Counting our blessings

It’s our 25th plus one wedding anniversary today, we have been married for 26 years but our 25th wedding anniversary came and went without me knowing as I was delirious in hospital. I was annoyed about missing the big silver wedding anniversary hence the 25th plus one! We may celebrate with a glass of something bubbly from Aldis and count our blessings…. We need to think about everything that we are grateful for, it does help lift your spirits. I may even get the mini rubys involved and we can sit around the table as each come up with our own list and maybe put the world to rights. At the moment the thing I am most grateful for is the NHS, without it I wouldn’t have been here this year, running a close second is the internet, without it I would still feel like we are the only ones going through this and thirdly on my list strangely is the hoover, it’s still going strong but is getting old but I can’t imagine life without it, makes me shudder! When we first married we had an old fashioned carpet sweeper as we couldn’t afford a hoover, I was so proud when we bought our first one. Does that make me odd?

It was remembrance Sunday this week, every year we go to a local village church to pay our respects, we have done this for as long as I can remember there are a few ex-forces that go to the same church in their berets and wearing their medals, it always makes me so proud, my husband served during the gulf war and I thank my lucky stars that I still have him.  We popped into the local village pub after the service, I had a coffee and Mr ruby treated himself to half a Guinness, the sun was shining and we had a lot to be thankful for.

Its Mr Rubys dad’s birthday this weekend, the whole family are descending and we are all making food, I’ll make a big chilli as it’s cheap to make as well as tasty, a few pots of sour cream, some grated cheese and a bag of jackets spuds should go down well. I’m glad that this was suggested as I was dreading the usual restaurant suggestion as that’s so expensive and we would have had to have come up with an excuse of some kind. We are always trying to avoid social functions, we’ve been invited to a few weddings this year and the invites have all said no gifts just money donations please – how do you deal with those!! We just make our apologies and don’t go, luckily these have all been work colleagues that have got married.  I must be seen as the most unsociable person. I’ve already declined the work Christmas party invite, I’ve made the excuse that it clashes with another family event that we are going to.  It does make me smile sometimes when I listen to work colleagues talking about living on their overdrafts and having no money until pay day, but then they are all going to the pub at lunchtime and talking about the latest gadgets and gizmos that they have bought. I do work with developers though and their lives revolve around the latest gadgets! It’ll catch up with them eventually!

We still haven’t heard back about our variation of terms, I don’t know how often I should chase them or how long these things take to hear back. I have read on this forum that nothing happens quickly, maybe I am being a little too impatient. I shall wait until the end of next week then maybe ask nicely every fortnight……

Have a happy week everyone

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Staying Positive!

I’m taking a break from sanding the stairs!

It’s almost official, we could finish this almost a year earlier than expected, we have asked for a variation of terms as we have the statutory interest clause in our proposal. I’ve read on this forum that this is unusual now, it wasn’t included in our original proposal but was added as a modification, along with about 30 other points. SDS said they will forward our request to the variations team, every waking thought is now taken up with this and I need to calm myself down but that’s proving impossible. Our PPI claims are all complete and we received around 14K back, one claim was missing from our last report but we have been told that Natwest will be using it to offset the debt. We have disposable income of just over £1600 going to the IVA every month and this will change our lives dramatically in the future and for the first time ever we will be able to really save and live.

Mr Ruby is currently employed on a rolling 6 month contract, we always have the fear of his contract ending but if we conclude early then this fear will be alleviated as we could comfortably live on my salary. As Mr Ruby was medically discharged from the armed services he receives a tax free pension so he could afford to look for part time work. He can then cook me tea and do the housework! win win all round then…

