Will we always feel skint?

As my diary gets ever more full leading up to Christmas, there will be numerous gig reports coming so bear with me – this is the second thoughtful post in a row and I don’t want anyone to get worried.

In a world of buy-now-pay-later, credit cards with unrealistically low minimum payments and adverts everywhere telling us to ‘treat ourselves’, it can be challenging to budget effectively. Credit is so easily obtained, why save up for the things we want when we can have it now and deal with paying for it later? People living on credit gain an unrealistic expectation of the lifestyle they can actually afford while storing up trouble for the future and having to pay ludicrous amounts in interest every month – which is literally throwing hard-earned money away.

It’s an easy and slippery slope to find yourself on. It may also partly be caused by the fact that denying yourself things or saving up for things is seen by many as boring while getting them now is seen as exciting and fun. We need to change this to a more realistic view that saving for things is responsible and wise whereas buying too much on credit is unwise and reckless.

One of my targets for 2013 was to pay off my credit card and destroy it (done) and another was to get out of my overdraft (nearly done). But now that I’ve almost shaken off those debts, suddenly I have to maintain this level of equilibrium and live within my means.

It sounds slightly OCD and maybe it is, but for the past 12 months I’ve noted down every penny that I get paid, and everything I have had to fork out for. iPhone users can use an app called Budget – Back in Black, this app has helped me so much. You key in monthly expenses that happen every month, rent, gym memberships, subscriptions etc, then the income you receive. This is obviously easier for people with salaried jobs as income is very similar each month, but for me, when I do a gig or teach a lesson, I record it in the app. It then works out what you have left over after fixed expenses for normal spending on things like groceries or clothes. You can also set yourself goals, such as paying off a credit card or saving for a holiday – decide what you want to put aside each month then that gets taken out of your spending total.

It sounds quite time-consuming but it’s really not that bad, and if anyone else out there is feeling skint I’d fully recommend this app. Just the bother of having to key in purchases is enough to stop a certain amount of spending on things like take away coffee or taxis as these really add up without adding much value. The first few months I used it I ended the month in the red, naughty. So it really teaches you to be careful.

But this got me thinking, living on a modest budget means constantly being careful with spending, but will it always be like this for freelancers with unstable income? Will I ever be able to spend £8 on a cocktail without a certain amount of guilt? Maybe once I have some decent savings in the bank, but until then, it seems the price of living without debt is constant vigilance.

Living modestly has its advantages though, walking instead of taking the bus is extra exercise, cooking from scratch rather than ordering takeaway is so much cheaper and healthier, and putting on jumpers and wooly socks in winter rather than putting the heating on makes you feel like you’re doing the planet a favour too.

Before I finish this post, I’d just like to thank everyone who takes the time to reads these musings of mine, and for your comments and feedback. Please feel free to comment below with your own money-saving tips and tricks. Or join me and let’s start a debt-free revolution and cut up our credit cards!

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