Thanks to Sam Thewlis for sharing her story, her budgeting tips and her inspiration.
At the risk of sounding like part of an AA meeting, my name is Sam and I am an accountant. The problem is that I never felt like an accountant and I have been lucky enough to be able to refocus my career in a much more fulfilling and family friendly way.
I had already had a bit of a gear change when my son was born, just over five years ago, and I was reaching the point again where I either needed to step up the pace again, or try and find a different path. Last May, I decided that, although money and its repeated appearance in my bank account was important to me, a high-powered career was less important than my family, and with my son starting school in September, I focused on achieving a way of working which would allow me to collect him from school, which was important to me. And to him.
I had always enjoyed writing, and thought I was pretty good at it, having had some fiction publishing success, and I started searching for writing ‘gigs’ to do alongside my full-time job. I managed to secured a contract with a national website and was soon writing twice weekly for them. I set up my website, www.samthewlis.co.uk and began writing for The Business Mum’s Journal, a magazine which I now co-edit.
In late 2009 I co-launched MCPR, a mini PR service for MumsClub members which includes a ‘Check and Send’ service to edit and distribute your press release to a database of contacts.
In January 2010 I was featured on both a Guardian careers forum as a copywriting expert and on Enterprise Nation as consolation for being dropped from Emma Jones’ new book, Working 5 to 9, for being too successful and now being a ‘proper’ writer. I also appeared on Steve Wright in the afternoon on BBC Radio 2 asking for a horoscope reading due to the success of my business!
I am now getting more and more magazine work as well as webcopy and press release writing which is the core of my copywriting business. I am also working with Millionaire Mum Emma Wimhurst on her exciting new project Whisper to Boom! But all that still doesn’t mean I can rest on my laurels, as I need to make sure I can cover the mortgage every month, not to mention the energy bills, the phone bills, the Council Tax…
Perhaps being an accountant helps, but my first tip would be to keep track of what you have coming in and going out, but not to do this as a standalone exercise, but to keep reviewing it to take account of any changes. If you are going to be short in, say September, if you know about it in May you will have time to do something about it. Although this is of paramount importance in business, it can also be a great help for household finances, and Martin Lewis’ budgeting spreadsheets on Money Saving Expert.com is a great place to start as it makes you take note of one-off things you need to think about, like birthdays, Christmas, holidays etc.
My second tip would be to recycle. I don’t mean putting your newspapers and plastic bottles out once a fortnight (although do that as well!) but recycle things like clothes and toys. Children are far more likely to grow out of, rather than wear out their clothes, and why spend good money on brand new stuff when you can get as new clothes for free or next to nothing. Even if you don’t like the idea of buying children’s clothes from charity shops, perhaps you could get together with some friends or fellow mums and swap clothes around, saving you all some valuable pennies.
And finally, only spend money. By money I mean cool, hard cash; folding notes and chunky change. You will be amazed how much more expensive things seem when you have to physically fork out the cash from your purse rather than using a magic credit or debit card. If nothing else it makes you aware of how much you are spending at the supermarket (haven’t we all had the near fainting experience at the checkout when we see the final reckoning) and makes you stop and think when putting things in your trolley- do you really need it? That’s not to say you can’t buy things you don’t need (strictly speaking we all only need one pair of shoes. As if), but at least you think about it instead of buying things almost on auto-pilot.