Do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got!

You would think by now that nothing would surprise me but I’ve got to admit nothing ceases to surprise more than people claiming they’re ‘broke’, often coming to me in tears because they’re in a mess with money yet they refuse to do anything to help themselves get out of the situation they’re in.

Now that might sound harsh but when you consider that I get a handful of calls and/or emails from individuals each month all worrying about their money situation and asking me how they can save money, improve the situation or in worst case scenarios how to talk to their creditors.

To each of these people I stress that I’m not a financial advisor, can’t give them any formal advice but can tell them either what I did when I was in a similar situation or what I would do in their shoes.

Getting yourself into financial strife is the easy bit, getting yourself out of it takes hard work, determination, perseverance and time.

I’ve created Ebooks and tip sheets which all detail steps I took to save money but it seems everyone, almost without exception, expects their money situation to improve WITHOUT making any lifestyle changes! Well, you know what? I think it was Einstein who said “do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what what you’ve always got”. Think about it, if you’re in financial difficulty but refuse to make any changes to your lifestyle you’re never going to get out of financial difficulty. There is NO secret, no magic wand that can be waved, it’s down to you.

No one is forcing you to spend money. You might have squillions of pounds of credit available to you but you don’t have to spend it. You might want the latest fashions, a new car, a luxury holiday but if you can’t afford it you’ll have to either wait until you’ve got enough money for it or you’ll have to downgrade and purchase something you can afford.

My bankruptcy was my fault, I was the person who made the decisions that caused that to happen. No one was forcing me to make those decisions. Likewise, it was down to me to make the relevant changes when I needed to stop spending, start saving, pay my creditors and rebuild my life. It was hard work, it took time, effort and plenty of tears. It meant missing out on things for a while, wearing clothes a couple of years old and for a short while being without a car. I had to accept second-hand furniture to furnish my flat, only replacing the furniture as I could afford to, I even accepted and wore second-hand clothes before it was trendy to go to style-swap parties. I dyed my own hair and didn’t see the inside of a hairdressing salon for about 4 years, getting friends to trim my hair or occasionally splashing out on a mobile hairdresser coming to my home.

It was embarrassing and a far cry from what I’d been used to but I had no choice, if I wanted to see a change in my finances I had to make changes to my lifestyle. Yes I had treats but they were monthly instead of weekly. Or I went without.

Changes to your finances WILL NOT HAPPEN if you bury your head in the sand and continue spending like you have done before. You have to make changes to your lifestyle. Believe me, a year or two’s difficulty now will be worth it to change your financial situation for your future.

There’s no time like the present so what are you waiting for?

Guest Blog: How to arm yourself for lean times.

Those of us old enough will know that recessions are cyclical and that through the course of our lifetimes will likely have to endure several of them.  Guest blogger, Andy Masaki gives some sterling advice for ensuring we never have to endure such tough lean times again.  As an American Andy’s viewpoint is obviously based on his experiences in the USA but his advice is just as valid for the rest of us wherever we’re based in the World.  Enjoy.

Arm Yourself for the Next Big Recession.

This is supposed to be a stage for recovery but the housing bust, the alarmingly high debt level in Europe and the tapped-out consumers are about to produce a far uglier scenario. As the economy was recovering from the aftermath of the previous recession, the fiscal cliff is soon approaching and this storm is perhaps going to remind us again of the Great Depression. Very few people in the nation are well-armed to combat the consequences of the approaching recession. In order to emerge successful as an individual amidst the economic crisis, you have to follow certain financial tips. If your money starts controlling you, you will soon start losing control over your finances and incur debts that can be repaid through debt consolidation and debt management. Don’t let this happen, follow the tips below  to stay afloat in this economic state.

