Charlotte Millington on Debt, Budgeting and the Importance of Financial Literacy
Charlotte Millington, the founder of Simply Money Savvy, is a personal finance blogger of eight years. Having switched to a full-time position just three years ago, Charlotte is also the admin of a Facebook community of 10,000 members, all hoping to fix their relationship with money.
Image Credit: Charlotte Millington
Her interest in personal finance developed as she grew up. Having enjoyed maths in school, she reflects on an inadequate education surrounding financial literacy: “Not all of us got to see the real world outside of it because you don’t get taught any financial literacy at school; it’s all Pythagoras and angles.”
“I mainly focus on personal finance. It’s an interest of mine after sorting out our own debt situation and learning a bit more about how everything works. It clicked for me that money and maths are what I like. I’ve built my freelancing career around it.”
Charlotte was inspired by a podcast centred on Americans but found the fundamental messages behind a somewhat polarised and narrow viewpoint really quite compelling. “When you get behind all of the political and religious stuff, his tips are basic maths. I thought that he had been really helpful, so I started looking into that and I created the UK version. I got some advice from UK financial advisors to make sure I was getting the right information to give to people,” she says.
“It’s been really nice to build a community of people that are on the same page.”
Having navigated her own journey with debt and budgeting, Charlotte is a side-hustle expert. “I have always been one to do extra tasks. I can’t just sit down. I’ve always been doing stuff on the side. I do a lot of crafting. I turned that into a business. When I turned out I could write, I turned blogging into a business. People turn innate skills into massive businesses. And some people assume that they don’t have any skills,
“There’s always a way to utilise a skill that you don’t think is a skill. Everyone’s got potential to have a side hustle; it’s just knowing how to pick apart your skills and your interests to see what you can do with it,” she adds.
Charlotte decided not to go to university and instead entered the working world post-sixth form. This was when she first noticed a gap in the curriculum.
“When I told them that I wasn’t going to university, they pushed for me to work on my CV. I asked them why we weren’t learning about taxes because, if you’re in sixth form, you’re old enough to get a job, and there’s no one telling you about that,”
“When I got my first job, I thought ‘oh, the tax man is taking a lot of money’. Getting older and making mistakes with debt was a learning curve.”
Charlotte believes that whilst schools want to prepare you for the outside world, they do so from an academic perspective and not a real-world perspective.
“I think it’s a case that they would love to teach other stuff, but they can’t because of the curriculum, but also, the curriculum hasn’t changed a lot in the past however many years. We’re still learning the same stuff. Maybe it’s because we can’t keep up?” she states.
“If they teach us about finance, they’ll have to teach us about getting a job and how tax works. But then, as soon as you go into detail about tax for example, there’s questions like ‘well why do I pay this much tax if that’s not done?’ and things like that,”
“You could do a whole term on mortgages but not everyone’s going to get one.”
She further believes that introducing detailed financial literacy into the curriculum could cause further problems due to class and regional differences. She says: “Schools are a mixing pot of the local area and everyone’s economic situations so it’s almost like they can’t teach stuff because it’s not relevant to everyone. Schools are scared to teach it almost.”
Though the introduction of adequate financial literacy may still be up for debate, Charlotte recognises that current and previous generations are still at a disadvantage due to their severe lack of education surrounding money.
“How many adults now don’t understand interest rates and what’s happening with the mortgage situation? It’s not our fault, but when things change, it’s harder for us to adapt and learn them. We sort of act like it’s fine when we know it’s not fine, and we know it’s a big thing. Even if it wasn’t the maths side of things that was taught in schools, explaining how credit cards work, would be better than nothing.”
“When I was at school, if I heard pension, I’d be like ‘well, that’s the thing my nan and grandad get?’ We need a general conversation. Parents are more so likely to talk about this with their kids now, but it’s scary to children if all of a sudden they hear that mum and dad can’t afford to do that. Parents are scared, there’s no easy way to explain things. We don’t need to cover the maths side of it but people need to be aware of what things are. “
Simply Money Savvy Logo. Image Credit: Charlotte Millington
As a budgeting expert, Charlotte believes that the act of budgeting gets a bad reputation: “As soon as you say budget, people go ‘no I don’t want you to take my money’ but budget isn’t a dirty word. It’s just making a plan for your money before it happens. It would be like booking a holiday on a credit card and then getting there and being like ‘oh, I’ve got no spending money,’
“Budget is just telling your money where to go each month instead of wondering where it went,” she says.
As the cost-of-living crisis continues to affect thousands, we asked Charlotte for her thoughts on loans.
“Shop around for a loan. Money Saving Expert is a great resource for things all UK money based because he’s got so many calculators on there, good advice and deals. You will have to do a bit of learning about it and you will have to understand what 0% finance means and payment terms. But there’s no reason why you can’t look on companies’ websites and do some calculations,
“There’s a lot of free tools that will help you look at what the best option is for you. Don’t just apply for things randomly because they’re all searches that can appear on your credit file. As soon as a loan provider says no, other companies will know that you’ve been turned down so you don’t want to damage your credit score in the meantime.”
As for savings, Charlotte highlighted the importance of an emergency fund. Whilst there is no exact figure for this, she advises that anything from £500 – 1000 is ideal. This will help you with things like emergency car payments, unexpected unpaid time off work or the boiler going.
“£500 – 1000 is generally enough to cover any immediate emergency. It’s just to give you peace of mind that if something happens, you can cover it. After that, 3-6 months of expenses is usually a good idea!”
Charlotte, whose been on this journey for herself, would like to advise people to have a look at their budget and make sure that everything is as neat as possible. She adds that once you have a viable budget, it will last. It may take a few months to get a good budget in place but it’s always good to know what you’re spending.
“It’s quite simple once you break it down, and I realised I can help other people do that. I have a passion for teaching and helping others as well so it’s gone hand in hand with that,” she closes.