SHOPAHOLIC Cathy Lambe is desperate to curb spending habits and slash her debts, as well as build up a savings pot for when she fully retires.
Cathy, 50, from Macclesfield, works part-time as a receptionist at a local estate agent firm earning £9,000 a year.
This week Cathy bravely lets our Cash Clinic expert Holly Thomas comb through her bank statements to give her a money makeover.
Holly pulls no punches with her frank advice, urging Cathy to quit smoking and cut down her shopaholic tendencies.
The semi-retired ex-cop has 80 pairs of shoes, more than 30 coats and cupboard full of clothes, but just £1,000 in savings.
Cathy admits to popping into Aldi to buy a pint of milk and walking out with a ironing board, as she’s easily wooed by the supermarket’s Specialbuys aisle.
I sometimes amaze myself with how I can justify spending sprees
But her spending habits means she’s racked up £8,250 in debt on credit cards and loans.
Cathy told The Sun: “I sometimes amaze myself with how I can justify spending sprees.
“I really need to adopt a better attitude to spending and saving – I just need some pointers.
“Having a monthly income from my pension is a huge comfort but I really want some security in the form of some savings to fall back on.”
Here, we reveal how Cathy can save thousands…
Why we’re launching Cash Clinic
THE Sun is launching its new Cash Clinic series because we want to help you, our readers, to save cash.
For some, it’s easy to get caught up with work and family life and to put our own finances on the back burner.
While for others, it needs an expert’s eye to work out where further cutbacks can be made to already tight budgets.
If you’d like our Cash Clinic expert to review your finances and to feature in our series, please email Holly Thomas at email@example.com
Bills: £333 per month
New spend: £326.70 per month
Saving: Almost £100 a year
Cathy is paying £93 a month to Octopus energy on a tariff she signed up to 18 months ago.
There is no exit penalty so she should switch to Avro’s Energy Simple and eSelect tariff that would save her around £100 a year (£8.30 a month), according to a comparison by Energy Helpline.
Cathy’s water bills are £27 a month. Since she lives alone we looked at the cost of a water meter – the rule of thumb is that if there are more bedrooms than people in a house then a water meter is worth exploring.
But an online calculator showed that the estimated monthly cost would be higher, according to her usage.
Her council tax is £86 which includes a single person’s discount.
Cathy recently switched her broadband, line rental, and TV package to NOW TV costing £39 a month.
Home insurance costs just £10 a month and Cathy says she switches at each renewal date and checks out what offers can earn cashback on her TopCashback account.
Her mobile phone contract costing at £40 has recently been renewed so must be seen out.
She also has a gym membership at £40 a month – which she uses three times a week.
Groceries: £250 per month
New spend: £175 per month
Saving: £75 per month
Cathy does her weekly shop at Tesco.com opting to click and collect to avoid delivery charges – and also to avoid impulse buys.
She could try using mysupermarket.co.uk to see if she could get a cheaper shop at a rival supermarket.
The site claims it can save 30 per cent on your shopping – equating to £75 a month.
Holidays: £250 per month
New spend: £83.33 per month
Saving: £166.66 per month
Cathy estimates she spends £3,000 a year on holidays. As a pet lover she could try house sitting for families who want to avoid putting animals into kennels.
The website www.trustedhousesitters.com connects you with fabulous properties all over the world, from Cornwall to California.
There is an £89 a year subscription fee.
Another website called www.homesitters.co.uk even pays and you can earn a minimum of £19.40 a day.
Do you want help in our Cash Clinic? Email CashClinic@the-sun.co.uk
Cathy could cut her spending by approximately two thirds – some £2,000 a year (£166.66 a month) – and just have to pay for travel costs and expenses.
She could also save on the money she pays for dog sitters by allowing others to pet sit, for free and stay in her home.
Clothes: £200 per month
New spend: £70 per month
Saving: £130 per month
Clothes and shoes are a serious weakness for Cathy who confesses she can easily forget her money troubles by splashing out on a few new outfits or pairs of shoes as an impulse buy.
The answer is to adopt some new habits that will help avoid spending sprees. Some of these should help her:
- Consider keeping a spending diary.
- Avoid the shops as much as possible. If Cathy needs to pick up some essentials, she should take only as much cash as she needs and leave your cards at home.
- Don’t get wrapped up in the worry of missing a bargain. There’s plenty more where that came from.
- When thinking of buying something, Cathy must ask herself – do I really need it? And maybe sleep on it. If it’s something she really needs, one more day won’t matter.
- Unsubscribe from email newsletters from favourites shops and websites.
- If you really can’t be disciplined – cut up your cards.
Using some or all of these, Cathy could easily limit her spending to £70 a month on new items of clothing and still have new things and a much healthier looking savings account.
She could also look for sales, secondhand shops, and Facebook groups for bargains.
Smoking: £152 per month
New spend: £0
Saving: £152 per month
Cathy spends the equivalent of £5 a day on cigarettes. She’s hoping to give up very soon.
The financial benefits are compelling – Cathy would be able to stash away a whopping £1,824 a year (£152 a month) into a savings account – or clear her Nationwide credit card debt in a little over two years.
Mortgage: £473 per month
New spend: £473 per month
Cathy is still paying off the mortgage on a three-bed terrace near Macclesfield town centre.
