Every couple of weeks or so I talk to a fellow money blogger in my On the Money series. This time I am featuring Nikki from the Female Money Doctor.
On the Money: Conversations with money bloggers
What is your earliest memory of having and spending money?
I remember playing “shop” at school and at home, using a plastic till and plastic money, but I don’t recall ever really having a sense of what money was. I knew that you used it to buy things, but the idea of saving was alien to me. I had a savings account with the Halifax, but I didn’t continue to use it once I got to university. Money had no value or importance to me. As my mum used to say “it burned a hole in my pocket” whenever I had any and I always spent it rapidly!
Have you ever felt out of control with your money?
Absolutely – feeling out of control was the catalyst for learning about my own finances and then teaching others the same concepts. When I went travelling in 2015 at the age of 30, I had a massive epiphany that I would be in debt forever if I didn’t do something about it. I’m still paying for the mistakes of the past, but I’m moving in the right direction.
What was your worst money decision?
Buying a flat when I should have rented. After a huge break up with an ex, I wanted to prove that I could stand on my own two feet and purchased a flat in my late 20s. My life then rapidly changed within the two years of owning the flat, and I ended up meeting the love of my life, quitting my job and moving in with him outside of London. I am now in the headache of selling the flat, which has so far not gone as smoothly as I would have liked. Still, the consolation is that it gained a fair amount in the time I had it, so at least I have some fodder to pay off a big chunk of debt and build up my savings and investments.
What was your best money decision?
Learning how to invest! I feel so much more in control now. I know that I can shape my future by building up my own funds in addition to what I would get from my pension. I’ll always be grateful for that (I just wish I’d learnt this when I turned 18!).
What is your best tip for saving money at home?
I think our biggest expenses are our entertainment and our food. Careful planning of meals throughout the week and using ingredients up from the freezer and our cupboards is the best way I know of keeping food prices down. Spending money on entertainment packages like Sky is fine if you use them, but with companies like Amazon and Netflix allowing you to stream shows and films, and Freeview boxes showing you pretty much every channel, do you really need to spend all that money on Sky or Virgin? If you decide the answer is yes, always watch out for renewal hikes in price, and if you threaten to leave you might be able to negotiate a discount! Just hold firm and be prepared to follow through on the threat if you’re not getting anywhere.
What is your best tip for saving money out and about?
Like the tip about saving money on food with planning, the same goes for when you’re out and about. Plan well ahead, ESPECIALLY if you have children. Research discount codes online using Wowcher or Groupon and get stuff much cheaper. Use your loyalty cards. If you work for the NHS or other emergency service, you’ll often come across discounts like 20% off in Nando’s! Take packed lunches wherever possible, or seek out restaurants with special early-bird discounts and savings. There is no need to curb what you do, just find cheaper ways to do it!
What would be your advice to the 18 year old you regarding finance?
I’ve already alluded partially to this, but it would be to get investing straight away. Open a stocks and shares ISA and start putting in whatever you can. I had just started university when I was 18, so the other thing I would advise is to live well within the budget of my student loan. I studied in London, so this was hard to do, but I don’t regret taking out the loan. I just regret not having a tight rein on my money and using credit cards to plug the gap.
What was your biggest ever bargain?
Myself and my partner Tom recently had our garden landscaped. We pulled in a few contractors to offer us ideas and quotes. Of the four we had quotes from, there was one that was over £2000 CHEAPER for basically the same design. Why? Because he was new in business and was not VAT registered, saving us a huge VAT bill. Moral of that story, get more than one quote and find out if you can save on VAT. It literally saved us thousands!
What was your most recent purchase?
Clothes! I was in desperate need of heat-wave proof home and work dresses, so I did some online shopping and picked out a few things at discount prices to see me through! They’re quite classic styles, so should do me for next year too.
Do you stick to a monthly budget?
Absolutely – it’s the only way I could “pay myself first” by saving and investing, contribute to having fun, pay off debt and cover the bills at the same time. Without a budget I’d be clueless! Sometimes it is hard to stick to, especially when an unexpected bill occurs, but I am a huge advocate of the emergency fund. We know the unexpected happens, so having a little bit tucked away for “just in case” times is a real comfort.
Do you have any long term financial goals you would like to share?
I’m letting our mortgage be paid off over time with inflation. We have a repayment mortgage too, so I know this is covered. My goal is to pay off all my credit card debt by the time I turn 35 (just under two years time), and then I will be throwing as much as I can at investing. I don’t plan to retire early necessarily, but I would consider a six month on, six month off type lifestyle where I travel during the dreary English winters with my boyfriend Tom. I have to be earning enough to cover both of us to have this lifestyle as he would not be able to continue in his current job for only six months of the year. For now, I’m all about getting that debt paid and holding that dream on my vision board for motivation!
If you won a million on the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
This is such a fun question to answer! I’d get my debt paid off, pay off the mortgage, and then start looking for ways to grow the money so that we’d never have to work again unless we chose to. I’d likely invest in property and top up my investments in the stock market. I’d of course also have some fun and take a prolonged trip somewhere warm and exotic. A girl can dream right?!
Dr Nikki Ramskill is a GP based in the UK and also a blogger at The Female Money Doctor. She decided a few years back to make some big changes in her money life, because she was sick to death of feeling like she never had any. Nikki wants to help take the stress out of money management so that we can all lead happier, healthier lives. Her mission is to help women make more empowered decisions about money because she feels that we have the power to change the world around us, not only for ourselves, but for our families too.