Money natters: Property owner Anna Corbett shares her money tips

By Natasha Culzac

Recent property owner Anna Corbett explains how moving to Nottingham helped her own her first home.

Nottingham-based Social Media Manager, Anna Corbett, 30, has just bought a property with her fiance. It’s the first step on the ladder for the couple and one that Anna says she wouldn’t have been able to achieve had she stayed living and working in London.


Q: When you were a kid what did you imagine your future would look like? 

A: I wanted to be a palaeontologist first, then I wanted to be a vet, then I realised you needed chemistry to be a vet, and I couldn’t do chemistry. And then I travelled for a living, for over two years, and decided that was enough. For my travelling escapades I spent four months in Peru before university, then after it went to Uganda for nine months and South Korea for one year. To pay for Peru, I’d slogged it away in McDonald's and saved my money. For Uganda, I did six miserable months in a call centre which gave a bonus scheme - so I worked 11 hours a day for six days a week and raked in a bundle. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that, though, because I had a mini nervous breakdown. It was during the financial crisis and I was ringing up people who couldn’t repay their loans, asking them to repay their loans. It was soul destroying. When I went to South Korea I was in a paid teaching position and they even paid for my accommodation and flights out there. I went out with about £500 in my pocket and because I was being paid roughly £1,200 per month (and had pretty much no outgoings whatsoever) I managed to pay off my overdrafts and even send money home.


Q: If I gave you £10,000 what would you do with it?

A: The most boring thing you can possibly imagine. I’ll probably spend £1,000 of it on fun stuff, like a ridiculously expensive meal, and then put the rest into a savings account.


Q: And if I gave you £50,000?

A: I would probably buy another house and rent it out. I don’t think a pension is going to be worth anything in later life for us, so I’d rather three or four houses when I’m 80 years old to sell off and cash in, than rely on getting money from anywhere else. Also, when you’re paying a mortgage, in a way you’re paying yourself. You’re giving yourself £500 every month, or however much it is, and it’s going straight into something that when you sell, is yours. If you’re paying rent or anything like that, you’re giving somebody else that money.


Q: Who inspires you in terms of money and their management of money and why?

A: Everybody I know is in a similar situation to me: they’ve either just managed to buy somewhere or they’re renting. My parents inspired me in a way, because we always went on holidays we couldn’t afford as kids and they just paid them off after. They just figured it out somehow because they thought experiences were more important than things. That was probably the biggest inspiration and I’m still like that. I bought a pair of shoes today, the first pair of shoes I’ve bought in a year and a half - I just don’t really buy stuff.

Money management

Q: Whose lifestyle would you choose if you could pick anyone’s?

A: I would like to not have to work for a living so that I could do whatever I wanted. But I would still probably work, I just would like to not HAVE to work, so that the money that was attached to the job didn’t matter. I don’t know who lives like that, Paris Hilton maybe? I wouldn’t like to be super rich or anything, I’m perfectly happy living in my house and staying with my stuff. I’d probably volunteer or do a low paid job that didn’t pay very much but that was interesting or worthwhile, and then I would probably give it all up and go travelling for a few years.


Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how savvy do you think you are with your money?

A: Around a 7. I’m good at not spending money on clothes, shoes and stuff. My weakness is food. I will buy lunch every day, sometimes I’ll buy breakfast and lunch in the same day and then I’ll buy meals out, take-away, and I love cooking as well. If I went out and spent £30 on a meal, I wouldn’t blink at it. But you ask me to spend £30 on an item of clothing, for example, and I would tell you you’re ridiculous. For some reason I’ve got this gap in my mind when it comes to spending money on food - it just doesn’t seem real money. Apart from that, I’ve been in debt but never so much that I couldn’t pay it back. I got into debt to take a massive holiday, when we did the Trans-Siberian Railway, but it was worth it, and now I’ve only got the mortgage. For the holiday, I paid for it with a 0% interest credit card and I worked out how much I would have to pay every month to have paid it off by the time the 0% period had run out. I cut up the card as soon as I did the balance transfer and then just set up the direct debit to pay it off over the 24 months.

Q: How would you rate your partner on the savviness scale?

A: He’s probably better than me when it comes to certain things, like food and stuff, he doesn’t spend quite as much money as me. I think he’s quite good at saving but he buys more stuff, buys more toys. I mean that very literally. We’re probably about equal, but just good at different things.


Q: Where did you learn to manage your money? 

A: I don’t think I was ever taught how to do it - I’ve had a job since I was 14. It was a case of if I wanted money for the weekend then I had to get a job. And I’ve worked since. I had a bit of time off for travelling and I had a year at university where I didn’t work but other than that, I’ve worked non-stop. That has probably taught me how to manage money. So now, if I’ve got aim, I’m good. If I’ve got a savings account, I tend to name it whatever the aim is, like “Travel Fund” or something like that on my online banking, and then every time I put money into it I feel like I’m contributing something for the future. I struggle to save just for saving’s sake.

