Mum or mortgageville
Louise is saving up to visit her mum in New Zealand while attempting to set up home with her significant other. She's learning that financial independence means tough decisions, sacrifices and disappointment.
Louise tells us how two promises to her mum and boyfriend have sent her life into financial turmoil.
At 23 I'm in the midst of what I affectionately call my quarter-life crisis. Half of me has stalled in the just-graduated, piss-your-wages-up-the-wall phase of financial management, whereas the other more mature side is eying up wedding dresses and paying into an ISA. I've made two financial commitments to my mum and boyfriend using both of these sides, but it's becoming painfully obvious I can't do both.
My mum emigrated to New Zealand three years ago - roughly the same time I got together with my boyfriend. She's 50 in November (sorry mum) and wants me to celebrate with her, but I also want to move in with my boyfriend. My reasonable graduate salary can cover one at a pinch, but which one do I choose?
I'm terrified of debt and would rather just go without. I work in PR and one of our clients is a debt management specialist. I'd never ask him for advice, but the horror stories he tells are awful - divorce, depression, suicide - and all down to debt.
However, I do have a £250 overdraft, which I live on for half the month, and a catalogue account with the standard astronomical 37-point-something percent APR! I took that out when I was a naive student and I'm still struggling to get rid of it; I'm paying twice the minimum repayment but it barely touches the sides.
"You can't skip off to the southern hemisphere for six months without pissing off your boss and your landlord - you also can't afford to. This is, pathetically, my last attempt at adventure."
Things are difficult for me at the moment. At the start of the 'credit crunch' I cashed in on everything - 20% off at New Look, 40% off at Threshers - it was great. Much like swine flu, I thought the whole situation was over exaggerated. Now, some of my friends have been made redundant and my boyfriend, who is an accountant, could be facing the same fate. The house he owns with his brother has plummeted in value and things are looking bleak.
Payday is three weeks away and I have £21 to my name and £450 in my ISA. This year there'll be no pay rises and no chances of promotion, but who changes their job in the middle of a recession?
I'm resisting the temptation to get a second job. I did bar work at college but there's a big difference between pulling pints and sleeping in the next day, and pulling pints then getting up at 7am for work. I can't afford to let my day job suffer for the sake of a couple of quid in tips and sore feet - it's too risky.
Despite my predicament I do realise I'm very fortunate compared to some, but going to New Zealand isn't just a holiday for me. I've never done anything independent my whole life: I went to university in my own city so lived at home, I didn't take a gap year and haven't really done anything remotely risky or exciting. It's becoming apparent that the older you get the less likely you are to drop everything and throw caution to the wind. You can't skip off to the southern hemisphere for six months without pissing off your boss and your landlord - you also can't afford to. This is, pathetically, my last attempt at adventure.
However, then my sensible side kicks in and I want to start planning for the future. With some budgeting I could probably afford to put around £400 a month towards a mortgage, or even rent, but it doesn't stop there. Houses need furnishing, lighting and heating. We'll need feeding and watering. I'd need to double that £400 and £800 is way beyond my means.
Can I get to New Zealand or mortgageville without taking out a loan, a credit card, or borrowing from someone? If not, who do I let down? Can I save for a rainy day and a day in the sun?