Reducing My Debt and Financial Stress…

April 8, 2019
Photo of me sitting in the V&A looking at paintings with my back to the camera.

Waiting for my friend to arrive I have ducked into a Waterstones to keep warm.  Absentmindedly I pick up two books and a button pin.  The button pin is half price, £2, and says ‘what are you reading?’.  Cute and a bargain!  I continue to wander around the store looking at a variety of objects and books.  Then I stop.  What am I doing?  The rising anxiety creeping over me in this moment is because I don’t have the money for this purchase.  I have to consciously return the items, taking pictures to consider them another time.  Truth is this year I have been trying hard to break habits, reducing my debt and financial stress.  I have never been out of control but my financial behaviour vs what I want for future has been misaligned for some time now.

The last few years have been a roller-coaster when it has come to my money situation.  I earn a very decent salary, and this has meant I could purchase a home in London.  Fantastic!  However, the truth is I relied on my credit cards significantly.  Staying in the UK meant visa renewals that come with a price tag of £1000- £1500 each time.  A health scare that couldn’t be resolved on the NHS and a private doctors bill of £1500.  Worth spending as I was spiralling mentally and physically, but there was no rainy-day fund to cover the bills.  Flights to Australia for Christmas that can vary from £700 to £2500 depending on demand!  Each month I would put a chunk of change against the cards knowing they would be paid off soon, but it never really happened.

In January, walking back into work after three weeks in Australia, my colleagues told me that our department no longer existed.  Ok!  And. I. Panicked.  I had bills coming out my ears and no savings or back up.  In previous jobs, restructures happened incredibly fast and people were out within weeks.  My current job has only a 4 week notice period, so I expected impending unemployment to come fast.  It hasn’t been that fast and recently we found out we won’t be restructured, yet.  Thank goodness! 

For the past three months I have really knuckled down on my personal finances and been honest with myself.  I am half way through paying off the credit cards and these are the tough love stances I did with myself to get there.

Changed My Mindset And Ease To Use My Credit Cards.

Stopped using credit cards.  Every month I vowed not to spend on my credit card and then near the end I would add a couple of transaction.  Little things that I didn’t think would add up but honestly, they did.  When I reviewed my spending, these ‘little things’ could add an additional £100 a month.  Money I didn’t have.  I put my credit cards in a drawer at home and removed them from apple pay.  The only app they are still registered to is Uber because I never want to not be unable to leave a situation.  I have used my credit card to pay for my season train ticket, knowing next month I will get the money back from work.  That’s it and that was a decision made to get the avios points!

Moving my balance to a 0% interest free credit card.  It is something that everyone including Martin Lewis advises but I’ve never thought to do.  Taking out a third credit card when you are trying to reduce debt seemed counter intuitive.  However, one of my card companies sent me a balance transfer offer and as this was more palatable I said yes.  It is for 9 months and has meant that my payments across both cards have reduced, with extra money going towards the principal on one.

Reducing my limits to safeguard my future.  Having had one card since 2005 and the other since 2012, I am targeted for automatic limit increases.  In total I had a potential limit of £20,000 across both the cards!  A mind-blowing figure and one that would have put me in huge financial trouble with repayments more than my mortgage!   At the most I have owed £6,000 and that was enough stress.  I’ve opted out of automatic increases with both lenders and reduced my limits to £6,000 overall.  As I get to the end of my credit card debt I plan to have these reduced further to £2,000 on each card.  That figure is potentially two emergency flights to Australia if family is ill or worse, and really all I want to use my cards for in the future.

Started A Savings Pot To Reduce Financial Stress.

For the past couple of years with the focus being on paying off my credit cards my savings account has languished at near empty.  Not having something saved has stressed me but all the ‘gurus’ promote paying off your cards first.  This year I have shunned that thinking and started putting £70 away each month.  The relief that that has given me is immeasurable. 

How did I come up with £70?  My vacuum cleaner is 5 years old and making a strange noise!  To replace it with a fancy dyson or robot vacuum, the dream, I would need around £400.  So I looked ahead at my budget and decided to save this is six months, rounding the £66.67 up to £70.  Will I end up buying a fancy vacuum?  I’m not sure but I am glad the money is there when I need it for a vacuum or anything else.

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Made My Own Lunch For Every Day.

This is one that I have known all along, but circumstance meant that it was cheaper for me to buy lunch.  Until my tastes changed and the £5 budget was a £6 or £7 spend, sometimes stretching to £10, double the budget.  When I sat down and worked through the numbers this was where I was pushing my budget, snowballing with using the credit card at the end of each month.  I used The Roasting Tin to make two batch meals and froze them into 14 lunches.  Then each week I make a new meal replacing those eaten to create variety.  Instead of the £50 a week I am now spending about the same a month!