She paid £179,000 in 2011 for her house which has recently been valued at £190,000.
She remortgaged in September as her previous two- year fixed rate came to an end.
Cathy originally borrowed £120,000 and had repaid that mortgage down to £78,000.
But when it came time to remortgage last month she decided to increase it by £14,000 to pay off the majority of her credit card debts.
Choosing a five-year mortgage gives Cathy peace of mind that her mortgage repayments won’t increase
With the help of a fee-free broker she switched to NatWest on a five-year fix at 2.01 per cent costing £473 a month. Previously monthly repayments were £378.
Choosing a five-year mortgage gives Cathy peace of mind that her mortgage repayments won’t increase, allowing her to focus on clearing debts and getting her nest egg under way.
Having just remortgaged, there are no further savings to be had here.
Motoring: £286 per month
New spend: £286 per month
Cathy runs two vehicles – a Mini Cooper which is leased to her for £221 a month – and a camper van.
It costs £65 a month to insure the two and she spends £60 a month on fuel.
Since owning a camper van has always been her dream – and she only bought it last year, selling isn’t an option for her.
Cathy could in theory swap her Mini for a make and model that’s much cheaper to run.
The problem is that it’s leased, so she will need to speak to the leasing company about any exit penalty.
Depending on how much has been repaid, and how payments are structured, the financial penalties could be so expensive that it won’t be worth it.
Pets: £70 per month
New spend: £50 per month
Saving: £20 per month
Cathy’s dog Layla costs a pretty penny at £15 a month for pet insurance and £55 on food and treats and medication for ailments.
She could cut the cost of pet food by as much as 50 per cent by buying in bulk. Generally speaking, the bigger the package of food you can buy the cheaper it will be.
Cut the cost of pet food by as much as 50 per cent by buying in bulk
And should the dog need medical treatment, instead of buying lotions and potions from the vet, order them online.
Debts: £127 per month
New spend: £127 per month
Saving: £0 per month
Cathy has one final credit card balance of £4,250 which is on a 0 per cent deal until October 2020.
She’s currently paying the minimum repayment of around £36 a month. By just paying this amount the balance will still be £3,818.
Cathy will need to switch this balance again before October to avoid interest charges being applied.
She should also try and increase her payments to pay off the amount sooner.
She also owes £4,000 on a personal loan with Tesco Bank charged at 3.44 per cent. It costs her £91 a month until June 2023.
Cathy has £1,000 in an AA Isa, which pays 1.3 per cent. She opened it through Topcashback which earned her £15.75.
This is a good start – but the rate drops to 0.24 per cent after 12 months so if she wants to use an account to build savings, she should make sure she switches to a better paying account in a years’ time.
Cathy is already claiming the single person’s discount of 25 per cent on her council tax bill – although she did have to pay full whack during the months when her lodger was living there.
Under current rules, Cathy won’t start receiving her state pension for another 17 years – at the age of 67.
What has Cash Clinic managed to save Cathy?
Cathy has something of a split personality when it comes to money.
She’s super savvy when it comes to household bills but her compulsion to spend on the high street and online gets the better of her.
We’ve freed up a whopping £6,623.60 a year (£551.96 a month).
Admittedly £1,824 a year of this is by simply cutting out cigarettes – and it may be tough to go cold turkey so she could end up paying out for nicotine replacements, for example.
With two spare bedrooms, getting a lodger could generate a decent income
There are additional ways Cathy could boost her savings.
With two spare bedrooms, getting a lodger could generate a decent income that could be piled straight into savings.
Cathy moved a lodger in temporarily last year to help pay for a holiday to Bali.
She charged £400 a month, but it could be something worth exploring again as a regular source of extra income.
The government’s “Rent a Room” scheme allows her to let out a furnished room to a lodger, earning up to £7,500 a year tax-free.
At the rate of £400 a month Cathy will make £4,800 a year which will be hers to keep.
How we saved Cathy £6,600 a year
- Energy bills – £100 a year
- Groceries – £75 a month or £900 a year
- Holidays – £166.66 per month or £1,999.92 a year
- Clothes – £130 a month or £1,560 a year
- Smoking – £152 a month or £1,824
- Pets – £20 a month or £240 a year
TOTAL SAVINGS: £6,623.92
Using a budgeting app might really help Cathy who can monitor her spending, real time, and hopefully she can enjoy watching her savings grow.
She could try Emma, a free app that aims to help you avoid overdrafts, track debt, cancel needless subscriptions and save money.
It will allow Cathy to track her spending and, crucially, to set budgets.
She will also be able to set it to give notifications when she’s received a refund, when direct debits are going to leave her account – and when her salary has been paid.
Moneyhub’s app also has a built-in “Find an Adviser” feature. This can help put Cathy in touch with professional advisers when she comes to retire.
Some financial planning might come in handy.
Kerry Nelson, of Nexus Independent Financial Advisers, says: “Cathy has a really good pension with the benefit of taking this at such an early age. But having some savings is important.
“It would be great to think the £9,000 Cathy earns could be ringfenced for saving.
“It is good to have the equivalent of three to six months’ income for emergencies but also on top of that savings for holidays/travel.”
It’s up to Cathy to take our advice and build a nest-egg for her future.
With her generous pension to live off she can have an impressive savings balance even after just one year.