At this time of year, it’s important not to get too wrapped up (excuse the pun) in the whole commercial aspect of Christmas and try and remember that at the heart of it, Christmas is a time of year for spending with family and friends. Today I was reminded of how great great friends can be, and so I wanted to write a ‘thank you’ list to God/The Universe for all the blessings in my life. Sometimes I get so caught up in my debt problems and what I don’t have, that I forget that I am actually very blessed in my life. So here goes….
1. I am thankful for my son, for his health, his intelligence and loving nature. He can be a complete pain in the arse sometimes but I know deep down that he is here to teach me more about myself, love and life than anyone else on the planet.
2. I am thankful for my family. We may argue, scream, swear we’ll never speak again but I know deep down that we are all here for each other.
3. I am thankful for my friends. They are some of the greatest people I know. I promise that this year I will try and be there more for them and do more with them. After all when we’re older, I want us to look back and laugh at the times we had together.
4. I am thankful for my health, my independence and the fact that in this modern time and country I am relatively free as a woman to do and be who I want. There may be glass ceilings and other feminist issues still to contend with but there is also a whole heap of inspirational women out there for me to look up to and believe in.
5. I am thankful for the roof over my head, my heating, the food in my fridge and all the other creature comforts that we take for granted sometimes. I know that it is a game of chance where we are born and we could just as easily have been born somewhere without all these things.
6. A strange one maybe but I am thankful for my ex. Not only did he teach me a lot about myself but he has become a terrific dad to my son and I am so grateful that we now have a good relationship and are not bickering like so many split up couples with kids.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and New Year. Hope that you are as blessed, if not more so and spending your time with your loved ones.
Last month the BBC published an article entitled ‘ Would $4000 make poor children cleverer?’. The article discussed how a US economist had won a grant from a charity which supports improving the lives of children. The question that his research project will posit is by giving poorer families more money, can we improve the brain development of children in those families?
As a single mother barely making end meet the article threw up a lot of questions for me. Am I in this situation because of my upbringing? Is my son less smart than his ‘richer’ class mates? Will my son continue the cycle or break free? How exactly are we measuring success here?
I cannot speak from any other point of view except my own on this matter. Perhaps I am a single mother because of my own poor upbringing. My family had a brief period of wealth but that all soon dissolved when my parents separated. As young parents themselves I have heard from my grandparents how they worked endless jobs to make ends meet in the early days. There was a period of wealth, as I mentioned before when we moved to Dubai for my fathers job but then my parents divorced and our worlds changed drastically. Looking back now I know that my father was careful and not poor as such. He didn’t splurge on anything because he was busy saving up for his dream of owning his own business. My mother on the other hand spent her money like water and there were often periods in my early and late teens were we would have no heating, electricity or food. Has this had an effect on how I am today? Of course it has!! I recognise my own frivolous nature with money as I saw in my mother, but I also paradoxically have a complete fear of not paying my bills and always ensure they are paid first and foremost. Did this upbringing stunt my development intellectually? Who knows. The one thing it did do was limit my options and opportunities, and perhaps this is turn has limited my abilities and more importantly confidence.
Personally for me the one difference between lower and upper or middle class families is a sense of security. Security in the sense of having more opportunities available to you and being confident that you can try things and be financially supported by your parents. But then perhaps there is a hunger in children of lower class families to aspire to more and break free of their environments. Are rags to riches stories possible? Or are they just an urban myth fed to us from Hollywood?
There are so many social and economical factors involved in a debate such as this that I know I am only touching the absolute tip of the iceberg here. Perhaps I am too romantic in my notions of life as well but I believe and know that although money can bring freedom it cannot necessarily make children cleverer. That is down to the parent’s attitudes to education, their social beliefs and aspirations. I am poor and my son is one of the top in his class. Perhaps we do need money to break some barriers in this society and to reach the very top but I also believe that hard work, passion and pure determination can go a long way to changing people’s lives. Perhaps I won’t be the next CEO of Google because I am a single mother, but if I can provide my son with a happy life, a fulfilled life, a life with opportunities and choices then maybe I have done enough to break free of my cycle so that he may keep going up and up.
