Money is often seen as a very taboo topic. There’s a lot of secrecy around how much debt we’re all in, how much we get paid and what we choose to spend our money on.
It’s about time that we all started speaking up, and I volunteer to go first.
Until as recently as last year, I was hundreds of pounds deep into my overdraft and mindlessly spending money on completely unnecessary items. I’ve managed to turn my financial habits around, but I’m aware that many people aren’t as lucky. So I decided to push through my own discomfort and share my past with frivolous spending, along with the steps that I took to completely change my money mindset.
Ready for a bumpy ride?
I’m very fortunate that my parents were kind enough to pay off my student loan after I graduated from university. I know a lot of people have that huge debt hanging over their heads as soon as they start working, and I’m so grateful that I never had to deal with that. Thanks, Mum and Dad!
I was always just okay at saving money. While I was at university I worked part-time in a shoe store (still one of my all-time favourite jobs!) and made sure to put aside a certain amount of money every week.
I had big plans to move to London after graduation, so I knew I had to save. I did pretty well, but if my Nana hadn’t gifted me a few thousand dollars on my 21st birthday then I don’t know how I would have ever been able to move across the world!
When I landed my first full-time office job in London, I went a little crazy. It kills me now to look back and see how much money I could have been saving! I got my nails done constantly and bought a ton of unnecessary clothes, along with big nights out a few times a week. At the time I had a credit card, but thankfully I was using it sensibly and didn’t end up with any debt.
If you’re wondering, I cut it up into tiny pieces years ago – better safe than sorry!
Then I developed anxiety, and ended up using money as a way to make myself feel better. If I felt anxious, I went shopping. Needless to say, I ended up with a lot of stuff that I didn’t need.
As the years went by, my savings account just wasn’t growing. I did my best to put money aside, but the lure of that ASOS sale email was always just a little too tempting. I was also really into veganism and spent a lot of money on exotic fruits, insanely expensive smoothie powders and eating out at every new vegan restaurant that popped up in London. It was quite literally an addiction!
Despite my bulging overdraft, I always felt safe with money. I had a good job with a steady paycheck, so in my eyes it didn’t matter that I was always left with nothing at the end of the month. I always patted myself on the back for not having a credit card or any debt, conveniently forgetting that my overdraft was also a form of debt!
When I left my comfortable office job last year and became self-employed, suddenly that steady paycheck wasn’t always guaranteed. If I messed up with money, our business would suffer.
I sat down with Elliott to go through my bank statements and was hit with a reality check. I needed to grow up and start taking my money seriously.
Elliott was kind enough to pay off my overdraft for me, so that I could start fresh with my finances. I’m very aware of how lucky I am to have had so much help from family and my boyfriend – I honestly don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for them!
I started watching YouTube channels such as The Financial Diet and came up with a plan to completely change my money mindset. That was almost a year ago, and I’ve never been more financially secure.
I now have a healthy savings account! I’m also proud to say that I have absolutely no debt – my overdraft has been reduced to a £100 limit that I rarely, if ever, have to dip into.
It wasn’t easy to completely change my money mindset, but I now feel like a completely different person. I wanted to share a little of the knowledge that I’ve gained along the way, so I put together a list of the five key habits that I stuck to in order to gain control of my spending – if you’re interested, keep reading!
Make a budget
Creating a simple budget was the key step to improving my finances and regaining control of my money.
It doesn’t need to be complicated – a simple spreadsheet will do, or even just a note on your phone!
I’ve made it a habit to sit down once a month and work out all of my upcoming expenses, and then move this money into a separate account to withdraw from when the bills are due. This includes regular bills such as rent and council tax, but also takes into account upcoming expenses like a water bill or a birthday present. This way I know exactly where my money is going and how much I have left to spend on myself.
Of course, I make it a priority to move a certain amount of money into my savings account. More on that later!
Once I’ve worked out how much money I have left over after deducting my monthly expenses, I separate it into blocks. This gives me an idea of how much I can spend on specific areas of my life – one block is for clothes and beauty products, another is for fun things like day trips and movies. These are a little more flexible and I let myself adjust them according to what I feel like doing that month.
Honestly, that’s all there is to it. It seems so simple, but this small habit has completely transformed my life and removed any unnecessary stress about finances. I can’t recommend it enough.
Pay myself first
I always felt like I was depriving myself whenever I moved money into my savings account. Of course I knew that it was still my money and that I would get it back, but it felt so… boring.
