Happy Easter and random announcements!

Happy Friday everyone! How was your week? Do you have any plans for Easter? Whatever your plans are, I hope you have a great Easter Holiday. This week has been a busy one for me, my little girl has been off nursery due to the Easter Holidays so I’ve been trying to keep her busy and entertained. She’s looking forward to going back next week and seeing her friends again. :)

Today’s post is a mash up of announcements!

I will get back to my Friday’s Fab Links feature soon, but today, I wanted to mention quite a few things, so here goes!

This week, I was honoured to take part in the Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival which was hosted by the wonderful Shannon from The Heavy Purse. Financial literacy is such an important message so if you haven’t already, please check out the money a-ha moments which many talented bloggers have shared as part of the Carnival. If you haven’t yet seen my contribution, you can read about my epic money a-ha moment here.

Thank you to Lyle at The Joy of Simple who mentioned my post about Noisy Neighbours earlier this week! (Still haven’t managed to sort anything out about this situation!) If anyone else has mentioned me recently, please let me know so that I can thank you as I don’t always get ping backs.

I’m really pleased to announce that A Disease Called Debt was voted one the Best Finance Blogs of 2014 by Broadview Networks this week! I was contacted by them a couple of weeks ago to say that I had been nominated and I heard back on Wednesday that my blog had been selected. If you want to take a look at the complete list of Best Finance Blogs as selected by Broadview Networks, here’s the announcement!

Last week, so many of you gave me some great frugal gardening tips, so thank you very much to everyone that commented! Your tips have been really helpful, I’ve been looking at tulips, hostas and growing from seeds already. Something else I did which was really frugal was to ask my parents whether they had any plants that they didn’t want. I was expecting them to say no, but they actually did have some plants and containers that they didn’t have much room for! So I managed to get hold of some already established shrubs free of charge. Yay!

Finally, I’m posting over at Debt Advice Blog today. Do you ever find yourself wanting more than you already have or not being completely satisfied with what you’ve got? It can be a dangerous situation to be in, because ‘wanting more’ often costs more and we can end up in financial trouble if the cycle of wanting more continues. Please head on over and read my full post!

Have a great Easter and I’ll be back next week!

My epic A-ha moment about money

Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival

*Photo Credit

There have been quite a few epic financial epiphanies during the course of our journey to get rid of our debt.

However, one that stands out for me in particular is the moment when I realised the devastation that having debt can cause and I then vowed to do everything I could to make sure my hubby and I became debt free.

This one even beat the realisation that lower price own brand foods are very often just as tasty as expensive big name branded food products.

My A-ha moment about money occurred a good time after we knew we were up to our necks in debt. We’d even faced the possibility of bankruptcy in previous years and our house had been put at great risk by our debt situation.

We hated and feared our financial circumstances. We thought that we were doing the best that we could to survive the pretty dire financial mess that we were in (and had been in for several years). We had cut back on spending, rarely went out and were just surviving. Living like this impacted our lifestyle, our relationship and on time spent together as a family.

When I had this A-ha moment, it just hit me like a light switch flicking on (sorry for the cliché). My hubby and I absolutely had to pay off our debts – and as quickly as possible. Even though we were already trying to get the debts paid off, I knew in that moment that we weren’t doing enough. Because if we were, we would have made way more progress than we had done.

In all honesty, we didn’t have a handle on our debts whatsoever. We weren’t even sure of the amount although we thought our debts were in the region of £35K. Imagine our horror when we later found out that our debt actually totalled in excess of £41K!

I don’t know what took me so long to have a moment like this but I suddenly saw that if we didn’t stamp out our debt, we’d be living in the shadow of debt 10 years from now at the very least. My age would be 43 and my hubby would be 46 years old. I felt sick as I then thought about our retirement plans – which didn’t really amount to much at all. I felt alone and depressed as these thoughts whirled around my mind.