Unfollowed Brands and Influencers On Social Media.

I’d already unsubscribed to all my favourite stores newsletters, but I still knew what gorgeous products were available from Instagram!  Many of the people I follow receive lovely free items and I don’t begrudge them a freebie, but it was creating a sense of longing that wasn’t aligning with my budget. 

A recent study by University of California and University of Toronto confirms people are saving less as their impression of what others have increases.  This has been intensified by social media where users perceive ‘everyone’ to have a higher number of items then they do. Not limited to influencers, seeing your friends with new items also adds a pressure to spend. Brands are increasingly relying on social media to launch and create a sales momentum.  Leah Harper writes how this version of advertising is new and mixed in with your friends updates makes the user more open to influence.

This is how I ended up in the Waterstone’s randomly picking up books that I had seen others read and recommend!  I did a cull of who I follow on social media, sometimes just muting their stories but other times completely unfollowing.  It has helped immensely.

Reviewed My Budget and Made Some Much-Needed Cuts.

Reviewing my budget, I realised there were more regular purchases that could be scrutinised, budgeted for or removed.  I got into the nitty gritty and started keeping track of how often I bought my shampoo and conditioner, adding them as line items on the budget.  I broke down how much it cost per month to attend my pottery studio and added another line item.  Previously I had this down every three months as one large amount which was stressful.  Spreading it out over the three months makes it achievable.  Another line item for a fare to Australia has been added.  Truth is I seem to be going back yearly so it makes sense to budget for it.

I then got honest with myself and stopped attending my fancy gym classes, getting eyelashes done and taking an UBER home from social events.  I’m saving £250 a month and I can reconsider bringing these back into my life once the credit cards are paid!

Phew so there you have it.  All the things I have done over the past three months to reduce my debt.  It is working and this month I felt quite proud and happy to see the numbers reducing.  I am still working on my impulses to purchase. Recognising that I was doing it is the first step! 

Here’s to being credit card debt free by the end of June.  PF xo

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My Skincare Routine with Rationale…

April 1, 2019
Picture of my skincare products, face roller and mask on a side table in a lovely hotel.
Picture of my skincare products, face roller and mask on a side table in a lovely hotel.  I am on the bed with an open face moisturiser.

Every Day Skincare.

I get asked about my skin every day! I first wrote about my new skincare routine in 2016 and it still is one of my most read posts.  I use Rationale Skincare and their slogan ‘Luminous Skin for Life’ is completely true.  Designed by Richard Parker the products mimic the natural skin cycle with a preference to use less, harder working products then a multi-product, overbearing, routine. 

Living in London I am constantly battling pollution, dry heated air, hard water and sun exposure as well as my own mental stress.  All of this shows on my skin!  I use The Essential Six and a few serum boosters, alternating depending on how my skin is behaving.  If, like my sister, you live in a different city and have less pollution you can use less products.  Natasha uses only three products from The Essential Six and Rationale always prescribes based on the less is more theory. 

You can purchase the products in Australia and the UK with international delivery also offered.  I recommend you visit a store or have a skype consultation before getting started.  They don’t like individuals to switch all their products at once as they are investments.  For budgeting purposes, the cleanser lasts 6 months and I have found anything in the tubs typically lasts 3-4 months.

Close up picture of my skincare products, face roller and mask on a side table in a lovely hotel.
Close up picture of my skincare products, face roller and mask on a side table in a lovely hotel.

Treatments and Pampering.

Throughout my late teens and early twenties, I spent a lot of time at the beauticians getting facials.  Booking in for a regular monthly facial was a treat I miss now for both the skincare but also the massage!  Being loyal to my beauticians meant I received what were at the time high end addons, including acid peels.  Always happy to have new treatments I believe my skin has benefited long term from all this pampering. 

Face massages can make such a difference as we hold so much stress in our skin.  I’d love to treat myself to a session at Face Gym regularly but at the moment I am using aBody Shop face massager.  The difference in the morning using a massager for a few minutes is significant. I can tell in the mirror now when I’ve forgotten, and my face looks a bit sad! 

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PIcture of three face mask brands that I use.

At Home Indulgences.

I won’t change my basic skin care but give me a mask any day!  Mixing them up once a week I typically do these the night before a morning hair wash.  This way I don’t have to worry about residue of missing a bit of mask in my hair! 