I can honestly say looking back over the last few years that we have always been happy, we are very close as a family, Mr Ruby and I have been together since school days and very rarely argue. We have two wonderful mini rubys. The eldest ruby is very sensible, we have helped her whenever we could, she worked though her degree but couldn’t work through her master’s degree, too much course work and lots of placements.  We went without to try and help her, Mr Rubyreds parents were sent from heaven and as we are supporting a mini ruby they are also emotionally supporting us. I can’t even begin to say how grateful we are, words can’t express it. The eldest Ruby has worked hard and is now reaping the benefits as she landed her dream job as a social worker. The youngest Ruby went through a bad relationship and was left with credit card, mobile phone, some payday loan debts and a large overdraft. She didn’t speak to us about it, ashamed and embarrassed by the whole thing and thought it would all just go away. She has severe dyslexia and the concept of money really confuses her, she also suffers from anxiety and this just added to it, it took us a while to get to the bottom of what was wrong but we got there eventually. Mr Rubyred now controls her bank account and she is paying everything off gradually, with no help from the Ex I would like to add. She is working but earns minimum wage but more importantly she’s now happy, gets overtime as and when she can. Money can’t buy happiness as we all know, but it does help to ease a burden.

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Keep your chin up

Well they say that things run in threes, the dog ate the stairs, the bottom shelf in the fridge has somehow shattered and now my hairdryer has died….. (luckily these are all minor things!)  For those of you who are of a certain age just think of crystal tips and Alistair, does anyone remember that cartoon? She had wild purple curly hair, well that’s me (not purple of course) without a hairdryer. I have to make sure that I wash my hair at night, plait it to keep in under control and hope that’s its dry the next morning. A hairdryer is a luxury at the moment, not a necessity. Mr Rubyred has a growing bald patch and shaves his head now, so doesn’t require a hairdryer :)

I’ve picked up money saving tips along this journey, I would like to think that I will carry on with these once our current journey has been concluded. I snip the tops off of hand creams and moisturisers to get every little last bit out, I mix white vinegar, fabric softener, water and a little washing up liquid to make a wonderful shower cleaner, better than any shop bought one. I make salt spray for my hair, it costs a fortune to buy and I love the product but mixing sea salt with water, conditioner and a small amount of cheap hair gel has exactly the same effect as any expensive branded product.

I only really wear make-up for work but foundation can be quite costly. I have dug out all the unfinished liquid foundations and mixed them all together into a pot and have at least a years worth! Talking of unused items, I shudder at how I used to get bored with products and wanted to move onto something else before the original had been finished, however this throw away mentality served me well at the beginning of this journey as we had enough different shampoos, soaps, conditioners, deodorants and other items to keep us going for a few months once I had dug everything out of the cupboards.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we have hidden this from the people that we are closest to, there is a lot of stigma associated with debt and the fear of being seen as a failure.

We told Mr Rubys parents a couple of months ago about the IVA, we had to, they worry about us, and ask questions like why haven’t you been on holiday for a few years? The double glazing on that window blew last year and you haven’t had it fixed yet. They asked us a few times in a round-about way if we were ok, and we said yes, as we are ok compared to how we were before so that’s not lying. To cut a long story short Mr Rubys mum was recovering from an operation, she wanted to have a short break away in a cottage just for a change of surroundings and asked us if we would come along, Mr Ruby could do some fishing with his dad and I would look after mum. They asked us again if we were ok so we took the decision to tell them, I promised myself that I wouldn’t cry, I wanted them to see it as a positive not a negative, but I cried, felt like we had somehow let them down, they have always been so careful with money, credit cards are the work of the ‘devil’ (We know that now) But they completely accepted the IVA, they said that they knew something was up, even offered us money – no way would we accept their money. We got ourselves into the mess we would get ourselves out of it without touching their life savings. They have made us promise that we will tell them if the car needs repairs or if anything urgent comes up, that is a huge weight off of our shoulders and a god send and we are so lucky to have such an understanding family.

Well, I have only half a day in work tomorrow then I am off  until next Friday, I need to defrost the freezer and start sanding down the stairs so that will keep me busy i’m sure. I’ll probably do some baking as well and hide things away in the freshly defrosted freezer….

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Every Cloud……

Wow – I won a voucher for participating in these blogs! That has really made my day and I would whole-heartedly encourage everyone to write, it is really a big help to talk candidly about the IVA journey and the problems it can bring, you know that you are not alone and you are not the only person to experience the frustration that comes with it.

I Left off with the stair disaster last week, a little background first…..

