Friday, 7 January 2011

A debtor's honour

A very useful debt help organisation called the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) emailed me to tell me they had selected my blog as one of the top ten thrifty blogs! Now lets remind you all how and why I'm considered thrifty. Well I have endeavoured over a number of years to curb my spending and be less materialistic. I've come a long way on this road. However I added to my debt by undertaking a masters degree. I was very lucky that in the midst of the worst financial crisis, while all the banks were collapsing, I actually put in for a career development loan - there were 3 banks affiliated to this Government scheme and I choose the Cooperative Bank on the basis of years of socialist indoctrination by my parents. How glad was I! They said yes within a week and as Mr MDS was being rushed in as a crack team of accounts to Lehmans as they hit the bottom and all over the place financial misery abounded, I found myself in possession of loan to help fund my studies.

I was hardly flush when I started my MA but with a frugal regime and working when I could I got by. Like any student I exited with a debt. The benefit of a career development loan is that the repayments don't start until a month after you've finished and the interest rate is exceedingly low and you have 24 months to pay it off. I also pay in a bit extra to build up my Co-op bank account. They give you an account and I have never used it save for the mechanics of paying off my loan.

Of course I would have loved to have had enough to support myself but when you have a home to run, childcare and the rest, I'd really never saved a great deal. Then of course I had all the expenditure of travel, books and small things which were extremely useful like membership to the BFI whose library I lived in, as well as London College of Fashion's and Central College St Martin's.

All in all it mounted up and whilst I did a horrendous stint at a shopping centre every weekend for a month doing a style event, it was all to fund my short film. In all I graduated with a £2,800 career development loan, an £1000 overdraft and £3,000 on my credit card which was only £1000 before so I'd dented it quite a bit. The loan covered my fees and the £3,000 I'd accumulated as additional debt was due to attending college and living expenses.

I was very good I'd like to add. I made my own sandwiches for lunch and had extra things like a banana or a bag of nuts in case I got hungry before I got home. I took a flask with green tea in and only occasionally bought a coffee. I also refilled a water bottle every day with my own tap water. I dyed clothes and altered others. If I bought anything it was from Topshop and Dorothy Perkins as I had 10% student discount. I grew vegetables and herbs at home although this is never enough to live off every week. I also made all my own bread by hand. Mr MDS mucked in to and we rarely went out save for really special occasions.

Every month I made a meal planner and stuck to it, this kept the monthly shop down. Of course I did all my own cleaning, washing and ironing and still do!

At one point I think I even cut my own hair and I became a dab hand at diy bikini waxing. My most extravagant purchase was a necklace from Wendy Brandes a Little Woolf because I needed a talisman to help me when I wrote my dissertation.

Now my debt is entirely self inflicted and before my good choice debt, the Masters, I had made bad choice debt with spending too much on clothes in a thoughtless, almost shopaholic way. I honestly feel sick sometimes when I think the money I wasted. Particularly as you never know what is around the corner.

This year I'm going to increase my frugal methods in the home. I can't emphasise enough how important it is to make a meal planner, it saves you over buying and focuses you on what you can make for a specific budget a week. Food has definitely got more expensive but I always make the meals, ultimately it always works out cheaper to make your own food. I would quite happily live off vegetables, lentil and quinoa but I think my family might go to McDonalds if I did that.

When is comes to clothes shopping I have reigned that in ten fold. I went for 3 months well in the end it was 4 months without buying a thing. This really broke my habit. Now I'm on a style challenge and it means I can only buy designer clothes and guess what it is much harder to do that then a cheeky high street shop. I also love the idea of neutral shopping, selling items on ebay to buy one item you really want. The Queen of Thrifting has to be Sharon Rose of My Style, Thrifting, Fashion and Me she cut her debt by buying items only from charity shops and car boots sales.

The most important thing to remember when you do get into debt is what you can do to get out of it. It is no good beating yourself up but it can happen to the best of us for a whole heap of reasons. CCCS offers free debt help and you should never pay for any advice. I'm going to check out all their advice and tips as 2011 is the year to get truly solvent.


  1. Well done for the mention. You have done well to survive, I think a lot of potential mature students are put off by the debt especially if they have families, they just can't afford to pursue their dreams xx

  2. Mrs Fab - oh gosh yes and rightly so, it is a complete struggle. I was lucky in the sense Mr MDS had a full time job but his salary isn't enough for the loss of mine not to cause a big dent. We are getting back on track slowly but surely.

    It was worth every penny and the career development loan is a big help to take the plunge.

  3. Congratulations Kate, I do like reading blogs which are realistic about how much most of us have to spend and how to make the most of our pennies. I have always been very thrifty; coming from a family without very much money then being a poor student and dealing with periods of unemployment means I have always been very careful. My problem has been learning that it is ok to treat myself without feeling guilty. I still make my own lunch though and only buy a take-away coffee about once a year!

  4. Hi Kate-what an inspirational post and a big congratulations to you on keeping your 'good debt' down to a very reasonable level during your MA course. Having a family and paying bills in the mix can make it all the more difficult, but you have proved it is achievable with hard work and determination and of course thrifty ways!! Thanks as always for the mention, unfortunately all my debt was consumer and bad debt-I am out of it now, but unlike you, have nothing to show for it, so am more determined never to get into a situation like that again. Am so looking forward to our meet up,its keeping me going through all this crappy weather!! xx

  5. I frittered my way through a substantial amount of inheritance money (well substantial to me). I regret every cent of it and I have nothing to show for it except my remorse. I am so much wiser with money now but it was a stupidly expensive lesson.

  6. Great post Kate, and your blog does deserve it!
    As you know I totally relate, it will be many years - if ever by the time I pay off my student loans and two credit cards it cost to get my education, however I have paid off the debt I ran up shopping and I paid off my student overdraft so it coming along. With education debt I think you just have to look at it like a mortgage, an investment for the future. I think it is also imoportant to raise the subject of postgrad education as many dont realise student loans dont come for Masters and PhDs - mine were funded by Visa and Mastercard as I wasn't able to get the career development loan as my course was longer than 2 years combined the MSc and PhD were 4.5 years!

  7. I think I'll try the meal planner - I've never thought of it before as I'm never sure what I want to eat and don't think I'll stick to it - plus I lead such an erratic lifestyle that meal times as such don't exist ! But I sure do have a lot of waste.

  8. What can I say after all that has been said. Congrats Kate, you're a (I would say hell of a) great woman!!!


  9. Oh well done on getting the mention on their site Kate! CCCS do really good work and it's fab that they're encouraging people to be inspired by blogs like this one.

    The Money Saving Expert forums were an absolute godsend to me post-uni when I needed to wise up about my finances. I still don't earn much but I'm debt free (other than student loan which I don't count because it'll never be paid off) and have savings so I think I'm a lot more money savvy than most of my friends.

    Meal planning is the one area where I fall down. I don't think I'm wasteful with food but it would make shopping much easier and we might eventually use up some of the 8 packets of rice we have in the back of the cupboard that always get forgotten about!

  10. Dear Kate, well done! And also well done for getting through your degree! You did brilliantly.

    I wish I could sell things on Ebay but I never have. I'm terrible at getting things in the post which would soon cause a problem. I have just advised a friend to sell her some of her lovely clothes she doesn't wear anymore and buy something expensive she really wants like a shearling coat. I wish I could take my own advice! Have a great weekend xx

  11. This is one of your favourite posts ever! Bring on the Thrift I say!


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