A lot has happened in the recent weeks and my head has been spinning as a result. In the next few weeks I hope to get back on track and use the extended Christmas break as a time to take stock, organise and re-energise for the following months and year to come.
However I do have one positive update on my financial situation. I finally received my service charge cheque and have paid off my Next credit account. YAY!!! In this next week I will call them to close the account and then I will focus on paying off my Natwest credit card, the balance of which is currently around £1800 approx. I hope to pay this card off by July 2014. I have jacked in the catalogue job as it was proving to be unfruitful and a lot of work for zero return. My aim with additional income is to carry on with the Amazon and Music Magpie clear-out and then apply to be temporary waiting staff for events.
I know some people may say that tackling the smaller debts is an upside down way of looking at things but personally I feel I need the sense of achievement in paying these debts off first to keep me buoyed up and motivated to achieve my financial goals.
In my quest to pay off 4 of my current debt accounts, I have been following the advice from the blog Man vs. Debt, which can pretty much be summed up through the main tagline of the site, ‘Sell your crap…Pay off your debt…Do what you love!’. Simple but powerful advice and some that I have been trying to keep at the forefront of my mind.
So recently I decided to get rid of some of my DVD collection. I have started with baby steps, putting some on Music Magpie website and some boxsets on Amazon. I have managed to sell two of the box-sets already and will make £16 approx from both sites. Not a lot I admit but still a success and a small step towards where I want to go!
It’s definitely given me the bug to keep trying though and I reckon as the weeks go on I will put more and more stuff to sell online. Hopefully the funds will soon start to add up and I will be one step closer to my finance goals for 2014.
As I’ve mentioned before I read a lot of other blogs for daily inspiration, advice and just general life-window shopping. My favourite blogs vary in subject, from inspiring words to makeup magic to seriously good debt advice. I’ve just added a ‘Blog Love’ page to my blog and I promise to start adding links to blogs that I read on a daily basis or have come across and been inspired by for one reason or another.
One of the blogs that I have been reading more and more is Man Vs. Debt. It is a fantastic blog with loads and loads of advice and other people’s debt stories. I have just downloaded their ‘Unautomate Your Finances’ guide and am currently reading my way through it one step at a time. Although I’m only on Chapter 2, so far a lot of what Baker (the founder of Man Vs. Debt) has to say is hitting home….HARD! This journey that I am embarking on is not just about paying back my debt and freeing myself financially but it is also about learning a whole new way of approaching and thinking about money. I do not want to be in this situation anymore or have this situation happen to me again in the future and to ensure that I really need to change the way I look at money, the way I look at myself and the way I look at the world.
I have definitely been guilty of being one of those people who want the easy way out. I see something and I have to have it. Now I haven’t necessarily gone to extremes and brought designer goods or a flash car but I have definitely been living above my means for the last 2-3 years and also not thought seriously enough about the financial steps I have taken in that time. My biggest problem, I believe, was in paying credit off with credit. I had a credit card and to clear that I got a loan, which in turn freed up the card for more spending, and so on and so on. See the problem?
Now I find myself at my lowest ebb, financially. I have enough to cover my bills but only a couple of hundred pounds leftover after that to pay for food, petrol and any other expenses. I have hit rock bottom. Personally for me the worst part of all this is the emotional and psychological toll as well as feeling totally and utterly trapped in this cycle.
I’m not sitting in the corner crying though (well occasionally on a really,really tough week I do). No, I have already taken steps to change this, but I am still a long way from starting to climb this mountain. I have cut back all bills that I can. I have started shopping smarter and at cheaper supermarkets. I have stopped going out at all, unless it’s to friend’s houses. I have got a second part-time job. I am starting to sell what I can on Amazon/Ebay. I hope that with persistence and sheer determination I will reach the peak and be able to see a much clearer and more attractive vision of my and my son’s future! Fingers crossed.