My hubby has always been the laid back one in our relationship and he didn’t have quite the same worries as me, because he thought we’d be alright in the end and something would work out. So with this in mind, I knew that I needed to take control of our finances for both myself and my hubby and convince him that the debts wouldn’t just sort themselves out and that we needed to do more. That night, I started A Disease Called Debt with my first post which was basically me trying to get all these thoughts out of my head about our debt situation.

After I published that post, I started searching the internet for ways to pay off debt. I don’t really know what I was looking for in particular, I was just looking for some kind of support system I think, but then I came across different stories from people who had paid off their debt – and large amounts too. I also found articles about the debt snowball method which made complete sense to me. Armed with this information, I had a conversation with the hubby which changed our financial future.

We took the following lessons from this ‘Aha’ moment:

We took control of our spending

Prior to starting this journey, we rarely checked our bank account for fear of being in our overdraft or seeing something that we didn’t want to see. Crazy I know. From the day this blog started though, checking our bank account is something that we do at least weekly if not every other day.

We track our spending – and I mean everything. We keep receipts for every little purchase we have to make and log it. This way we can see easily where we’re overspending or where we might be able to save money here and there.

We found out the true extent of our debt and faced our fears

As I mentioned earlier, the shock of owing over £41K was pretty bad but we forced ourselves to log our debts in a spreadsheet with the balances, minimum payments and a column for over payments. This spreadsheet has been a huge motivator throughout this journey as we’ve been able to track our progress along the way.

We reduced our expenses even more

Once we’d gotten a handle on where we were spending money, it was easy to see where we could cut back. I said that we’d just been surviving before and this was true. But we found out that we had been frittering away money at the supermarket by doing little top up shops here and there for example.

We changed this to one monthly shop, bought lots in bulk, cooked in bulk and froze many meals for later. This reduced our grocery shopping bill from £400 to around £250 per month. We revisited all our utility and insurance providers and made sure that we were getting the best deals possible. We review our expenses all the time just in case we can save more money.

We tried to raise our income

We achieved significant progress last year from making extra money selling things on eBay, doing car boot sales and taking on more work. With this extra money, we immediately paid it off our debts. It was and still is very satisfying to make any kind of extra debt payment like this.

Just over a year into this debt repayment journey, the hubby and I have paid off around £14,000 of debt. It’s a great feeling! I’m so glad that we’re not still plodding along blindly trying to make ends meet and hoping that things will just work out. We are a lot more relaxed and feel really positive about our financial future not to mention the knowledge and experience that we’ve gained already!

This post forms part of The Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival which is hosted by Shannon from The Heavy Purse. Please head on over to check out some great posts about Money A-ha’s!

*Image courtesy of The Heavy Purse

Noisy Neighbour Nightmare

noisy neighbours

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This post today isn’t actually to do with debt but seeing as noisy neighbours are impacting on my life at the moment both personally and financially, this situation is on my mind most days.

So I hope you don’t mind but I just needed to have a bit of a rant today!

You may know that the hubby and I have a rental property where the rent covers the mortgage but where we don’t make any profit on it. It was our old house and we relocated to be closer to the hubby’s business, so we’re now renting too.

We’re currently in between tenants for our rental property and we’re experiencing a real problem with noisy neighbours next door. The old tenants had complained about the noise to the neighbours themselves, then they complained to me and I then complained to the neighbour’s landlord and finally to the police.

It turned out that there wasn’t enough strong evidence about these neighbours making a right racket in the early hours of the morning playing music, so we couldn’t take any action against them.

These neighbours deny that they’re making any noise in the first place and without any proper recording equipment, this is hard to prove. It takes ages for proper recording equipment to be installed by the local council – months in fact. Because of all this, our tenants moved out recently because of the noise so this is a serious problem for us financially.

Evidence is tricky when it comes to noisy neighbours

Anyway, the hubby and I were at the property last weekend and decided to stay overnight as we were doing some refurbishments. And what a treat lay in store for us! Around 6pm, the neighbours had some friends over for a party. Around 9pm, the music got cranked up. At 10.30pm, we went around to next door to ask them to turn the music down because our little girl was asleep. They couldn’t hear us knocking or shouting them over the music (windows wide open) and it was only when there was a lull in the music that they came to door.

