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In terms of money and our finances, I feel like we have lived two very different lives. A few short years ago we would spend every single penny we had and more too! If we wanted something we just bought it whether we could afford it or not. If the money wasn’t in the bank we would just pop it on a credit card. We never saved a single penny. We didn’t have a rainy day fund or emergency fund. If there was an emergency then we would add it to our debt. If, on a rare occasion that there was money left in mine or Tom’s bank account then we would just find something to spend it on. When the kids came along back in 2008 we were hugely in debt but we knew we’d be buying the latest buggy, car seats, clothes etc. It was madness but we didn’t know any other way. The lack of money and increasing debt was always in the back of our minds. Always there niggling away. But not for one second did either of us think we could do anything about it.

We finally saw sense in 2018 and completely changed the way we used and thought about money.

WE PAYED MORE THAN THE MINIMUM ON ALL DEBTS

For years and years we bumbled along paying the minimum amount on each of our debts. It would have taken decades to pay off. We picked the lowest debt and over-payed by as much as we could afford each month. Once that debt was gone we moved onto the next debt and did the same. We continued in this way until they were all paid off.

WE TOOK ON EXTRA WORK

This was quite easy to do. We run our own pet service business and we started to offer a weekend service and take on more clients. This enabled us to throw more money at our debt and then, a bit later, our savings.

I TOOK ON A SIDE HUSTLE

In order to bring in some extra money I started matched betting. This had a HUGE impact on our finances. I averaged around £800 each month. It was perfect for me as I was able to fit it in around the kids and do it in my PJs if I wanted to! I then started to do low-risk casino too and I’ve also made a decent amount from that.

WE HAVE AUTOMATED OUR SAVINGS

After our debt had been paid off our focus turned to saving for our emergency fund. We want to save 6 months’ worth of expenses , which is approx £10k. We are almost there! Just £2.5k to go. The most effective way of saving for us is to automate it all. The money is automatically taken from my current account and transferred to our saving account. I just treat the savings like any other bill. Mentally, it’s easier that way. If I physically had to log into my account each week/month and transfer it I know I would never do it.

WE STARTED BUDGETING

I honestly have no clue how we have managed to get through our adult lives without a budget in place. We had no clue where our money was going, how much we were spending and on what we were spending it on. We didn’t even know how much our bills were each month. It’s easy to say ‘how could we have been so stupid’? but we were never told how to do it or that we even needed to do it. I never saw my mum write up a budget (because she too didn’t have one) and I was never taught about managing money at school so how on earth could I have known how to do it?

We now know how much will be leaving our bank accounts and on which dates. I make a point of going over our budget regularly to check if there are any areas in which we can save.

WE MEAL PLAN

I have to admit, I do struggle with this. When I do it it saves us a fortune each month. I write out a plan for each week, go shopping with a list made from that plan and stick to the list. I did it all the way through our debt paying journey. But now that we are debt free I often find myself slacking and need to give myself a kick up the bum. Take a look at how I meal plan here.

WE NEVER AUTO-RENEW INSURANCE POLICIES

You should not feel like you need to stay loyal to your insurance provider. Two weeks prior to an insurance policy coming to an end I always shop around to try to find a better deal. If you auto-renew you’ll usually end up paying more as they tend to increase the premiums each year. I usually find a better deal via Compare the Market and then call my current provider to ask them if they can beat it. If not I’ll leave.

WE CUT OUT THE EXPENSIVE COFFEES

Well, almost. We used to each get a £2.60 drink most days. This obviously cost us a huge amount and we had to knock it on the head. I think it’s important to still have some of the things you enjoy otherwise what is the point? I know if I cut it out completely I would just end up miserable and resentful. So we’ll now have one every week or every other week. The money we used to spend on coffee now goes towards our mortgage overpayments or savings.

WE STARTED SINKING FUNDS

I wish we had done this years ago! Sinking funds are savings that you know are going to be used for a specific thing, e.g Christmas. I save £15 each week in our Christmas sinking fund pot. Then, when Christmas comes along the money is there ready to be spent. No stress, no panic. I don’t need to touch our emergency fund and I don’t need to put it all on a credit card. We have lots of different sinking fund pots – car/van, school uniform, new boiler fund, tax man fund, gifts/birthdays etc. It gives us such peace of mind to know that the money is there for when we need to use it. I use Starling for my sinking funds as you can create different ‘pots’ in which to save your money. I like Starling as the banking app is so easy to use and the account was very simple to set up. But many people use Monzo, which is very similar or they just use their regular bank account and keep note of what they’re saving for and tally the amount each month.

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