  • Start saving more money: Yes, this tip might sound obvious but most of the Americans aren’t doing it. Most economists believe that people should save at least 6-10% of their monthly income, irrespective of the amount that they make in a month. Despite all such advice, the savings rate is paltry 3.5% as an increasingly large number of consumers are still trying to control the mighty urge to purchase things. If you want to be equipped for the recession in 2013, you should make sure that you save more than 10% of the income that you make in a month.
  • Always create a Plan B: We’re usually habituated with creating Plan A for executing things but very few of us actually create a backup plan called Plan B that can support us in case the prior one falls short of our expectations. Personally, you might be out of the woods, but if the economy turns south again, the employers could trim their employees, cut their take-home pay and also reduce the hours again. Therefore, you should be equipped with contingency plans if you want to stay afloat. (Contact Deborah if you want to find out more about her Plan B).
  • Curb using credit and stay liquid: Even though you have a rainy day fund, this won’t be of any good if you can’t use it or if you tend to lose money by selling off your stocks or other investments. Even though there are personal loans with affordable interest rates, you should always keep maintaining a cash cushion by keeping aside money. Restrict the usage of credit cards at the same time as this will help you keep debts at bay.
  • Start something to boost your income: As long as your employer approves of the venture, it shouldn’t hurt to do another consulting work on the other side so as to help boost your monthly income. There are various online money making opportunities that you can take resort to in order to enhance your passive income level. Making money affiliate marketing and content writing are two of the most common options to try out. (Contact Deborah for more ideas or look at http://www.deborah-meredith.com to see how she now boosts her income in various areas)

As the US lawmakers attempt to take steps to reduce the swollen US budget deficit, the Americans can’t assume that the government will be of any help. Since it’s time to be more self-sufficient, you could choose to follow the above mentioned financial steps through which you can keep debts at bay.

Where has the past 4 years gone?

Looking back over this blog I’ve just realised how far I’ve come in a relatively short period of   time, although I have to admit that whilst I’ve been going through it it’s felt like it’s taken forever.

It’s now almost 4 years since I was declared bankrupt and I had no idea how I was going to move onwards and upwards from there.  It’s been a long, slow and sometimes painful process but I’ve constantly put one foot in front of the other and continued to move forwards.  Sometimes I’ve taken 3 steps forwards and 2 steps back and other times I’ve stumbled backwards almost to where I started from! No-one said it was going to be easy and I really didn’t expect it to be, but I had hoped it would have been a smoother journey than the one I’ve been on.

As I write, I’m now the proud owner of a ‘Portfolio Career’.  Finally realising that it wasn’t safe to put all my eggs in one basket I have managed to carve out multiple income streams for myself.  This is something I kept trying to do when I was solvent but never seemed to succeed at, isn’t it ironic that now I’ve achieved it with relative ease.

How did I do that?  Well I stopped listening to EVERYONE and started listening first and foremost to my gut instinct and intuition and secondly to those people who I REALLY admire and aspire to be like. Was it difficult? Not really.  Did I have to do a lot? Well that depends on your definition of ‘a lot’!

Yes, I had to take the time to sort the wheat from the chaff and then I had to take the time to sort out what would and wouldn’t work for me.   Then I had to apply it and where I couldn’t afford to have someone do various bits of work for me then I had to learn how to do it myself.  This took time, effort, perseverance and determination and there were plenty of times where I wanted to give it all up in frustration but what kept me going was the knowledge that I didn’t want to end up back where I had been four years ago.  I was also driven by an unstinting belief and confidence that everything was going to get better and that I could and can do ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ happened to be.

I’ve stumbled up on that now, it’s taken a lot of soul-searching, talking, tears and breaking through my fears but I’ve realised what it is.  For me it’s not about having just one job or one thing to do, I need a number of different interests and it’s why I’m now grateful for what I’ve been through as it’s taught me so much not just about me but about my skills, ability, desires and strengths.

Wherever you are on your route to Bouncing Back from Bankruptcy I can promise you that it does get better.  It might not seem like it at the time but it does and when you come out of the other end you’ll be surprised by how far you’ve come and what you’ve learned from it.

I’m still humbled by the messages I receive from all over the World telling me how I’ve helped people and how they in turn are reinventing their lives following bankruptcy.  It’s certainly not something I expected would ever happen when I was first declared bankrupt back in July 2009 when I was overcome with mixed feelings of fear, panic and surprisingly, relief!

I read many inspirational quotes and there’s one that goes like this:  We’re only given the experiences we’re strong enough to handle in life. I know I’ve got it wrong and I can’t remember where it comes from but you get the gist.

Wherever you’re at right now, remember to focus on your dreams and goals and let them be your driving force to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Do you spend or save?

