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Money diary: “I don’t see debt as a must-have anymore”

Money diary: “I don’t see debt as a must-have anymore”
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I’m Sandy Kenrick and I’ve been a freelancer for the past six years. Before that, I was a banker and a financial advisor. However, I can tell you more about money now than I ever could when I was licensed to give advice. 

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As a freelancer, I can’t manage my finances the same way I did when I worked for a salary. I need to plan a few weeks (and months) in advance to meet my obligations. My husband is self-employed too, so we take emergency savings seriously. 

How I determine my financial obligations 

I’ve found that the best way to determine my output is by calculating my budget at least a month or two in advance. This allows me to accommodate upcoming events such as trips and birthdays without making it a future problem. 

It’s true that as a freelance writer, the more I work, the more I get paid. But that approach is not always feasible because of a little thing called sleep. I also receive payments almost daily, so need to keep on top of payments so I don’t overspend!

My financial plan looks something like this: 

Week 1 

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Charity £25

Savings £50

Property services charge (leasehold) £65

Mortgage £175

Clothing £25

Business subscriptions £12.5

Life insurance £12.50

Car Loan £20

Utilities £80

Personal subscriptions £5

Estate planning £14

Education £88

Debt snowball £150

Retirement such as ISA £50

Covid recovery (husband) £37.50


Fun expenses £50

Income taxes £160


My husband and I split our financial obligations, and for me to meet mine, I need to make around £250 per week. 

This means I need to make just over £1,000 per month to meet my budget. By moving around my projects a little, this is more than achievable. Even though my income just touches the tax threshold, I still keep funds aside in case I go over that limit. 

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I try to make at least 50% of my budget the month before so I don’t always feel like I’m on a financial deadline. This helps when I have additional personal obligations. 

How does COVID affect freelancers? 

The first lockdown that took place in March 2020 was tricky. My 2-year-old was at home with us. My husband and I needed to take turns to work. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the virus, his business had to shut down for almost 3 months so he had to take up freelancing for a bit.  

I was fortunate enough to have an influx of work, but having everyone at home all day proved difficult. My productivity dropped, my fatigue increased, and we were all just overwhelmed. We finally managed to get into a rhythm that worked for all of us but it was still mentally draining. 

I had to make some changes. At the time, I still had some bulk work I was doing for a client that was at 25% of my standard rate. I felt too sorry to drop the client as they’d been with me for so many years. During the pandemic, their work dried up a little and I managed to make a clean break. 

Increasing your rate during a pandemic 

It sounds ludicrous to even consider the possibility of an increased rate during the pandemic, but I had to do it. The most I could squeeze out of a typical workday was 4 hours. Before the pandemic, I could squeeze out a good 7 to 8 hours a day, which was why I could afford to carry the burden of that low-paying client. 

After I said my goodbyes, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to replace them fast enough. However, my existing client base proved to be lucrative. I just didn’t have the time to tap into them properly before. 

Bulk projects at a lower rate are not good for you as a freelance writer. You won’t have time to work on more lucrative projects that may take a little longer to pay. You’ll get stuck in a loop of logging long hours for basic pay. 

It’s been almost a year since I’ve decided on my new minimum rate. Here’s what happened: 

  • My earnings per hour doubled within the first month 
  • I spent more time on projects that I enjoyed doing, such as personal finance
  • Of my 4 working hours per day, I could use 30 minutes for upskilling and training 
  • I’m not constantly on my phone anymore when I’m supposed to be with my family 
  • The number of edits has dropped significantly. The bulk project was low-paying but very, very high demand 
  • When my household got COVID, the loss of income didn’t impact us as badly as lockdown

Where my savings go 

If you’ve had a look at my weekly budget, you’ll notice that I don’t have any investments there. That’s because I’ve frozen further contributions to my investments until I’ve managed to pay off all my debt bar the mortgage. The only investment that still receives a contribution is retirement. 

I’ve also closed down my accounts on platforms that charge a monthly fee until I’m satisfied that my debt and savings are at acceptable levels once again. 

My emergency savings came in handy when we were unable to focus on work 100%. However, it’s important to replenish those savings as soon as possible. 

My savings change over time as my needs evolve.  My bank allows me to open up to 10 savings pockets that I can personalise according to my needs. I split my minimum £50 savings contribution as follows: 

  1. Emergency savings £25
  2. Car service £5
  3. Car licence £2
  4. Laptop service £2
  5. Home updates £16

I might add an additional category when I want to replace technology or upgrade. I’ve closed down mobile contracts as I don’t make use of all the benefits. 

6-month financial goals


I still have around 3 months to go to top up my emergency savings. I don’t like having more than 6 months’ worth of emergency savings, as savings accounts don’t pay interest that beats inflation. Once I’ve reached this goal, I’ll top up my other 4 savings categories until they’re where they need to be. When that’s done, the funds will go towards increasing my retirement contribution. 


£50 per month is not enough for me to meet my retirement goals, and once I’ve maxed out my savings, this is where the rest of the money will go. I’m hoping to increase contributions to £75 by September and then £100 by December. 


I have historical debt that I’m paying from my banking days. I got really favourable rates when I worked at the bank, which led to very silly financial mistakes. I use the snowball technique to work my way through this. 

I’m also helping my husband with a portion of his, so we can focus on wealth as a couple. 

Right now we’re closing off financial products that are fee-heavy or carry high-interest rates without rewards. We still have credit cards, but they’re great with rewards and have a 55-day interest-free period. 


I want to increase my earnings, but it would need to be worth it. My taxation bracket will change and I will need to onboard a tax consultant, so the increase in earnings needs to accommodate the change. My husband and I are working on two additional income streams with 3- and 6-month deadlines.

My biggest financial regrets 


One of the biggest financial regrets I have is signing up for a long-term personal loan when I worked at the bank. When I left the bank, the interest rate was adjusted and I got stuck with monstrous repayments. Same with the credit cards. I also had very little savings (it seemed like a lot at the time) to help me with the transition from a steady income to commission-only. 

Staying too long in an insurance job (or going into it at all!)

I burned through my £8,000 savings super fast and then had to rely on my credit card. Finally, after a year of living off savings and credit cards, I threw in the towel. Luckily, by that time, I’d already been exposed to freelance writing. It took around 9 months for me to earn a decent income as a freelance writer. 

If I could do this differently, I would have gone into freelance writing instead of insurance when I left the bank. I might still have used up the savings, but wouldn’t have had to touch the credit cards. 

Not saving and investing more 

I started working at the age of 15 (selling Avon to earn some pocket money). I only started saving when I was in my late twenties. That’s over a decade of missed saving and investing opportunity. 

My biggest financial wins 


While I had those silly products in the bank, I don’t see debt as a must-have anymore. Credit is used far more responsibly and only if it works for us. We have only one criterion and that is that it goes towards increasing our income streams.  

I’ve also steered away from store accounts, mobile contracts, and furniture accounts because you’re tied up to a certain provider, supplier, or brand. 

My mortgage and car loans are really low, which means that my finances are not strained. They make up 17.5% of my total income. I can afford a more expensive property, but that would mean I can’t travel when the world turns the right way up again. 

Saving and investing

I have a healthy attitude towards savings and when my earnings increase, this is the first place that receives a bonus. It’s helped me through some really tough financial times. I also don’t have itchy fingers to use the savings. 

I can maintain a work/life balance 

My daughter goes to school from 7 AM to 1 PM and when she gets home, it’s very rare that I’m still at my desk working. I get to spend that time with her. I also make sure to take weekends off to ensure there’s balance. I might work the occasional Saturday morning or evenings after the little one goes to sleep, but it doesn’t happen often. 

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