I have never been one to prepare for a rainy day – payday meant ASOS hauls, far-flung holidays, bottomless brunches and evenings in the pub.
I’m a 24-year-old woman with a maxed-out overdraft and a credit card that reached its limit three months after I took it out.
My debt has been accumulating in tandem with 70s suede miniskirts since I started university in 2014, but I never took it seriously. I treated my lack of savings as an inevitability for someone like me – a first-generation uni student desperate to keep up with a society that is more obsessed with what you have, rather than what you can afford.
Over the years, there have been opportunities to save, but I always resisted, convincing myself it was something I would do once a steady full-time wage came my way.
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My first credit card bankrolled a holiday to Ibiza, while I extended my overdraft halfway through my first year of university to pay for Wednesday night pints and a plethora of going-out bodysuits. I found it impossible to turn down plans and, even on occasions when I had just £20 left to last me a month, I would cave and my initial promises to stay in were replaced with attendance at pre-drinks by 8pm.
Looking back, it all seems very reckless and irresponsible, but it’s what most of my fellow students were doing at the time. I’m not looking for pity, I’m aware that I should have been be more careful with my money to protect myself from the unexpected.
Maybe it was also because before moving away for university, I never had to control my own spending. I was a working-class teenager growing up in the West Midlands and simply didn’t have any money to spend. Then, when I was suddenly faced with thousands of pounds at my disposal, any element of sense went out of the window and I splurged.
Things that my friends, some of whom were from more comfortably middle-class backgrounds, were quietly saving for – like mortgage deposits and cars – seemed like far-distant entities to me, something I’d find time and money to prepare for in my 30s or 40s.
It wasn’t until coronavirus started its harrowing onslaught, rendering many people jobless or unable to work, that I began to realise and regret my lack of financial security.
When lockdown started I had just £12 in my bank account and payday from my part-time call centre job – which I’ve now been furloughed from – was still a week away. Since the virus has progressed and spread, it’s continued to reiterate my complete lack of a safety net.
I was living in Sheffield, but left abruptly because with no savings to help me stock up on food and essential items, I couldn’t afford to self-isolate. My sister paid for my £40train journey home, but I’m still paying expensive rent on a flat – which I probably won’t visit now until I’m due to move out in July.
I’m not alone in not having any savings; The Money Charity has found that 12.8million households in the UK have no or less than £1,500 saved, while the ONS reports that half of twenty-somethings have no savings whatsoever.
Moving back home to self-isolate with my family, albeit temporarily, has really highlighted my dire financial straits. My single-parent mum, who works as a nurse, is bankrolling me – including helping pay the rent on my flat – and not having my own cash or being able to help with the running of the house, when I shouldn’t even be living here, makes me feel childish and irresponsible.
Feeling like a burden is a bitter pill to swallow at a time when we should be celebrating the wonders of family and community.
Having no savings also makes every mental struggle harder and every barrier more difficult to overcome. I know that once all this is over, I must work on my finances, even if sometimes it can feel like saving for the future is hopeless.
I’m all too aware that the economic fallout from coronavirus will not make this easy, but I also know that at the end of the day, I’m in this position through my own doing. I just hope that life after lockdown will give me the opportunity to redress the situation and I can finally start saving.