They agreed to turn the music down but after midnight, the music got turned up again. I was practically spitting feathers at the injustice of all this by 1am in the morning, so I convinced my hubby that we should go outside and take a video recording to at least prove to the neighbour’s landlord that the noise is indeed coming from that particular property.

So my hubby and I went outside in our PJ’s and attempted to film the neighbour’s house to show the kind of stuff our old tenants had to put up with. It was really dark, but we managed to get footage showing the property and there was no mistaking the amount of noise coming from it. We then called the police to report the disturbance the neighbours were causing and I even asked the police officer if she could hear the noise from the other end of the phone in the hope that the call was being recorded. She said she could and she would send a police officer out (but no-one came).

The next morning, I popped down to the local police station with the evidence and they said although they believed me, the evidence wouldn’t stand up because it wasn’t recorded by proper equipment from the local council. The police officer’s exact words were that his hands were tied and the police have no power over this sort of thing. All they can do is ask the neighbours not to make noise after hours (which they had already done several times previously). I then sent the video footage to the neighbour’s landlord and waited expectantly to see how shocked they were going to be when they saw it.

It was me who ended up shocked though. The neighbour’s property is owned by an elderly lady who has passed the management of the property on to her son who is a lawyer. He spoke to the tenants who said that they did have a one off party because they thought the property next door was empty (ours). He also said that the neighbours disputed the date of the party with us saying it was the Saturday night and them saying it was the Sunday. So basically the landlord is going to do a big fat nothing about it.

I’m pretty sure these neighbours disputed the date of the party to make our version look unreliable. It’s all very frustrating considering the history involved with this and the fact that our tenants left because we couldn’t get the complaint taken seriously.

Whatever happened to having morals?

There’s two points that really bug me about all this. One is the landlord’s reaction. The neighbour’s landlord is refusing to acknowledge the complaints that have already been made and knows the law inside out so he knows that without the proper recording equipment, the evidence won’t stand up. With this in mind, he’s doing nothing. Why though? Is it just too much hassle getting some new tenants in?

The other point is the neighbour’s behaviour. It’s obvious to me that they are doing everything they to make sure they don’t get evicted whilst carrying on with the noise disturbance. I don’t like to judge anyone and I’m trying not to let my emotions get in the way, but from what I’ve seen, these people are manipulating the system here completely. I can’t understand why some people actually try to make things difficult for others and I’m just going to have to live with that because I’ll never know I guess. That’s just life.

The worst thing from my point of view is that I can’t exactly tell my potential new tenants what they can expect from living next door to such noisy neighbours otherwise I’ll never get the property rented out! I have to think of this from a business point of view surely but I do feel bad about this. What would you do out of interest?

All I can do is wait and see if our next tenants complain and then try to get the council involved in the hope that our tenants will stick it out long enough to get the recording equipment in. I’m also holding onto the hope that different people can cope with different levels of noise and maybe our next tenants won’t be too badly affected by these people living next door.

Have you had to deal with noisy neighbours before? Did you things get resolved?

*Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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Note: If you’re a fellow sufferer of noisy neighbour syndrome, the following sites might help (although I think I’ve tried most of these strategies already)!

Question: Frugal Gardening Tips Needed Please!

frugal gardening tips

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Happy Friday everyone! You may not have missed my regular post on Monday but if you did, it was just because I’ve been a bit under the weather this week and distinctly lacking in energy.

My little girl (G) is having nightmares every night at the moment which apparently is a normal development thing but the result is broken sleep every night for between 1-2 hours. Not good especially when I have to be up at 6.45am for work!

Anyway, needless to say, I’m looking forward to the weekend. :) How’s your week gone so far?

I thought I would ask if anyone has any frugal gardening tips for creating a low maintenance (yet pretty) garden. The hubby and I are rubbish at gardening and so we just have a concrete yard to look at. I personally have been known to accidentally kill more than one cactus before.

