Let’s talk money!
It’s not a subject I feel comfortable discussing which, if speaking to any of my Asian or mainland European friends is anything to go by, is a typical British aversion to a dialogue on those pennies. However, in a number of the House 21 online workshops to date, the subject of money has come up, and rightly so! If those of us in the same industry don’t share with each other what it is we charge, or what it is we deem our work to be worth, we run the risk of exploitation from larger brands who capitalize on our cluelessness. This doesn’t just apply to us content creators. In a more general sense, all women would benefit from this attitude being adopted wholesale across industries. Especially due to the fact that in 20-bloody-20 we’re still fighting a gender wage gap. If we’re not equipping ourselves with all the facts because it feels a bit icky putting a figure on our professional worth, then we’re simply accepting our situation without even trying to redress it.
Whilst embracing this patriarchy-smashing illumination of female finances, I want to share how I managed to save enough money to pay off £2,500 of debt in just four weeks.
I managed to pay off this sum in early March which, with the beauty of hindsight, would have been a walk in the park had I just waited until lockdown to save the money I’d normally be spending on socialising, eating out, travel and so on. However, like the rest of the world, I didn’t have the foggiest clue that we would be plunged into a global crisis thanks to a deadly virus, so didn’t think to just wait a month until my outgoings would drop off a cliff. I’m not too annoyed about this however, because going into lockdown debt-free meant that the money I did save on simply eating the food I had at home and staying within the same five miles for months on end, has actually been money that I’ve put into savings for the future. (The temptation to high-five myself is overwhelming every time I remember that I now have substantial savings).
Before I get into how I cobbled together the £2,500, you’re probably wondering how I found myself with a considerable number like this hanging over me. Well, I fell into my overdraft at uni. When I say fell in…I actually drank and shopped my way head-first into it. My best friend and I often ponder who the hell we thought we were back then. We’d buy a new outfit every time we went out which was about three times a week and partied like we were 2006 Kim and Paris – just swap the LA red carpets for a Tiger Tiger queue and we were basically them. Of course, my finances couldn’t keep up with this predilection for living like a Calabasas heiress, and so I found myself owing the bank.
As soon as I started earning, I put money aside each month to pay off the overdraft and sure enough within a year I was debt-free. However, when I left my job to start my business, I accepted that I would undoubtedly find myself back knocking at the door of my overdraft. It wasn’t something I was going to beat myself up about, as I was foregoing a regular, reliable pay-cheque in favour of chasing a dream which is all very well and good, until you realise that dreams come with sacrifice. Often sacrifices with a few zeros on the end of them. My parents were very generous in not asking me to pay rent when I moved home as they understood that I was spending my money on building a future, but neither did I want to completely forego contributing to the cost of a third adult now living and eating in the house. Debt was just something that was going to be a part of my life for the foreseeable until I found my feet again.
Despite my initial nonchalance – the debt was interest free, after all – I knew that I didn’t want to spend another year looking at my bank statements to be met with a menacing little minus symbol in front of my balance, reminding me that any money I saved would simply go towards paying the bank back instead of any sort of personal gain. I knew January wasn’t going to be the month I made this sort of money – nobody’s feeling financially robust in the post-Christmas faze – therefore February was to be my debt-busting month.
So how did I do it?
Well…£2,500 felt like a lot of money to shift, especially given that I had £250 worth of direct debits leaving my account monthly as soon as wage day came, as well as my normal outgoings including horse care, socialising, book buying and so on. When I sat down and work out where I could cut corners, there was only really one section of my spending that I could curb: eating out.
I don’t think anybody who knows me would claim I am Mid Wales’s answer to Carrie Bradshaw – I like nice clothes and I like nice food, but I certainly was not dining out on oysters and champagne five nights a week. However, there came a point when looking at my bank transactions where I asked myself if I really needed to be grabbing quite as many coffees-to-go and could I honestly not live without my favourite focaccia and homemade hummus from the local Middle-Eastern deli? Not to mention the countless salad boxes I’d bring home, when I had perfectly good salad ingredients in the fridge. I needed to cut out my predilection for food cooked by other people, which I could have easily cooked myself, if I were to make a dent in my spending habits. To make sure I stuck to it, I worked out how much I spent on non-essential food purchases in an average month, then transferred that sum of money into my ‘Overdraft Repay’ pot. Psychologically, the move instilled in me the notion that I didn’t have that money to spend on eating out, so I didn’t do it. It was difficult walking past the deli on a Saturday morning as the aroma of freshly baked focaccia wafted over me, but I knew I didn’t have the money to spend and so I had to just trudge on by, convincing myself I had something just as delish at home.
