Friday, 6 April 2012

Number 19

Hey y'all,

So I have quite a bit to talk about today. So go and grab a cup of tea and a couple of your favourite biscuits and sit and read with me for a while.

Firstly I have decided to cancel the BBQ I was going to have this weekend - why? Because the weather is up to some very odd tricks at the moment (global warming is very real!). In March we had spring - beautiful flowers blooming, light rain showers and some milder days, and then towards the end of March we had Summer - 24 degree heat waves, beautiful sunshine and far too many men walking about wearing sandals with socks (why?). Now we are in the beginning of April and we have gone back to winter - storms, gale force winds, endless rain and believe it or not, snow. How ridiculous right? So I have cancelled, even though in Wales we are used to some pretty crummy weather, I am not going to take it to the extreme and stand outside in the snow flipping burgers.

I have also been busy working on the children's book, I have finished and typed up the first story and have started adding illustrations to it - it looks really cute! Can't wait to finish it!

So yesterday I spent all day going though our finances. This was a tedious task, but gosh it feels better when it's done! I created a spreadsheet with three pages showing our income/outgoings, our debt and bank forecast for the next three months. Our finances have been in turmoil for some years, we have tried to fix it in the past and have almost managed it, but hen something seems to always come along and knock everything for six again, taking us back to square one. Well not this time (she says with fingers and toes crossed)! So being the honest person I am, I want to tell you what I did to get our finances back on track.

I created an excel spreadsheet detailing our in-comings and out-goings, their dates and amounts so we know exactly is going on money wise and then any defecit cn be used on our debts (on top of the monthly payments) to decrease them. This is called a debt snow ball. In the bottom rows - I used auto-sum to calculate the totals and then again to add and subtract them to get the deficit.

Then the nasty page - the debt. Now we have quite a bit but I have organised it (using the bank forecast page) so that by June 12th we will only have the secured loans and the mortgage left - Yey! Then we will be able reallocate the money we were using to pay the little debts on the bigger debts, thus clearing them in a shorter amount of time. Hence what I said earlier 'The Debt Snowball' effect.

On this one I have columns for amounts, months due, payments, totals and notes for phone numbers or completion dates. Then once I have completed clearing a debt I grey it out so it not only stands out but makes me smile knowing it's gone. Woooo! Also if you look in the note columns (all of this again corresponds to the bank forecast page) there are final payment dates for the debts for when they will be cleared - I put these here to spur me on to keep on track and to see our debt becoming smaller and smaller.

OK, so now to the final page - the bank forecast. This is what took me the most time as I had to correspond it all to the dates money comes in and when the bills go out. I used auto-sum to save me having to do the maths and confusing me further (there is only so much my little brain can take), everything tallies to the date I need to pay it with cash, card, or direct debit, and more importantly when we get paid! There is also a total column so I always know there is enough money every day to cover whatever needs to be.There is a column stating what I have paid and then once I have done it I colour it red, a bit like giving myself a little tick of good work. Just because we are adults, doesn't mean we can't have a little praise like the kiddies! 

Now the way I have incorporated the snowball effect is to use the bank forecast spreadsheet to show me when I will have a big enough deficit to clear the debts, or to make substantial payments on them. I start with the smaller ones and progress to the larger (the final one will be the mortgage), I then include them into the forecast making sure it doesn't affect further dates (the genius that is auto-sum again) and keep going like that until I am debt free, also marking them off on the debt page too.

Now I understand that this is a lot of work,but it is so rewarding when you can see the results of the decreasing debt and the amount left in the bank each week/month increasing. I hope I haven't bored you with this - but I think it could help if you are in a similar position to us.

Onto a recap of our lives thus far, in regards to the most wonderful and the downright crap in regards to money. I would imagine it is a similar story to many others that are in debt, but I thought I would share so you know your not alone in making bad decisions or having people cause problems for you. I have also added some images for you to peruse off our most memorable moments.
Outside our new home in 2002

In December 2001 I fell pregnant with my first son Mathew. I was still working at this point supporting us, and Robs was in college doing mechanics. We knew we needed to get a house as we were currently living with his parents and there wasn't enough room for a little one as well. We applied to the council and were very lucky to get this house, which we later purchased, in Llandissilio. 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, living room and a lovely large kitchen, it also had/has two huge gardens which meant our little one/ones would be safe playing. Robs left college to get a job so that we would have an income for our growing family, as I was having a horrendous pregnancy so left work earlier than planned. 

Fast forward to the August of 2002 and our little bundle Mathew was born and Robs started working with a man as a labourer. In the November Rob was still going to work but had stopped being paid. As Christmas was coming we made the decision to try and get some store credit (we now know this was a BIG mistake) so we could afford to have a good first Christmas together. 

 Mummy with new little Mathew & Daddy with baby Mathew

In the new year, Robs managed to get himself some more work (again labouring) fitting driveways. We were scraping by and making the minimum payments on our store credit. Towards the summer of that year (2003) the same thing happened, Robs continued to work but stopped being paid. The boss fled. So we were struggling again, and then came the credit cards. 