I would dream of all the clothes and shoes that I could be buying and end up feeling resentful. This often resulted in an impulsive shopping spree which would wipe out that small amount of savings in an instant.
‘Next month will be better!’ I promised myself, month after month. And the cycle would begin again.
To get out of this habit, I had to change my mindset. Instead of feeling restricted and deprived whenever I saved money, I started to view it as though I was paying myself first every month.
As soon as those funds hit my bank account, I transfer a certain amount into savings. I do this before I buy groceries or pay any bills, and this way it feels as though I’m a priority. It’s another form of self-respect – my financial security is worth much more than an electricity bill or a new pair of shoes.
It’s been six months since I started taking my money seriously, and I already have a very healthy savings account. It’s never too late to make yourself a priority when it comes to your finances!
In order to spend less money, I knew I had to remove all temptations from my everyday life.
The first step I took was to unsubscribe from online mailing lists. These brands had crept into my life and were slowly draining my finances, and it was time to put a stop to it. That regular ASOS newsletter was responsible for more impulse purchases than I’d like to admit, and I just couldn’t resist any new products that The Vegan Kind were stocking.
Now my inbox is less cluttered and my bank account is full – just the way it should be.
I also unfollowed any YouTube and Instagram accounts that made me feel like I should be spending money. It’s so easy to get swept up in the idea that buying things will make you happy, when really it’s exactly the opposite. Most of these influencers receive those items for free or are paid to promote them – plus, some of them are actually incredibly unhappy despite being surrounded by designer clothes and bags. It really isn’t worth it.
Goodbye, random beautiful Instagram model – hello, The Financial Diet!
Lastly, I stopped browsing online or on the high street just because I was bored. It inevitably lead to a purchase that I wouldn’t otherwise have made, and therefore didn’t really need.
These simple changes have saved me a ridiculous amount of money with very minimal effort. Why not give it a try?
Streamline my wardrobe
I shudder when I think about how much I’ve spent on clothing and accessories over the course of my adult life. Instead of saving my money for a rainy day, I would splurge on countless tops, shoes and dresses that I really didn’t need.
The thing is, I never felt like I had enough. There was always something else that I needed to buy, something else to fill that gap in my wardrobe.
This year I’ve started moving away from trends and cheap clothes, focusing instead on building a wardrobe based on neutrals and classic items that I can mix and match. These days, I actually get excited when I find the perfect black t-shirt!
The same goes for jewellery – I’ve shunned the super-cheap, super-trendy statement pieces that only last for one season and have completely streamlined my collection. The only pieces I wear on a regular basis now are my favourite Kate Spade bracelet, a dainty necklace and a small pair of earrings.
The old Jenna would be pulling her hair out at how ‘boring’ I’ve become, but I actually feel much more confident and put together these days!
Buying higher-quality items means that I don’t have to keep replacing them and although I’m buying less, my wardrobe actually feels bigger because everything matches.
Does this mean I’m an adult now?
Do an audit
It’s so easy to get caught up in spending mindlessly over the years, just because you’ve been doing it for so long. I was definitely guilty of this!
But when I sat down and did a full audit of my bank statements, I immediately identified some spending habits that could be improved with a few simple tweaks.
I was eating out way too often and spending far too much money on food. When I set myself a budget for this area of my life, I saved money effortlessly. I also found a ton of small purchases that I had made because ‘it’s only a few pounds.’
The thing is, those few pounds add up!
Seeing the figures on paper in front of me gave me the motivation to make positive changes to my spending habits.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve been doing most things right. When I started working from home, I immediately saved over £100 a month simply because I didn’t have to catch the train every day! These days, I eat the majority of my meals at home – there’s really no need for me to venture out to eat when I have fresh, healthy food in my kitchen.
I also don’t own a car, and try to walk or take public transport wherever I go. Elliott does have a car, however, so I’m cheating a little on that one!
Money shouldn’t be seen as a taboo subject. If we were all a little more open about our finances, there would be less guilt and fear linked to our individual spending habits. This would likely lead to better choices and ultimately a healthy and thriving society that doesn’t rely on debt to function.
There’s no shame in being frivolous with money. But in the interest of self-improvement, it’s smart to make better choices and focus on growing a healthy savings account while eliminating as much debt as possible.
If I can do it, anyone can.