A number of people have asked me if I’m going to continue this blog now that I have a number of  business interests that are keeping me busy and earning me money.  They ask “Do you feel like you’ve bounced back now?  Are you going to stop your blog?”.  Well the answer is “No” on both counts.

Yes, I’ve bounced back in as much as I now, finally, have the confidence to go back out into the World with a new business venture but I’m still addressing my relationship with money.  I went through a phase of being too scared to spend what I had and now, whilst I’ll gladly spend money, I still have to go through a whole mental process of whether I REALLY need the item, what benefit will it bring to me, do I have something else that will do the job equally as well etc.

I’ve got so used to living frugally that I’ve forgotten how to ENJOY money.

Whilst I no longer feel controlled by it, I’m not certain that I’m totally in control of it either – yet.  I’ll let you know just as soon as I feel I’ve got that sussed but I’ve a feeling it will take quite a while longer.

Has your relationship with money changed significantly since you had financial difficulties? Or have you come out the other side and carried on just as you used to do, thinking “It won’t happen again?”

I love talking to people about money and their attitude to it.  A good friend of mine, Clare Turner Marshall, is the Love Money Guru and she identifies 7 different money types.  I’m constantly fascinated by her findings and I’m sure you will be too.

Things are getting busier for me and my blogging is becoming more and more sporadic but I haven’t forgotten about what drove me to blog in the first place – it was the desire to help other people going through financial difficulty and/or bankruptcy to feel that they’re not alone.

It’s a difficult time of year but it is possible to get through it if you don’t get caught up in the hype and do the best you can with what you’ve got.  Throughout everything it’s my friends and family that have kept me going.  They were there when I had no money and they are there now that I have a little bit of money.  Just remember the people that really matter don’t care whether you have money or not – and the people that care don’t matter.

Catch up with you soon.

Deb

x

Refusing the drugs to let nature do the healing

I hadn’t realised how long it had been since my last post until someone contacted me last week and asked if I had given up my blog!  I haven’t given it up and neither do I intend to, I’d  just let time run away with me over the summer and hadn’t noticed that it was months rather than weeks since I’d posted!  I was obviously having too much fun!

And that’s the truth, despite it being a tumultuous year for me, a year of trying to discover who I am, what I want and where I’m going – well I never said the bankrupt’s route to recovery was going to be easy! – I spent much of the summer, particularly August, getting back in touch with the girl I was when life was carefree and full of fun.

I’ve always been an outdoors girl and it wasn’t until we went camping for 2 weeks that I remembered how much I love and need to get outdoors regularly.  Despite living in a lovely flat with fantastic views, I don’t have a garden so I rarely sit outside and work because having a communal garden means that every time I want to go inside for something I need to pack up the laptop, the papers, the phone and move everything. So for the best part of the last couple of years I’ve been cocooned in the 4 walls of my home slowly withering away. I just hadn’t noticed it.

Earlier this year, in my desperate need to work out who I was, I made a really stupid business mistake.  I ignored my gut instinct and some months, a few thousand pounds and oceans of tears later it all ended horribly.  In fact my body took over and I had a breakdown.  I knew I was doing the wrong thing but I ignored all those little niggles because I’d decided I needed to do something to define me.  I’d hoped that almost 4 years since my previous business became insolvent I would have worked out what to do by now!  Obviously I hadn’t.

I’ve spent the best part of 4 years trying things out.  Much as you try a new dress or new shoes for size, I’ve been trying new businesses for size.  I’ve dabbled in them, started them and walked away or in the case of the one above, totally freaked out, broke down and realised it was so far removed from the way I do business that I was acting without integrity or authenticity.  I’ve beaten myself up over it that’s for sure and have spent more hours crying in the GPs office than I care to remember, refusing to take the drugs he was desperate to prescribe to help me cope because I knew deep down that drugs weren’t the answer.

