Two things…

I have had two grand revelations this week…

The first is that I am awful at maths. I said in Sunday’s blog post that it was 10 days until my trip to the States. Obviously that was very wrong, because at that point it was actually 12 days to go. Now it is 8 sleeps! Maths was never my strongest point; I’m an English/History/languages girl. There’s way more flexibility and room for thinking than in maths. Clearly, I cannot even do basic counting. Never mind. We can’t all be Einstein.

The second revelation this week was much more amazing and wonderful. As I said in Sunday’s post, I am entering into a transition period where I’ll be moving, again, to a new house. I also said that I couldn’t afford to live alone…so I have had to give this situation completely over to God and trust that His plans are good. Having moved house so many times, I really liked the idea of staying in one place more than 2 years. I love my house, and it is so great to live here – but I’ve had to surrender the whole situation to God. Not easy…but worth it! I prayed about it and worked out what I felt needed for living in Canterbury to be financially viable.

What I didn’t say was that last Friday, I approached my boss and asked if it was possible to increase my hours at work, or increase my salary. I currently work 4 days a week (32) and usually work at least 8 hours “overtime” during evenings/weekends to make it to a full 40 hour week, but I take my overtime as time off in lieu. (Clear as mud, yes?) I was asking if I could work a standard 40 hour week (Monday to Friday) or stick at 32 hours but for a higher rate. I’ve not had a payrise in the 2 years I’ve worked there, but I’ve never been in a position to need one.

When I raised it with my boss, she asked if we could schedule a meeting this week to talk about it in detail. I spent the weekend NOT worrying about it, because I know that God has greater plans than anything I could ever orchestrate and that all things would work out in the end:

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good

The meeting with my boss took place yesterday, and the amazing thing is that she had already decided to give me a payrise…because I am being promoted!

Whoop!! I’m now Senior Social Worker at our Fostering Agency. I get to take on more responsibilities, a supervising role for our students, and the financial benefit means that I can afford to get my own place without any difficulties!! As I said to my friend Simon, I won’t be buying a yacht anytime soon and won’t suddenly have a craaazy lavish lifestyle, but I will be able to start saving and will have more financial security.

God is just so incredible. He already knew that everything would be fine; he had worked it all out but through it I learned more about trusting him and relying on him completely. There was nothing else I could do, but lean completely on him and I’ve seen, yet again, how faithful he is. What a demonstration of his love; that he gave me peace in the situation and I was able to rest knowing that He had good plans for me. He knew exactly what I needed – to be able to stay in Canterbury near my friends and my church, and to be able to have a place to call “mine” – how blessed am I to have such a powerful but gentle Father God, who cares about what my heart craves and desires.

I am still completely in awe and overwhelmed by his gracious love.

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£63 million

Someone in England has one £63 million on the National Lottery, and has not come forward to claim their money. It’s obviously not me, because I’ve only played the lottery about three times. But the story was featured on Radio 2 this afternoon and it got me thinking, “what would I do if I’d won”

The journalist had interviewed a few people who came up with things like;

– buy a yacht

– go on holiday

– quit my job

With £63 million you could probably buy 63 yachts and have a holiday in each of them, one a year for the rest of your life.

But that seemed a bit meaningless to me. It’s such a lot of money, it’s really hard to imagine! I had a half hour car ride home, though, so came up with a few ideas:

1) pay off my student loan, my brothers’ student loan, and my sisters’ student loan.

2) buy houses – kind of like Monopoly, really! I’d buy a house for myself, a house for my mum, and put money aside to help each of my siblings with their mortgages so they don’t have to worry about that

3) give to church. If I were to win the lottery tomorrow, I’d give money to our church building fund. We have had an ongoing project to buy a building pretty much in the heart of Canterbury, but due to its’ state of disrepair it needs to be knocked down and rebuilt. 10% of £63 million could build a really beautiful church building that can serve our community well

4) I’d also give money to my church in Plymouth, to pay a salary for a youth worker because they have such a great ministry with lots of local kids, but are reliant on volunteers. If there was money for a full-time pastor this would help the ministry take off again. This is something close to my heart because I came to know Jesus through the youth work at Hooe. I’d give money to the Girls’ Brigade that is based there as well, to help them give scholarships for girls who can’t pay fees and provide great activities and trips

5) donate. I honestly think I’d be incredibly overwhelmed by all the money, so I’d give to lots of charities – local ones and worldwide ones

6) pay taxes! I almost dread to think how much I’d be taxed, but Jesus told us to “give to Caesar what is Caesars” and as long as the government of this country sets taxes, I will pay them…even if it seems like a high amount.