Rationale’s Immunologist Mask is my absolute favourite and it is a miracle worker.  I use this after my period when my skin has broken. It’s ability to heal blemishes, whilst fixing dry skin from pimple cream, blows me away every time!  For the rest of the month I alternate between Dr.Jart+ Rubber Mask Bright Lover and Garnier Skinactive Pure Charcoal Black Tissue Mask.  Both are great, but I will be starting to look for alternatives. The wastage and potential environmental impact of these masks is not sitting well with me.

Close up photo of me holding the light mask near my face.

Technology.  Adding In The SciFi!

In the last couple of years accessing a facial with a laser treatment has become relatively easy.  The price has also dropped significantly.  When I am in Australia I always head to Rationale for one of their High Volume + Amplified Luminosity facials that combines Enzymes and LED therapy. In London my budget is quite tight.  If I do treat myself I head to Skin Laundry or Askinology for a similar treatment. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen I am a fan of the Neutrogena Light Therapy Mask.  This allows me to take the same light therapy from the salon at home for a fraction of the price.  It is expensive if you keep replacing the activator but search youtube for some hacks.  I have found this works best when used daily or every couple of days.  It doesn’t and shouldn’t have the strength of an in salon treatment and needs more frequent use for results.

Close up picture of me holding open bottle of moisturiser.

Injectables.  Yep, I have had them!

For the past eight years as I reapplied for my UK visas I’d always have to supply a new passport photo.  Lining these up over time allowed me to see how my face was aging.  Whilst I have few lines around my eyes and across my forehead, I could visibly see my face was falling.  It looked like it was slipping.  At first it didn’t mean much to me or cause me any concern.  I would occasionally read an article online or in a magazine about injectables, do some research more out of interest, and that was it.

However, after a particularly stressful year the next visa photo showed a significant difference in my face.  I didn’t want to end up looking fake or plastic and researched for two years before I booked an appointment.  I wasn’t sure what was possible, if anything, when I sat in the chair.  As it turned out my version of the furrowed brow was the pulling down of my face. It is quite common, and most people have one or the other. In addition, my love of dance lessons with a laziness towards stretching had created a tension in my neck muscles that no massage could resolve!   

A few small injections of Botox, in my neck, released the muscles pulling my face and it all went away.  I also lost my top lip after the age of 30 which is something all the women in my family experience.  A year later when I returned for a Botox top up I had some filler put in my lips.

I currently don’t have anything in my face as it isn’t cheap.  It really concerns me when I hear about anyone who does this at a local beautician or because there was a cheap deal on.  This is an area where you want to research and pay through the nose.  In the past year there have been some amazing advancements especially around nose jobs and fillers rather than surgery.  Now that I know what I am looking for I see how so many people have had some form of this done.  Let’s be honest, Hollywood stars who haven’t aged in 10 years are getting injectables.  It isn’t their raw food diet!

Picture of my skincare products, face roller and mask on a side table in a lovely hotel.

Pimples. They don’t go away!

I’ve tried so many different treatments and creams for breakouts.  I am beyond frustrated that I still have pimples after my teenage years.  Recently I have used Apple Cider Vinegar and it works so well.  As well as reducing inflammation and redness it doesn’t dry out the area around the spot.  A side effect is that it got rid of all my pigmentation and you can use it to get rid of certain types of moles too!  I also use Differin Gel pimple cream sparingly when I can’t get a pimple to leave!  This one has to be prescribed by my doctor.

Sleep and Food!

Yeah, yeah I know everyone says this and changing just these two things won’t result in miracles. However, I do see quite clearly my skin breaking out if I eat too much sugar. Or bags under my eyes and my face droopy if I haven’t had enough sleep. This sort of immediate reaction didn’t happen in my 20’s but the 30’s show things quicker and it takes longer to recover. So like me make the most of your younger days and sleep a lot when your aging starts!

Let me know if there is anything you do on this list. I’d love to hear about it. PF xo

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Things To Do In Clifton, Bristol – An Itinerary…

March 27, 2019
Picture of tower in clifton, bristol.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.

Bristol is fast becoming one of my favourite destinations in the UK. I have been there three times in the past six months, and each time I discover something else to do. If you are looking to spend some time there, I recommend basing yourself in Clifton. Full of Georgian houses from the 18th century, Clifton was and remains a well to do area. This is also evident by the wider streets, myriad of trees and how often there is only one door bell on the home. Very few are carved into flats! You can easily spend a relaxing 48 hours in Clifton, whether it be for a family weekend away, girls catch up or a more romantic itinerary. There are plenty of things to do in Clifton that I hope you enjoy!