Other than curbing my food spending habits, there were not many other corners I could cut in my outgoings, so I knew I had to get extra money in somehow. I considered which resources I had available to me and I realised how much money was hanging in my wardrobe.
I got out all the dresses that had an upper-end high street label and sorted them into two piles:
- Dresses I’ve worn in the last 18 months
- Dresses I haven’t worn in the last 18 months
The dresses I had worn went straight back in my wardrobe, then I split the dresses I hadn’t worn into a further two categories:
- Dresses I’m happy to sell
- Dresses I’ll sell only if I need to
All of my dresses were in fantastic condition and had only been worn a handful of times, so I reflected this in the price at which I sold them. Of course, they were all a few seasons out of date, but the majority were timeless and not particularly ‘on-trend’ meaning that just because they might have been bought originally for a function in 2017, they would still be deemed ideal for, say, a wedding in 2020 (back when we thought 2020 weddings would be a thing, eek!).
I sold the dresses on Instagram (via my stories), Depop and eBay, and within four weeks I had made over £2,400 which, when you add in the ‘eating out’ money I’d put aside, got me to my £2,500 goal with cash leftover.
I was of course sad to see some of the dresses go, but believe me, that melancholy soon turned to satisfaction when I saw the pounds rolling in.
So what have I learned?
That investment buys give you security to fall back on, should you ever need to in the future. It’s something which writer and poverty activist Jack Monroe has spoken about, citing her decision to purchase an expensive handbag as soon as she was financially able to, because she knew that she’d be able to sell it should she ever find herself without money again.
In the age of fast-fashion, buying once but buying well has been something I’ve always been conscious of, and in effect I reaped the reward for my awareness. Had I been in possession of years worth of cheap, poor-quality near disposable clothes, I would not have had the collection to sell and make money from when I needed it.
What tips would I give for purchasing investment pieces?
- The dresses, because they were classic instead of ‘on-trend’, largely held their value meaning I wasn’t selling them for a fraction of what I originally paid. So when making your purchase, consider whether what you are buying will still be desirable in a couple of years’ time.
- Advertise the pieces by showing them being worn as part of a complete outfit. It’s easier for people to see themselves in a whole, finished outfit, than simply in a dress that’s been photographed hanging on the back of a door. It felt a bit weird and intimate posting photos of myself at the races with my friends, at my mum’s birthday party or at a wedding, but this helped greatly as it enabled the women purchasing the dresses to see them in context. A few even asked me if I’d throw in the fascinator or the jacket for some extra £££.
- Don’t hold on to the pieces for the sake of sentiment. So I’m not telling you to flog your wedding dress, but also don’t keep a piece in the wardrobe because it felt like an achievement to buy at the time because it was expensive. This is definitely something I’ve done – I think back to how good I felt when I’d saved to buy it. But, what good was it to me just hanging there after its one and only wear? I actually felt pleased with myself when I got some money back for it, which was the opposite of the feeling of loss I expected when shipping the piece off to its new home.
- You don’t just have to invest if fashion buys. Another item which I sold after paying off my debt was an old saddle from one of my horses who is retired. I had thought of keeping it for sentimental purposes, but then I realised that a dusty old saddle isn’t the gatekeeper of memories made with that horse. I still have those times and achievements to hold onto, with out without the saddle. Again, thanks to it being a reputable make, of good quality and had been well looked after, the saddle had held a substantial amount of its value, despite the fact it had been in my possession for 12 years. Selling it has given me money to ring-fence for a horse-related emergency, and given that vets bills normally come with at least two more zeros on the end than you were expecting, I know one day I will be grateful for the funds. If you’re not a horse rider, then saddles may not exactly be your investment buy of choice, but it’s worth considering what it is you would like, that is useful and that’ll hold its value.
If anybody has any tips or experiences on saving money fast, I’d love to hear them. Comment below or find me on Insta as @Mel_C_Owen. Happy saving!