Robs then found another job building extensions on the secondary school Preseli in Crymych. Robs loved this as it was our old school where we had met and fallen in love, and where we hoped our boys would go when they were bigger. Six months passed and we were back to not being paid again and Mr. Boss Man disappearing without a trace. 

This time we got a loan - ha, yes, we really were that stupid. It fixed us for the time being but ended up causing more harm than good. Did you know if you can't make the required monthly payments on loans, store cards, and credit cards that they charge you an extortionate amount? Well, we began to learn this, and our debt crept ever higher.
That September, thankfully, Rob got a job with a building firm called TPT, who not only paid him every week but also put him through college on a day release course to become a fully qualified builder. YEY - some stability at last. 
We continued on like this until the October of 2004 when I gave birth to our second son Michael. 

Mummy with a very new Michael & Daddy with gorgeous baby Michael

Robs had a steady job, was getting qualifications and we were keeping going, paying monthly amounts on our debt.

On our wedding day 08/10/2005

In the March of 2005 we found out that we were eligible to purchase our house and could get a 100% mortgage - Woohoo we said. Robs had stable work and we could afford it. So deciding to do this took a few months but we were also told we could have a loan to go with it to bring the house up to a better standard, so we jumped at the chance and consolidated all the debt we already had - good bye store cards, credit cards and loan, and hello one easily manageable payment. Now being ever the optimists we thought things were on the up, and so decided to get married. This happened in the October and was one of the best days of my life (I will tell you about the day in a future blog). 

No money problems, we now owned a house, and we were happily married.

Robs finished his NVQ2 and NVQ3 and decided to look for another job (while still working I must say).

Fast forward now to 2006 and Robert's bother Barry had got himself a new job with a building firm and they offerred one to us which included letting Rob go back one day and one evening a week to college to get his HND in Building Management - we jumped at the chance and took it. The pay wasn't great but it was enough, with a promise of more as Rob progressed with his degree. We were constantly told that this was a secure job, lots of work in the pipeline and ongoing, so we were again feeling at ease.
Me and my precious little Mo

Time for baby number 3 - Morgan. Now this was a good pregnancy but with complications at the end which meant Mo was born premature, I didn't handle it too well and so Robs took a couple of weeks off work unpaid (so the bills mounted again), to help support me which was invaluable, and bonded us all so much I look back now an just think it was worth it.

Everything continued as it was (no pay increases as there wasn't as much work as they had said) until the October of 2009 when they started laying off workers - including Robs. Luckily Robs had a redundancy payment which tied us over for around a month and a half. Robs failed to find work after that, and became despondent with the building trade as a whole - having had so much bad luck. Now this is where it all got a lot worse.

A man Rob had worked with, contacted us as he was interested in starting his own building firm and wondered if Robs wanted to be a partner and go halves. Robs was by this point chomping at the bit to work, and had always expressed an interest in having his own company - something to pass on to the boys when they were older.

So after some trepidation on my part, we jumped both feet in as I will always support Rob. We took out another loan to give us a good head start if the business didn't work. The company was formed and started working quite quickly, work coming in steadily, all be it not that local and long hours. Robs put everything into it. Then came a job that caused us concern. A relative of the business partner offered a job that was worth a heck of a lot of money so was a big deal in both of their eyes. Now it was at this point that the partner's girlfriend stepped in and decided she wanted to become a big part of the business and control what was happening. This didn't go down to well with me as I didn't trust her as far as I could throw her (remember the trepidation?) and as she was a big girl I knew that I wouldn't be able to pick her up let alone throw her... Anyway Mr Business Patner ended up taking the money for himself (a lot). We had nothing to prove that he had done this as the invoices had gone to his personal account and no record in ours as his girlfriend had been handling it. Oh god right?! Thousands down the drain again.

We battled and fought, but in the end gave up and settled for 10% of what we were owed as we were both so stressed we were making ourselves ill by this point.
Robs then landed a self employed job for himself with a member of his family (which partially started a few weeks before the company ended) and would you believe it was the same old story again, working with initial invoice paid and then working for absolutely nothing :( and then followed silence on the clients end.

Well a few very, very painful months passed with no work, no money (except my earnings - I took on a, 14 hour a day, chef job to bring in cash). We got into so much debt we were about a week away from foreclosure on the house.
Robs friend in London managed to get him a job - which then meant that for 3 months Rob lived in London away from us, but the money was wonderful and meant we kept our house and car from being taken away. This was the worst time of my life though as we hadn't spent more than 2 nights apart since we were 16.
Work dried up in London and Robs came home, yey, but alas that meant again no money. We kept our heads up just, but the mortgage suffered again, then in July 2011 Robs managed to get a job with his current employer and we started to crawl our way back to normal. 

So in a very long winded way, this is how we got into, out of, into worse, out of, into again and are now trying to get out of debt. I thank you if you managed to stay with me through all that. So many other personal good and bad things happened in those times that just contributed to making it worse, but they are stories for another day.

I hope in whatever way, that I have helped any of you that have debt, to know you are not the only one and that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't always a train!

Lots of love to you all, and if you need any help with anything, or simply an ear to bend then I am here, just comment after this post or on my facebook page.

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