Hello Dear Reader,
Thank you for emailing me, I’ll do all I can to help. You told me about your debts and asked if I could give any advice. I’ll do my best.
You’ll need to pick your moment as a family to do this. A quiet evening, when the children are tucked up and away. You will need to decide, based on their ages, how much you share. If they are young, or even if they are older, they don’t need the bare details. Just as much as they can bear. You will need to be brave and take a deep breath.
Then promise each other you’re both going to be totally honest.
To start, make sure you know the total of all the money coming in: wages/salary, child benefit, any tax credits or maintenance. Include everything and come to a monthly figure.
Next, work out everything that goes out and don’t miss anything out. You may have to do this by keeping every receipt for a week and then multiplying that by four to approximate a month’s spending. You’ll also need to know of every bill you pay and work out what that will be monthly. A notepad, pencil and, if you wish, a calculator is required.
Things you may not have included: sweets, treats for the children, school trips, charity donations, for example Christmas Jumper day, red nose day, Children in need….they all add up. School lunches, bus fares, car repairs, coffee with a friend, birthday presents, Christmas presents, dog food, vets bills, home maintenance and repairs. Some of these will be good guesses but always over guess and not under.
You’ll then have two figures. One will be less than you thought and the other will be more than you thought.
You will have a holy **** moment here. It’s ok, really, it’ll be ok……..eventually.
If your outgoings are more than your incomings then you are going to have to start trimming anything you both consider to be unnecessary immediately. If your outgoings equal your incomings then you will have to do exactly the same. My advice to anyone even if they are not in debt is to make sure they have a contingency each month for savings even if that’s just 1 or 2% of your after tax income. Anything is a start.
Savings (bit like ****ing Brexit!) can be hard of soft. We chose rock ****ing hard and paid our debts off as quickly as possible. You can choose the hard debt repayment or the softer option. With children, you might need somewhere in between.
So, tough mother version of debt repayment?
Mortgage/rent has to be paid.
Council tax has to be paid.
Minimum payments on any debts have to be paid or you could face the courts.
Gas/electricity/water has to be paid BUT! you can seriously cut these easily. 1. Make sure you are on the lowest tariff available 2. If you have a small family and can be disciplined get a water meter and drastically reduce your water consumption. 3. Turn off lights in rooms you are not in 4. Don’t heat rooms you don’t use 5. Reduce the hours of heating by five minutes a day until you’ve reduced it by 30 minutes in just six days. After 20 days, you’ll have reduced it by two hours a day and you’ll have got used to it by minutes a day. 6 turn the heating thermostat down by one degree a day until you’ve all adjusted to living at 19 degrees C. 7. Indoors, wear slippers, jumpers, put another duvet on the bed. 8. go to bed a bit earlier each day. All a bit obvious I’m afraid.
Set a food budget of £2 a day per person. I promise you that’s enough. Get your basics cook books out and get cooking from scratch. Soups, veggies stews, hotpot, pies and good old fashioned recipes that’ll sustain, nourish. Get yourself to the local market, Lidl, Aldi or look out for the veg deals in Morrisons. Stock up your freezer with frozen food such a chicken pieces, frozen plain fish, minced meat like pork or beef. Go own brand, go bulk buy!
Set a budget of £5 a week for toiletries for the family – a quick trip round Poundland on pay day once a month. Look out for the toiletries in Lidl and Aldi. I never use any toiletries except Aldi’s as I think they are so good.
Set a £10 a month budget for cleaning/laundry products. I always get these from Lidl (my local Lidl and Aldi are on the same street – Union st in Plymouth – on my way home) I buy Lidl’s largest laundry liquid for about £2.75 and that lasts two of us a month. I also work on the basis that if it isn’t dirty, doesn’t smell then it doesn’t need washing.
To save money on laundry, judiciously watch the weather report and launder when there’s a gap in the weather and you can hang it outside. With a family, using a tumble drier might be inevitable but that’s just not in rock hard debt repayment…..the choice is yours.
So, that’s a roof over your head, the bills paid, the house and yourselves clean and warmish and fed…………..everything else is optional. You must decide from here on what is important.
I could tell you what we did but you must make your own choices.
In the rock hard repayment system, you take anything that’s left and throw everything at debts. We chose the smallest debt first. We paid the minimum payment on everything else and paid extra on one debt until that was paid. We then took that entire amount we’d paid on the smallest debt and added that to the next smallest debt and paid that plus the minimum repayment on that debt. We then just did that month after month after month until we’d paid everything back.
Whilst we did that we: got another job each, took over time, sold anything we didn’t need on ebay and bought nothing at all for almost a year. It’s amazing what you can do without.
You have children at home so you have to decide what’s right for you.
I’d also like you to investigate professional debt advice from Christians Against Poverty or Step Change as one or both might operate in your areas. Don’t go to anyone else please as they could charge your money and add to your debt instead of helping you work them out.
These really are just the basics but in summary; know how much you have, cut your spending to the absolute limit and direct as much as you can towards debt repayment.
You can but do your best and take care of yourselves.
I’ll speak to you all again on Saturday.
Love Froogs xxxx