Picture of me in front of colourful houses of clifton, bristol.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
PIcture of hot air balloon tiles in clifton.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
Picture of colourful house street in clifton.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.

Getting To Clifton.

Bristol is on one of the most expensive train lines in the UK so heads up, book your ticket as early as possible. Waiting until the last minute can see the fare become £80+ return with Great Western Rail! I have found booking my fares separately and not as a return ticket helps to reduce the price. The quickest train journey is an hour and thirty-five minutes from London.

An easy city to navigate with a car there are residents parking restrictions to navigate. The bus system is simple to use and the schedule is reflected accurately on google maps. Locals use an app to pay but you can also use apple pay and your bank card with the tap function. From the main station, Temple Meads, it’s just thirty minutes by bus.

Picture of house in clifton.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.

Staying In Clifton.

With plenty of large, Georgian houses there are many Airbnbs available for your stay. I have found Bristol to be quite popular and would encourage you to book early. Once or twice a month there are festivals and conferences filling up the accommodation options. Looking to splurge and make it a luxury 48 hours? Stay in The Berkeley Square Hotel or upgrade to their self-contained suites. Technically just out of Clifton it is only a few minutes extra walk.

Shopping In Clifton.

Clifton Village is the main shopping area filled with independent traders of flowers, art and homewares. Start in Clifton Arcade where a mix on antique stores, homewares and jewellery can be browsed and purchased. Within the same block on the adjoining corner is Papersmiths. The well-known, Bristol stationary supplier selects their products based on their design led appeal. Annie’s is a popular cake shop rounding out the stores of interest in this street.

Picture of stationary in pinkmans.  They set everthing out so it is laying on a wooden table and very design like.  For example three pens the same together and then 3 erasers together.

Cross the road to Princess Victoria Street and head to Waterloo Street. Here you can purchase flowers at Lisa Elliot Floral Design or a punnet of daffodils. Peruse art and books at Sky, where everything that is colourful resides. If you are looking for a birthday or special occasion card this is the place! Round the block to The Mall where all the high end stores are. Handbags, clothing and bespoke jewellery can be found here.

Picture of Sky shop in Clifton Village.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
Closer image of sky shop in clifton village.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
PIcture of flower shop in clifton village.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
Picture of closer shot of flowers in store.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
Picture of reg the veg shop in clifton village.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
closer picture of vegetables and apples and pears.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
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Things To Do In Clifton.

The Clifton Lido was restored in 2008 having originally been built in the 1840’s. A secret place of sanctuary for locals the heated pool and hot tubs are in frequent use. Weekends are restricted to members however you can jump the queue with a food package or massage bookings. A lovely way to spend half a day unwinding and stretching out your muscles. The food is absolutely delicious!

Picture of outside of Lido in Clifton.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
Picture of renovation pictures of clifton lido.  It was in a very sorry state!  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
Picture of the changing rooms at the clifton lido.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
Picture of the restaturant at the lido clifton.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.

The Grade 1 listed, Clifton Suspension Bridge spans the Avon Gorge and is a masterpiece of British engineering. Take a walk and visit the lookout points at Observatory Hill, or join locals for a tour of the bridge every weekend. Excitedly in the past couple of years vaults were found underneath the bridge and tours now operate to explore this space. Venture across the bridge is you dare! Suspension bridges are made to move and this one is known to swing in the winds!

Picture of the suspension bridge clifton.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.

Venturing Outside The Clifton Bubble.

Looking to do a little more in your 48 hours? Head north to the University of Bristol Botanic Gardens where there is a magnificent Arts and Crafts style house called ‘The Holmes’. Open all year round the glass houses are large and the tropical plants helped warm our bones.

Picture of The Holmes House.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
Picture of me in the greenhouse.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
Picture of the catus in the greenhouse.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.

Picture of the ferns in the greenhouse.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
PIcture of me in the greenhoues holding my camera and smiling at hte camera.

Go south of Clifton to Pinkmans for delicious donuts and sourdough pizzas! On the same road are many high street stores for you to browse in. Stokes Croft is a bus ride away and has plenty of graffiti artworks, vintage stores and artist cafes. If you really want to stretch the legs get a train to Bath and add another location to your itinerary.

Picture of the Pinkmans sign.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.

Picture of inside Pinkmans bakery.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.
Picture of a pinkmans donut against a grafitti wall.  48 hours in clifton itinerary.

I’d love to head about your trip to Clifton. Let me know about it in the comments. PF xo

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Pin me!  48 hours in clifton itinerary  pinterest image.