Last Sunday was the 1st Sunday of Advent, ready or not Christmas is coming….
Advent is all about waiting, for Christians, its the season before Christmas, we’re waiting for Jesus, the child who will change everything. However, like all good Christian festivals, advent is also about arrival. The advent of something new. There’s a reason that Christmas happens at this time of year, when it’s dark and cold (and yeah I am aware that the timing was stolen from the pagans) it’s because we need the hope of spring, something to remind us that this time of darkness isn’t forever.
You don’t have to be Christian to feel like that in December, but that’s how it works for me. I’ve been thinking about Advent and how I want to spend it for a while. Spending 6 weeks sitting down and being reliant on others for company and shopping tends to lead to more introspection than usual! So I’ve decided to spend this Advent thinking about what I want to see the advent of in my life in 2016.
That will mean thinking about the person that I was this year, the actions I took, what I want from 2016 and how to make that happen. I want to look at emotional and physical things, and I’m going to break it into three parts. Finance, Relationships, Me and for each of the three Saturdays before Christmas talk about an aspect of my life this year and what I’d like to do about it to change/improve it next year. There’s some overlap in these things, and they cross into other areas of my life like where I live, exercise, family, work and so on but I think these three are either the most pressing and/or the most important for me right now.
This week it’s all about “the moneys”I did say that 2015 was austerity year and so it has proved to be. I tried to be more careful about money and wasn’t 100% successful about 70%, I’d say.
Focus is the issue for me. Look, I’m single and I live alone in one of the most expensive cities in the world, currently my basic bills and rent take about 3 quarters of my salary, add some debt to that and things are tight. They also feel hopeless and never changing. If it’s never going to get better, what difference is a fiver going to make? It’s also the year that a promised bonus didn’t come and I did spend a lot of time feeling angry and let down about that and I don’t make good decisions when I’m cross and feel trapped. So spending money on little things to cheer me up…yep I did that. Going up to my overdraft limit every month..yep for 9 months of the 11 this year, I did that too.
Sounds bad and it is bad, but I did do some positive things to address my issues. I got rid of Amazon Prime and got that spending habit under control. I halved my mobile bill, I have a budget spreadsheet so I knew what was going in (and out) of my bank account. I stayed within my overdraft limit and I didn’t miss paying a bill. Ma and I took a deep breath and didn’t go to Northumberland for a holiday this year. I have a plan to be out of charging part of my overdraft by March next year and I haven’t (and won’t) use credit cards to finance this Christmas.All of that is positive. The big change is that I got honest about it. I took a deep breath and told people that Christmas will be on a small scale this year and explained why. This is a big deal emotionally for me, I don’t like asking for help and I worry that if I don’t have it or appear to have it all under control, people won’t want to be around me. Which is ridiculous as I have good friends who are good people and like me for more than what I can do for them and how messy my life is or isn’t. However, it’s been a leap for me and I’ll talk more about that next week.
I really need to be more in control of what and why I spend money next year. My rent will increase this year and the odds are that my salary won’t and even if it does, it won’t cover the rent increase, I’m luckier than a lot of people, my circumstances aren’t desperate but they are tight. I stabilised the situation this year but I really need to make some headway on getting out of debt, I would like to be out of debt by the time I’m 50. 7 and a half years sounds like a lot of time but it really isn’t, so money, getting a grip on it and paying down debt will be a priority for the next few years.
One of things, I really need to work on this year is my emotional attachment to spending and why am I buying what I’m buying. Is it the thing I’m buying necessary for my physical or emotional wellbeing? Buying something to fulfill an emotional need isn’t bad in and of itself, but are there other ways to answer that need?
I also need to assess physical need as well, how much food do I need in the house, how many clothes do I need, does one person need that many wine glasses? That’s something I have been working on for about 6 years and I’m better than I was but there’s always room for improvement!
I also need to remember yes financially, things are tight but they are not desperate. I have this rule that ‘if nobody died, it’s not a crisis’, it’s a way of reminding me not to let minor issues become major dramas and I think I need to apply that to my money situation. That the issues I am dealing with are not pleasant, but they are not the end of the world either. I have food, shelter and clothing so it’s not actually that bad.
The last thing I have to do is let go of the anger and guilt I feel about getting myself in debt. I did this but I won’t be clear headed about the solution if I keep feeling guilty about it. As I said earlier, I don’t make good decisions when I’m upset and angry so I need to stop being upset and angry with myself.