We rent our property so we don’t want to spend a lot of money (and we can’t anyway) but we would like to jazz up the yard a little bit so we can at least look at something else this Summer instead of plain old concrete. We can’t make any drastic changes so digging up the concrete is a definite no no. I’ve found lots of fantastic ideas online where ugly yards have been transformed into a beautiful green sanctuary, but they all seem to have a huge price attached to them to achieve such an effect.

So if you’re a green fingered reader or blogger, please do chip in by commenting if you have any advice on:

  • What are the best things to grow that are cheap and easy to maintain?
  • How can I transform a concrete yard ground area into something nicer without spending a fortune?
  • Where can I get seeds, plants and any other gardening type things cheaply?

Any frugal tips would be much appreciated!

On another note, thank you to Thomas from I Need Money ASAP! for including my post on How to make a relationship work if you’re in debt in the Carnival of Financial Camaraderie recently. Also thanks to Maria from The Money Principle for including the same post in the Carnival of Money Pros.

Have a great weekend everyone!

The minimum payment debt struggle

Minimum payment debt struggle

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Debt happens when you can’t afford to buy what you want or need with your own cash and so instead you fund the purchase by using credit. If you only pay the minimum payment on your debts and carry on buying things on credit, then you might just end up too broke to actually pay off your debts.

Making just the minimum payment on your debt each month may seem like a good idea so that you can spread the cost of a purchase over a period of time especially if you manage to get hold of a good low interest rate deal on a credit card.

But what happens if you keep on accumulating debt? Well, the minimum payment on your debts will get bigger too. All of a sudden you might find that your minimum payments are eating into your monthly budget and squeezing your finances way too much for comfort.

This can cause financial strain in many ways. You might have to go without little luxuries like your gym membership or cable TV or even have to cut back on some necessities like reducing your grocery shopping, so that you can afford to keep up with the minimum payment amount for your debts. You could experience a whole lot of stress and worry should the worst happen and you lose your source of income due to illness or lack of work.

What happens if you’re struggling to make even the minimum payment on your debts?

Not making your minimum payment on your debts would mean that you’re effectively breaking your terms and conditions with your lender. Practically speaking, this is a frightening situation to be in but help is available so don’t panic.

The very first thing you should do if you know that you can’t afford to make your minimum payment is to speak to your creditors and explain your situation whether you think you’ll be tight for money just this month or for the foreseeable future. If you are honest and open with your creditors, they may be able to help you by reducing the payments for a while or freezing the interest. Even a low token payment may be acceptable to them providing you communicate with your creditors.

It’s easy to think of creditors as big scary baddies, but there are actually humans on the end of those phones. :) Yes, some creditors are scarier than others (especially debt collectors) but in most cases, they should be respectful to you and try to understand your situation and work with you to help you.

In the UK, there are debt charities such as StepChange and National Debtline which can offer advice and support on debt problems. They can also liaise with your creditors for you to come to an agreement as to how you’ll pay back your debt if you’re struggling to keep your head above water. These two charities don’t charge fees either which helps if you’re in a tight spot with money.

How to avoid not being able to make your minimum payments

1. Always pay more than the minimum payment

If you pay more than the minimum payment, you’ll get your debt paid off much quicker than if you don’t. And you’ll pay a lot less interest too. There’s a reason creditors put “By only making the minimum payment, it will take you longer to pay back your debt”, at the end of credit card statements – it’s true!

2. Clear your debt as soon as possible

If you can clear your debt completely, you’ll have no need to worry about minimum payments whatsoever. You could use your credit card to your advantage at this point, by using it to buy your regular purchases and then paying the balance off in full each month. This could earn you rewards depending on your credit card provider and your credit rating will do a little dance with happiness.

3. Beware of the ‘pay it off later’ mindset

When you’re only making the minimum payment on your debt, you might well be thinking that there will always be another day to pay it off later. Putting that debt to the back of your mind leaves room for the temptation to accumulate more debt because you’ve mentally distanced yourself from the consequences of having debt in the first place. It’s a vicious circle and when the time comes when you really do need to pay off that debt, you’ll potentially have a lot more debt to worry about than you did before.