It’s all part of my personal and unique route along the Bankrupt’s Route to Recovery.  Some days, most days thankfully, I take the right turning, sometimes I take the wrong turning and make a slight detour and it’s only this one occasion that has seen me take a turning so wrong that I seriously thought I’d end up right back where I started.  Certainly my confidence and self-esteem were back there.  For a number of months I wouldn’t leave the flat, having panic-attacks each time I went out and for a short while I couldn’t even talk to or see friends or family.  How Mark, my other half, managed me I have no idea but him and one or two other friends who ignored my selfishness and refused to go away pulled me through.  In fact, one friend said to me “We’re like your armbands. And whether you like it or not we’re not going to let you drown. You can either work with us or we’ll just drag you through”!  Tough words at the time but I’m glad that I have a friend who can be as blunt and direct as that.  And believe me, there were times where she did drag me through, pushing me into situations she knew I would and could handle but left to my own devices I’d have walked away and disappeared.

So, I was still in this semi-fragile state when we went away on holiday.  We had planned on driving to St Tropez but cancelled that when I didn’t feel as if I could cope with a strange place and a strange language.  So we went camping instead, for 2 weeks to St Ives in Cornwall.  We put the tent up in the rain and some nights we were woken up by the wind and the rain threatening to uproot the tent.  But the days for the most part were warm and sunny and we had fun.

Being back outside in all weathers was precisely what I needed, I only wish I’d done it sooner.  My body and mind reconnected and got back in sync with the natural rhythm of things.  We were waking up when the sun came up and was bright enough to infiltrate the darkness of the tent and we went to bed around 10/10.30pm when we were exhausted from a full day in the fresh air, walking around.  We ate simple food and drank a lot less than we would at home.

We actually arrived home feeling so much better that we’ve continued the same rhythm.  The hardest thing about being back home has been reconnecting with technology.  I can honestly say that in those 2 weeks of getting back to nature I didn’t miss the ipad, blackberry or computer one little bit. Although I did fall in love with the kindle!

And whilst adopting the same routine I’ve made sure that I get outside every day for a minimum of 20 minutes. If I have a letter to post or need to pick something up from the shop I walk rather than take the car or ask Mark to drop it off or pick it up on his way to and from the office. And the best side effect is the weight I’ve lost. Without even trying I lost half a stone in 10 days!  That’s when I know I’m doing the right things.

And in adopting this routine I’ve inadvertently stumbled upon another business.  The last month or so has seen me remember what it is I need to feel alive and to feel like me and now I’m doing just that.

I’ve managed to create a lifestyle for myself that many years ago (I’m talking 10/20/30 years) seemed just a pipe dream.  Now my week sees me working on any one of a number of TV productions or films as an extra, I spend time in the kitchen developing new products for Deb’s Kitchen and I get out and about speaking to various groups and coaching people in how to present themselves on a public platform. I do the occasional bit of PA work but for someone who at 16 said “I’m never ever going to work in an office or on a computer and I’m certainly not going to be a secretary” I think it’s about time I gave that up.  I know I was good at it and for many years it earned me a very good salary but 20 years is a long time to spend doing a job you don’t enjoy.

That chapter of the book has closed now.  The new chapter has started and this time I expect the last leg of the Bankrupt’s Route to Recovery to be more of a straight line with fewer detours.

I hope that your route to recover has fewer detours than mine but equally that it’s leading you to a better place.  I’d love to know how you’re getting on.

PMA – It really does make a difference.

Bouncing Back can take a long time and sometimes, just as you think you’ve achieved something comes along to knock you back a few steps but then you just put one step in front of the other and start again.

In my “A to Z of Bouncing Back from Bankruptcy” I talk about the importance of Positive Mental Attitude.  I wanted to share the following examples with you of things that have happened to me recently (in the last week) that I could have let send me into a spiral of depression.  Instead I’ve chosen to take the positives from them.

This last month has been tough for me.  I relaunched my VA business, sorted out my website and then discovered a competitor had copied it and used it as their own.  To say it was upsetting would be an understatement.  But I overcame that, contacted the competitor and asked them nicely to take down what they’d plagiarised.  It seems to have done the trick.  But it got me worrying about how I would get business and earn some money, you see the very same competitor not only plagiarised my work but has also undercut me by approximately 60%.

I let that get to me and upset me for quite a while and then I realised that what that competitor had done was actually pay me a massive compliment.  Not only did they feel that my website copy was worth copying they also felt they couldn’t compete with me directly in the market place.

Had I not come to that realisation I would probably still be eaten up with angst and falling deeper back into the hole I’ve hauled myself out of in the past few years.  And the strangest thing is, as soon as I changed my mindset things started to happen.

