CW: Financial abuse
When I saw May More promoting her Money Matters project I knew that I wanted to join in. I hadn’t intended to share any further posts to my February Photo Fest, while I concentrate my efforts elsewhere, but I have decided against following my own rules to add to the other amazing posts that I’ve been reading. Here is my guide to getting creative to make ends meet.
Growing up I was never aware of any financial difficulties, though I know now that my family lived hand to mouth from when I was about 12. This was when my dad first became too unwell to sustain his business and my mum became his carer. I had a great work ethic, and if I wanted something special (a triple CD player, or a new, full-suspension mountain bike for example) I would save money. This came from my 3 paper rounds, and my Friday afternoon brass polishing job. As a teenager I loved the freedom that having surplus cash gave me, not that I ever really spent anything. This was when I learnt to manage my money. Incomings vs outgoings, what is important, what can I do without…. That kind of thing.
I saved and saved and saved…
The plan being that I would travel. I had saved enough to take an overland adventure from London to Cape Town. I had everything ready except for the ticket, which I was just waiting to confirm which company was best before coughing up. Then I met P.
My savings went on our wedding. “Don’t worry” he said, “we’ll save up and travel once we are married”. So I didn’t worry. I trusted that is what would happen. But as regular reader will know, he wasn’t exactly what I had believed him to be.
Fast forward ten years, we had two children and were living the toxic dream. The descent into abuse was slow and steady, but also swift. Financial abuse is just one layer of torture that an abusive person can heap on their partner.
And with us it wasn’t something that I noticed until it was too late.
I actually didn’t realise there was a name for it until a couple of years after we parted, when the power and control wheel was brought to my attention at a recovery course.
It started with the joint account, that all of the bills would go out of. Perfectly normal for a married couple to pool their resources. With an equal input things were ok to start. Then he reduced what he was putting in, though his earnings were considerably more. Then the shopping. If he went shopping the trolley would fill with chocolate, snacks, DVDs, computer games… The snacks were always placed in a box labelled “P, hands off”. This served two purposes. To keep his stash for himself, and to make it clear to me that I was too fat for snacks. Nice, huh?
Anyway, his shopping was expensive. And came out of our joint account, which was already under strain because he reduced his additions. Who knows where his money went, but it wasn’t to us. The belt was well and truly tightened once our oldest was born. P’s spending habits didn’t change, and so I had to rejig the ever shrinking budget. When number two came along P had decided he would work for a friend. I later learnt that this was unpaid labour. But his pride didn’t allow me to apply for any benefits. Keeping a household afloat with four mouths to feed and just one income of maternity pay was less than ideal.
When I finally got rid of him I had to take out loans. I don’t regret these, they gave me my life back. But with my mental health tumbling I got myself into a terrible pickle.
Is it surprising that over the years I have had to start getting creative with making ends meet.
To gain a penny here or there? In ways that he couldn’t touch because, well, he didn’t have any interest in these things if it wasn’t right there under his nose. The only thing he was interested
And so I want to share a few of those things with you here. Perhaps they will be helpful?
The first thing I did was sign up for rewards cards.
If I used a shop and I could earn points then I would sign up for it. Saving these points up meant that I could buy the boys Christmas gifts at Tesco’s, or have £5 off my petrol refill with Texaco. There are so many cards, too many to list here. But they have been a bit of a sanity saver. Just knowing that- if times are particularly tight- I can buy bread, milk and pasta in Sainsbury’s with my nectar card is brilliant.
I signed up to be a mystery shopper with a couple of sites.
For a number of years I would follow the brief and do my shopping. They would reimburse me up to a certain amount, and I would get paid for answering a bunch of questions and submitting photos. It was a fair amount of work, and not the most lucrative offering. However, it did mean that I could treat my children to a meal out- fully paid for- or buy some much needed groceries. In a time where I wasn’t allowed to leave the house on my own without a valid reason, or talk to people this “job” gave me an opportunity to interact with people, without him leaning over my shoulder. Oh… It also gave me extra points on certain store cards, so I was winning all round.
I would sometimes sell items to make up the shortfall.
Ebay is great for more valuable items, amazon for quality books and CDS. Facebook marketplace, or any of the free-ad pages where you can list locally. There are sites where you can bulk sell items. For example, music magpie. Where you can sell gadgets, books, CDs, games… If they have need of the item you can box them up and send them off in exchange for payment. You get less money than individually listing, but don’t need to worry about the pick up or postage.
The final way that I have made some secret money is through cashback sites.
These are the ultimate affiliate sites, where you sign up and shop through them. They make affiliate earnings, and pass them on to you. When my contracts are coming to an end (car insurance, gas/electricity/mobile/broadband) I sign in and find a deal. The costs are the same as changing without the site, but you gain a payment a few months down the line. It isn’t immediate, but it is handy when they make payment. I bought my doxy through quidco, the site I bought it from offered 20% cashback at that time, so that was something else to get excited about!!
I’ve dug myself out of a number of holes since setting up my account on Quidco, earning £1600 since I set up my account ten years ago. Pretty much all of that was essential services as outlined above. I have introduced friends to the site too, SWL message don Saturday to say she loves the site as they’ve just paid her £10. If you wish to have a look at the site here is a referral link from me. If you sign up I’ll receive a little bonus payment once you’ve earned your first £5. But I am only recommending as it has been a literal belly filler at times.
These are the four main ways that I’ve enjoyed getting creative to make ends meet.
I hope that none of you are in the same situation that I was, but know that if you are there are ways out. I found a lot of support through the UK charity Citizens Advice Bureau. They have volunteers who can support you with queries around benefits, debt and money, as well as so much more.
If you have any different ways of getting creative to make ends meet I’d love to hear them- Either in the comments below, or via my contact form.
This post was shared for Money Matters, part of the adhoc meme Life Matters. Click the badge above to discover all of the prompts and posts from the last month.