4. Reduce your expenses

Even if you think you’ve already squeezed your budget enough, reviewing and monitoring your budget regularly will help you to see where you can save more money, especially as needs change all the time. If there’s anything that you don’t absolutely need, then cut back on it, even if it’s just a temporary measure whilst money is tight. Shop around for the best deals on your utilities and insurance products and plan your meals in advance to try to reduce your food shopping bill.

5. Earn extra income

Think about whether you could get a second job for a while or earn extra money doing one off jobs outside of your day job.You might be able to land yourself a side gig making the most of your skills or even your hobby. You could sell stuff on eBay or Craigslist to try to generate a little extra money from time to time.

Put yourself out there and let your friends and family know that you’re on the lookout for some extra work and keep your eye on any second job opportunities that come up on sites such as People Per Hour, TaskRabbit or Gumtree.

Personal circumstances change all the time, so being in a position where your debt and minimum payment is a major factor in your monthly expenses is never a great situation to be in. You only have to look at our debt story to see why!

Have you ever been in a situation where you can’t make the minimum payment on your debt?

*Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Personal Finance Blog Roundup – Friday’s Fab Links #28

Personal finance blog weekly roundup #28Welcome to my regular personal finance blog roundup post! How’s your week been? I’ve been feeling pretty thankful this week in general.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been grateful for this blog and for the personal finance community but I can assure you it’s a LOT.

If it wasn’t for this blog and the amazing people that we’ve been inspired by over the last 15 months or so, I really don’t know if we’d have made so much good progress with our debt during this time. Before I started A Disease Called Debt, both the hubby and I felt isolated in our debt situation. We were pretty rubbish with our finances and felt like we were stuck in a dark place with our debts. We couldn’t voice our worries and frustrations anywhere for fear of being criticised or rejected in some way.

This blog and the personal finance community changed all that. We realised that we weren’t alone and there were (and are) other people out there who’ve been in a similar situation to us or who are getting themselves out of debt now. It’s amazing what can be achieved with a little encouragement and support from people who understand. I’m sure you know who you are so thank you blogging buddies. Hope I get to meet you in real life one day. :)

Before I move onto my favourite reads from this week I’d like to say a big thanks to Shannon at The Heavy Purse and Shannon at Financially Blonde for mentioning my post How My 3 Year Old is Earning Her Own Money! recently on their websites. Really appreciate your support ladies!

Here are my favourite personal finance blog reads from this week:

Lyle at The Joy of Simple wrote a great post called You’re Not The Boss of Me! Lyle reminds us what freedom is really all about as he describes his self employed and more relaxed lifestyle now as opposed to before when he was working in a corporate environment.

John from Sprout Wealth wrote What Should I Do Now That I’m Done Paying Off Debt? Obviously our debt is nowhere near paid off yet, but this post interested me because I hadn’t really given much thought to what we will do once our debt has gone. Sprout Wealth is a new blog headed up by John from Frugal Rules and Grayson from Debt Roundup and focuses around building wealth – I recommend that you check it out!

This post isn’t exactly new since it was published in October 2013, but it’s new to me so I wanted to include it. Sara from Debt Camel wrote What do to if your Full & Final settlement offer is rejected. You may know that we recently had a full and final offer accepted on one of our defaulted debts recently and others were rejected. I found this post really helpful in explaining why that might have happened.

Shannon over at the Heavy Purse posted 5 Smart Financial Moves to Make this Spring. Shannon shares some great tips in her post about reviewing financial goals and monthly bills, planning ahead for your children’s education and basically spring cleaning your finances.

Dee at Color Me Frugal shared How to Save for Retirement the Awesomely Strange Way. As someone who spent many years thinking that my retirement would just be fine and dandy financially because it was ages away, I wish I’d read a post like this years ago. Dee explains some tried and tested methods for retirement planning.

Posts on A Disease Called Debt this week:

Have a lovely weekend all!