IT’S EASILY done – unexpected costs, birthdays, and a host of social plans all falling in the same month.
Pretty quickly your spending can start to rack up, and so you’re relying on your credit card to get you through.
Sadly, that routine ended Maddy Alexander-Grout up in more than £40k worth of debt by the age of 24.
But by making a few pretty major changes, she managed to pay it all back in just five years – and admits yellow-sticker living was the key.
Now the self-professed ‘spending addict’ turned consumer money specialist is helping people get their finances in order with her new Mad About Money app.
And, speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Maddy reveals the four mistakes that could be contributing to your out-of-control spending – and stopping you from doing any real saving.
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OUT OF CONTROL
“When you think of addicts, you think of drug addicts, alcoholics. You don’t think of spending.
“But I was an undiagnosed spending addict.”
Opening up about her years-long struggle with debt, the mum-of-two from Southampton explained that her money habits things started to go downhill when she was studying at De Montfort University in Leicester.
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She continued: “When you’re living the party life at university, you don’t really realise how fast you can spend money, and I spent it like it was going out of fashion.
“I would, on average, spend £20 to £30 every night, and that’s with student prices.
“Then I’d still be spending on taxis and food when I got home – and pre-drinks before we went out.
“I lived a very, very frivolous lifestyle.”
And so, despite seeming fairly obvious, the money specialist admits one of the money common mistakes she sees is people not tracking where their money is going.
That can include not budgeting, and also not keeping an eye on your spending via online banking apps.
She added: “I literally used to just spend, spend, spend and there was nothing that stopped me.
“It was the thing that gave me dopamine, so I just carried on doing it.
“I had no idea where any of my money was going, I didn’t have a budget.
“But budgeting is what you make it, so you could have a boring budget where you only pay for your bills and your food.
“But if you allow for fun and your budget for everything – so set up sinking funds for Christmas, birthdays, like all of the things you need to buy for in the year – then you’re going to be so much more prepared and not feel restricted because you know you’re allowed to have fun.
“I’ve got budgets for everything, literally everything, and I take out £200 at the beginning of the month which is my fun fund, and I basically allocate it to things like massages, going to gigs, going to the pub, days out with the kids.”
DOUBTING YOUR DEBT
The second mistake Maddy fell victim to, and once she wants to warn others of – ignoring how much debt you’re really in, and how long it might take you to pay it off.
She continued: “Ignoring debt really impacts your credit rating. It also adds more interest on, you’re going to get late charges put on.
“It’s just going to spiral out of control, especially if you’ve got more than one debt.”
It took the 39-year-old years to admit to her parents the reality of her financial situation.
But once she did, her mother encouraged her to head to her local Citizens Advice, in the hope they could come up with a plan to help her.
Although, Maddy claims the schedule they provided meant it would take her more than 60 years to pay her debts off.
So, she wrote down a list of everything she owed, as well as the interest and minimum payments due on each, before developing her own 50/40/10 method.
This meant that Maddy, who was working as a recruiter at the time, would put 50 per cent of her salary on her living expenses, like rent and bills.
Another 10 per cent would go on the things she wanted, and the remaining 40 per cent went towards paying off her debts.
“I had about £15 a week to live on, for food, clothes, going out – and I lived that way for about three and a half years.
“I just learnt how to be really frugal, and now I can go days without spending any money at all.”
CUT OFF YOUR CARDS
Even though this wasn’t one of the major contributors to Maddy’s huge credit card bills, she admits it didn’t help.
The serial saver suggests linking your cards to websites like Amazon, Deliveroo and ASOS makes it quick and easy to spend money.
So, she’s calling for the public to clear their cards and put some thought into their purchases.
“It just makes it so much more effort if you want to spend.
“So I have problems with spending and I always have done. And one of the ways I try to control this is by not having any cards linked.
“So my cards aren’t on Amazon, they’re not on Deliveroo, I don’t have Apple Pay.
“I make it as hard as possible for me to spend money, and it really works.”
BUY NOW, PAY NOW
And while this wasn’t a mistake Maddy personally made during her money journey, it is one she’s watched others make – and it could be adding to the amount you owe pretty quickly.
She suggested avoiding ‘buy now, pay later’ apps, like Klarna, Clearpay, and Afterpay.
“I don’t have any of those apps on my phone and I will never go near them.
“I think they’re massive mistakes in themselves – they’re an accident waiting to happen.
“You use them once and then before you know it, you’ve got six, seven, eight, nine, ten things that you’re paying monthly for.
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“It’s just best to avoid them. Don’t buy anything unless you can actually afford to buy it at the time, and if you want it that badly, save for it.”
Mad About Money app is a social financial education app, helping consumers with saving tips, debt support, money management and a monthly cost of living voucher giveaway.
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