to my friend’s house for dinner most nights as she was conveniently still living with her parents.

When I started full time work my best friend and I discovered this thing called a credit card. 3 months interest free?! Don’t mind if I do!
And so the vicious cycle began… living beyond my means, buying clothes I could not afford, expensive bars, restaurants and of course all of required appropriate clothing. And by “appropriate” I mean new.

When I eventually moved to London the whole cycle basically repeated itself and being “generally single” for most of my 20s I didn’t hold back on nights out and weekend trips abroad. My friends were older and made more money than me and I, in my blissful ignorance, pretended to be just like them… except everything I spent was mostly on credit.

There was a time when I bought (on credit) a pair of Jimmy Choos, whilst on a weekend away, because I had forgotten my Louboutins (also bought on credit). All of this was because my friend and I had a dinner reservation at The Place to be seen. Needless to say the dinner was also charged to my credit card.
There was also a time when I, in my aforementioned credit louboutins, click-clacked my way into the £100 per head restaurant for a dinner (“luurrrrve the food there daaaaahlin) and had to spent the rest of the week eating the cheapest frozen pizza. But it’s all worth it right? Right…?

I couldn’t really tell you what motivation was at the time – I’m sure part of it was because I was enjoying the food and the atmosphere and part of it was the desperate desire to “belong” to that world. And of course I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t a part of me that was secretly hoping to find a well-to-do gentleman who would be only a few years older than me, with a six figure salary (obvs) to match his six pack abs and a wonderfully generous heart….

to be continued…