7) replace all my clothes – I realised the other day that I own, and still regularly wear, some of my clothes from before I went to University. Possibly some I had when I was doing GCSEs! So I’d go shopping and not even look at a price tag, but buy things based on if I wanted them! (But I’d probably do this shopping spree somewhere like Next or Dorothy Perkins rather than the designer stores)

Isn’t this dress so cute?

Honestly I don’t think I could actually spend that much money…but it was fun playing the little game

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A little rant about loan companies

ARGH

Today I’ve spent over 4 hours working through the finances of a very close family friend, who has racked up thousands of pounds in debt through taking out ill-advised, super-high interest “payday” loans. Thousands of pounds.

Is this her fault? Well, yes, and no.

Yes – because she was the one who signed up for these accounts and borrowed money

No – because the amount she initially borrowed only tallies up to about 1/4 of the amount that she now owes, as the interest payments are between 150 and 1000%.

This makes me so angry! Yes, I’m angry with her for being so stupid as to take out the loans in the first place, but more than that I’m absolutely fuming that it’s legal for these companies to even operate!

These companies aren’t even the worst there are. A quick Google search provides literally hundreds of payday loan companies, promising “up to £800”, “£500 NOW”, “payday in 15 minutes, up to £1000” … but what they don’t tell you (until you’re practically confirming the agreement) is that you will then pay astronomical interest rates, meaning that – for example: if you borrow £200, you have to pay up to £750 total.

Interest starts accumulating the day that you take out the loan, so even if you pay back exactly what you borrow on the payment date, you will ALWAYS need to pay an additional amount.

Essentially this is a complete rip off; not designed to help people if/when they are in genuine financial trouble but to make huge amounts of money.

These companies will offer you more money than you ask for, because then they can charge you a higher rate of interest. They convince you this is ok by telling you that they’ve “run a credit check and you have a good rating” … these people are trained to convince you that you need more than you thought. They suck you in!

Once you’re in, you get emails telling you that you can rollover your loan; put off paying it for a week, two weeks. Each day you have the loan, you’re accruing interest…until you finally realise the severity of the situation and that you simply cannot pay it back.

So what do you do then? A quick Google search and you can find hundreds more companies, willing to loan you the amount to cover your first loan with their own interest rate.

This just leaves you shifting your debt around from one company to another – thinking that you’re being proactive in paying it off, but you’re not. You’re kidding yourself.

Essentially, if you take out a pay day loan, you lose. Always. There is just no way to win, no matter what the company tells you.

Argh I am just so frustrated.

Living debt-free, and understanding money management, are very important to me. Growing up we frequently had very little money – not through mismanagement, but other circumstances. While my mum did amazingly in managing what we did have, so we never went without the genuine essentials (a home, electricity, heating etc) we often had to go without what lots of people would count as necessities: haircuts, new school shoes, birthday parties.

Oftentimes my mum would walk round the supermarket with a calculator, choosing only the absolute essentials and stopping when she’d spent her budget.

Nowadays we are on a much better setting, and I have my own income with more than provides for all my needs (and allows me to pay back my student debts and build up my savings account) but the lessons I learned as a child will never leave me.

I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I have to turn to others to rescue me from my financial catastrophes. As soon as I was old enough, I got a part-time job and worked throughout my A-levels so that I could pay for my own things. I got a second job when my exams were over, and saved this money for Uni expenses.

Basically, from the age of 16 I had my own income, my own budget and if I didn’t physically have the money for something, I didn’t buy it.

This isn’t bragging, but at 18 I had: paid for all my own driving lessons, bought my first car (including tax, and insurance!) and bought a laptop for Uni. I bought all my own clothes, shoes, make-up, craft stuff and also gave mum some money each month towards my living expenses.

I learned these lessons the hard way, and it really worries/upsets me when I see kids today with literally no clue about the value of anything. The kids that I work with have absolutely no idea how to manage their income or create a budget.

These are the kids that in a few years time will be those who take out the payday loans and get into horrific amounts of debt, that they may never get out of by themselves.

It makes me angry and really, really sad.

*Note: fortunately, for our family friend, she asked for help and we are able to give it. We’ve called her creditors to adjust payment schedules and have worked out a plan to pay them off in more a manageable way. She should have cleared her debts by the summer.

One final thing (and then I’m heading to bed!) … if you are in a situation like this, there absolutely is help available.

http://www.helpwithdebt.org.uk/

http://www.debtadvisorycentre.co.uk/debt-advice/?gclid=CN7_89nHt64CFYgmtAodvXDsng

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