The Rubyred family dogs are a motley pair, one is as good as gold, loveable, friendly and a pleasure to be around. The other one is a nightmare! I am sure that he needs sectioning sometimes. He’s wrecked parts of the house and we are on a constant ‘make do and mend’. So far he has eaten his way through a stair banister. Mr Ruby has managed to use wood filler to fill in the gnawed out chunks and teeth holes, we need to try and match up the colours though. He then tried to eat his way out of the front door, we have had to use MDF to cover up the eaten parts and then painted it to match the front door.  So the latest ‘trick’ is to eat the bottom of the staircase. He has taken the carpet clean off, god only knows how we are going to fix this one. Mr Ruby has taken the carpet up, maybe we can sand and paint the staircase, it doesn’t look too bad underneath. I’ll have to coat everything in Tabasco sauce to try and discourage him!

He suffers from separation anxiety, we have tried everything, we hide treats around the house, leave the TV on, change the ‘leaving the house’ routine, he is exercised, he has bones to gnaw on and leads a privileged life, it’s a good job that we love him dearly and can’t imagine life without him – we’ve put up with this for 7 years now so nothing is going to be changing any time soon, he just seems to be getting worse with age.

About a year ago Mr Rubyred and I decided we needed to lose weight, we had read all about intermittent fasting, it has health benefits but the added bonus is that it saves us money as for two days a week all we eat is low calorie soup. The only problem now is we that we can’t afford to buy new clothes. I need a new coat, really I do. I haven’t purchased anything for so long and I’ve lost almost three stone in weight. Tried last year’s coat on and I looked like a ‘bag’ lady! It was amusing though. I have had a hunt on e-bay and am watching a couple of nice coats. I’ve listed my too big coat so hopefully I won’t have to spend more than a few pounds – keep your fingers crossed for me!

The cold weather is starting to kick in now and our house is freezing, the back of the house is north facing and our large living room has three external walls. I have hand knitted blankets that help to keep us warm and when things get really bad we put the gas fire on – I would love to have a log burner – that’s on the wish list. We have large patio windows in the hall way that give access to the back garden, we keep meaning to buy curtains for them as we must lose a lot of heat through the exposed windows, have you seen the cost of thermal curtains!! I nearly fell off of my chair. Off to the charity shops we go – It’s almost a day out for us, we even treat ourselves to a coffee and a bun. We have a town near us that must be 40% charity shops now but as luck had it we found some lovely full length, thermal lined neutral coloured curtains and snapped them up for the bargain price of £25! They have a posh label and Google tells me that the retail price for the size we found was in excess of £200!! Now that’s what I call a bargain! We still had to factor in the additional £25 we spent but it was worth it.

I wonder if they take dogs at charity shops……..

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Cost of living, or the cost of surviving?

After our IVA was approved we were almost in a honeymoon period, the feeling was fantastic and the overwhelming relief is hard to describe but that feeling soon wears off. I have to stop every so often and remind myself of the incredibly restricted life we led in our pre IVA days. But still I find myself wishing the months away, therefore wishing our lives away and every day should be precious, I do struggle with this and it upsets me I then get frustrated with myself and so the vicious circle starts.

We spend more each week on fuel now than we do on food, Mr Rubys job means that he has over an hour drive to work each day, public transport is out as it’s in a fairly rural location. I get the bus to work as we could no longer afford to run 2 cars, however £20 a week for a bus pass is still expensive. Our IP wont up our petrol allowance and we are spending between £80 and £90 a week on fuel. The car is only ever used for the daily commute to work, shopping on a Saturday and visiting parents every second weekend. We can’t afford to cut back on anything else to allow additional car journeys, this has inadvertently caused us to lose some friends….

Mr Ruby is ex-military so we had friends scattered all over the county, some of which we used to visit for long weekends, that had to stop as we just couldn’t afford the extra petrol expense. You do get to discover who your true friends are when trying to explain that we can no longer afford to make the journeys and afford meals out.  Then over time the weekly phone calls stop, they stop asking you to visit and they stop visiting themselves, why should they be the ones who do all the running around, I can totally understand why they would stop visiting but despite all that I can’t bring myself to tell them the reason why – is it shame or pride that stops me? For all I know they could be struggling too, but for now it’s just come down to a yearly birthday and Christmas card. I find this really sad…..