In fact, it would be fair to say that this week has been the best week I’ve had for a very long time.  I’ve met up with potential clients who seem to have appeared out of nowhere – I certainly wasn’t prospecting for them.  And then, best of all, I’ve had 2 opportunities to pursue my lifelong ambition.  The superstitious part of me isn’t going to share those with you yet but as soon as I hear that I’ve progressed to the next stage I’ll let you know (see the PMA at work there?!)

Not even the news that my car, that gorgeous convertible I bought a couple of months ago, is going to cost me £1000 to fix has been able to dampen my spirit this week.  Yes I’m annoyed about it but worst case scenario? I have to walk and use the train.  It’s not so bad, I’ll get much more exercise than I currently get.  In fact, I’ve had more exercise this week than I have for a long time, by walking everywhere whilst the car was at the garage awaiting diagnosis.

I sorted out my son’s bedroom and cleared 2 bags of rubbish and have a pile of stuff to put onto ebay.   I spent an entire day, when the weather was glorious and I could have been outside,  going through every drawer, cupboard and box that only a 7 year old boy can cram full of ‘stuff’ – he’s very creative and every so often he’ll raid our recycling bin for things he can use but then he just stores them!!! I even moved the furniture around!  The whole house suddenly feels lighter! 

And now, I’m off to meet some former colleagues for our annual catch-up lunch.  When I left the company we all worked at it was on fairly bad terms but we’ve long since put that behind us and just enjoy spending time catching up and gossiping.

I could choose to dwell on the negative aspects of this week but instead I’m choosing to see the possibilities that have arisen out of it.  They’re exciting and full of potential.

What’s happened in your week that could be so much better if you chose you look at it in a positive light?

“Do as You Would be Done By” – What examples are we setting our Children?

If you’re going through bankruptcy I’m sure you’ll have been told that when you become bankrupt your debts are written off.

Well, for the most part, that’s true.  As an undischarged bankrupt your trustee will take your disposable income (if you have any) from you and distribute it to your creditors.  When your bankruptcy is discharged that ceases and what’s left of any debt is written off.

That’s precisely what I thought when my bankruptcy was discharged in July 2010, so imagine my surprise last week when after being declined a bank account I checked my credit report.  My credit score was almost double what it was this time last year but I found out that one of my creditors had been adding a new default notice to the account EVERY MONTH SINCE my discharge.  To say I was furious would be an understatement.  The fact that this creditor, who to my understanding is blatantly breaking the law, was my former bank made the matter so much worse.

I called the bank and after being given at least 2 different telephone numbers to call back on and transferred from one department to another I got to speak to a human being who actually seemed to make a little sense: at least she was sympathetic and trying to help.

The long and the short of it is that I had to send a copy of my credit report to the bank (like they don’t already have access to it!!!) quoting my account number(s) and reasons why they should remove their charge from my credit report!!!!  Um, “you’re breaking the law” should be reason enough but I guess in this day and age, when the banks believe they’re above the law, that sort of suggestion is water off a ducks back and they’ll take whatever action they feel like taking.  The person I spoke to suggested they’d change the ‘default’ notice to ‘partially settled’.  It should be changed to ‘settled’ but at the moment I’m waiting for them to reply to the letter I sent them.  In my naivety I like to think that at least someone will use some common sense and listen to the law.  We shall wait and see.

So the moral of THIS story is; always, always, always, check your credit report and query anything that isn’t right on it.

I hadn’t checked my report since my bankruptcy was discharged.  I’d accepted that the bankruptcy was going to sit on the report for 6 years and just worked on building my credit score, never suspecting that a former creditor would go to the time and effort to besmirch my credit profile even further.  I had been completely open and honest with the bank I applied for a new account with.  It’s just a pity the banks can’t be completely open and honest with us.

“Do as you would be done by” is a mantra my parents instilled into my sister and I as children and one that we in turn instill into our children.  How can we be expected to raise honest, thoughtful children if the examples they have from those in power are the exact opposite of what they’re taught?

The role models our children have now about working and earning money are so corrupt should we be surprised if our children choose not to work and instead turn to a life of cheating and greed?

I was so angry last week that I wrote to our Prime Minister, my local MP and local councillors.  If I get a response I’ll let you know!