Gas and electric are still on the up, we had to fight to get our allowance raised at the last review as the monthly direct debit has gone up yet again. Our IP has asked us to look into switching, we are on a dual fuel account but both accounts are in debit not by a huge amount but we won’t be able to switch as we can’t afford to pay off the outstanding balances. They haven’t asked us again, accepted proof of payments and upped our allowance slightly.

After our last review we had some allowances cut, and they had also incorrectly recorded my salary, Mr Rubys salary and some insurance figures even though we had sent in payslips, statements and other supporting evidence, I find it had to understand how such simple admin errors can be made. As a result the following monthly payment was upped by about £50, we received the letter informing us of this the day after our usual standing order left the bank. We contacted SDS and made them aware of the errors, they said they would look into it.  A week later we received another letter telling us we were behind on our payments and needed to make up the shortfall. We contacted SDS again reminding them of the errors and had the same standard reply, this went round in circles for a month before it was finally resolved.

Do staff not talk to each other? In my head we are recorded on a database somewhere in SDS towers. They search for our details on the database and they can then see a detail of our history, including letters, payments and other contact – or it that just too simple?? We have had 3 IP’s in as many years now, however I count my lucky stars when I read some of the horror stories on here. We cant have everything.

Oh, before I go….. Came home from work last night and one of the ruby family dogs had decided to have a go at eating the bottom of the staircase!  I’ll save that for next time :)

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Hello world!

wow – this is all new to me, another thing to tick off of my list of achievements now -blogging :)

I’ve read a lot of these blogs with interest, they really do help. To know that other people feel exactly the same way that you do goes a long way – it’s like my own personal therapy, best bit is it doesn’t cost anything!

If by starting this blog if I just manage to make one person sit back and say, OMG, I’m not the only one who feels/says/reacts/does that then I have ‘paid it forward’ so to speak.

I will try, in my first post, to condense the last two and a half years into a short a post as possible…so here goes.

We didn’t ever plan to get in this mess – who does? Life threw us some major curve balls and we dealt with them in our own way, re-mortgaging the house, consolidation loans, credit cards when we couldn’t afford shopping then all of a sudden there was a moment of how on earth did we get here. We have never defaulted or missed a payment to any of our creditors, the mortgage payments where all up to date but if we had carried on this way we would never be able to do it, even living on beans on toast for weeks at a time. The worst thing was we couldn’t ever see it ending, that’s a depressing thought and that is the thought that I try and keep in my head on the bad days now, I remind myself of how bad it was and god knows where we would be if we hadn’t taken the plunge when we did.

Now at least I know it will end and our lives will be so completely different when it does!

Mr rubyred and I sat down and calculated approx 57K worth of debts, how shocking is that, especially with nothing to show for it, no flash car, latest gadgets or designer this and that.

To cut a long story short we contacted the first company we came across (I know!) and breathed a sigh of relief after the creditors meeting, monthly payments of £900 and a reduction in IP fees was agreed (We are with Simple Debt Solutions) we actually had some money to buy food shopping, it was great.

But adapting to life without credit cards was hard, what if something breaks? What about car repairs?

We then had to learn to budget, out went the sainsburys shop, in came Aldi, reduced our food bills from £120 a week to £50. We only eat meat once or twice a week now and haven’t suffered J We save money from our allowances to put towards Christmas and Mr rubyred, the mini rubyreds and I have the best Christmases ever but we do have to make sacrifices, only small ones but they make a difference. I havent been to the hairdressers for ages, luckily I have curly hair so when Mr rubyred cuts it, it will never look wonky! New clothes? What are they?

We don’t drink or smoke luckily, we have 2 dogs so get out in the countryside for long walks, the eldest rubyred has just finished her master’s degree and landed her dream job, she has flown the nest but the youngest is still with us.

We told them both from the outset what we were doing, a good life lesson for both of them and luckily they are both older but they still enjoy fun days with mum and dad, a picnic at the beach, a walk in the woods and mooching for bargains in the local charity shops.

We have had some problems along the way but I have to keep remembering where we could have been had we not decided to take this journey. The journey that I would like to share if I may…

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