Q: Who is the biggest influence on your spending habits?

A: Friends and the people you go out for drinks and food with. Although to be honest, I’m normally that person. I am my own bad and good influence.


Q: What’s your biggest money weakness?

A: Food. Food. Food. All of it. I go to little shops during the week to buy what I want to eat that night. I read that if you cook for one it’s actually cheaper to buy day-by-day, but if you’re cooking for more than one it’s not. But the smaller express shops cost loads more! When I got to a big supermarket I’m astounded by how much cheaper it is. Just little things like yoghurts are 50p cheaper than they are at the metro. I want to get better at not spending as much money on food during the week, planning meals in advance and taking lunches. My New Year’s resolution was to take lunches into work and I lasted for about a week. That would be the single thing I could do to save money. I need to stop being so bloody lazy but sometimes I work very long hours and I get home, I’m knackered, and I just can’t be arsed.


Q: What financial differences have you found between London and Nottingham?

A: I can buy a house here. Our house was under £100,000 and it’s a three-bed terrace. And a nice one at that, it’s all done up. We could have got a shit one for £85,000. Nottingham is remarkable, even in the north or the midlands, for having low house prices. We needed a 10% deposit and when you buy it with a partner, it’s obviously easier. But also the rent was a lot lower, so we were renting a two-bed house before we bought, a 20-minute walk from town, for £500 a month. When I moved up here, I moved up for a promotion so I actually have a better salary up here than I did in London. I was really worried about leaving the capital. I’d only been there for two-and-a-half years and I was worried that I’d miss all of the stuff to do. But in terms of quality of life and what I can do up here, it’s extraordinarily different. I haven’t noticed much in the difference of day-to-day stuff because I bought my lunches from Pret a Manger in London and I buy them from Pret in Nottingham. I can walk to work, so there's no transport costs. Our mortgage monthly cost is the same as what we were paying in rent, so I’m not worse off having a house than when I was renting. I wouldn’t go back now, not unless I went back for double the salary.

Money attitude & feelings

Q: If you had to pick three words to describe how you feel about money what would they be?

A: Lucky, Cautious and Hungry. Hungry because when I think about money, I think about food. Cautious because I don’t want to back into debt again or without a plan to pay it off. And then lucky because I am very, very lucky to have found a job that pays me very well and that I can save money, and had the set of circumstances come together where I could move to a city where the property prices are low and the quality of living is good. And I was very lucky when I was younger to be able to live at home while I was saving to go travelling - some people can’t do that.


Q: What makes you curious in relation to money?

A: I’m curious about how, if my situation changes money-wise, how that will impact my life. There’s an old saying which is something like “the more you earn, the more you spend.” So you wonder if you earned £10,000 more or £10,000 less, how much your lifestyle would change. I suppose it affects your life however much you let it. Would you really care about labels and suddenly starting buying chandeliers?


Q: What are your best and worst purchases ever and why?

A: My best purchase was the house I think. I never really wanted to buy a house, I was never really interested in it, but then I don’t think I understood what a sense of security it would give you, to know that you’ve got it and that it’s yours. You can do stuff to it and no-one can write you a letter and say “I’m sorry we’re taking it back next month” or anything. As long as you pay the mortgage, it’s yours. My second best purchase is my cat. As for a worst purchase, well I’m currently staring at a £65 cat tree that they don’t use. That’s pretty high up there. And maybe all the lunches I’ve bought in the last three years - that would probably equate to another house deposit.vI’m getting better at breakfast - I don’t buy breakfast coffee anymore, I’ve managed to ween myself off that by making nice coffee at work, using a cafetiere. I let myself get one coffee shop coffee once a week if I want to, but that’s it. It’s about £3 for a bag of coffee and that will last you at least a week, if not more. If you add that up over a year, you end up saving quite a lot.

Decisions & influences on them

Q: What are you most proud of in your life?

A: I’m always proud of doing a good job in the workplace and I’m proud of becoming a better friend. When I was younger, I was a bit more focused on myself rather than other people, and I think the older I got the more I focused outward a bit more, and I think I’ve become a much better friend. That’s something I’m happy about.


Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in life?

A: Firstly, my dad has always told me that the one thing you should always do at work is make yourself invaluable, so work in a way that if you left they would be bereft, and that is what I’ve always driven to do, so that I’m always valued. And sometimes it means you end up doing more work that you should do, but it really can help you at work. And the second piece of advice was by a Canadian astronaut called Chris Hatfield, who wrote a book called ‘The astronaut’s guide to life on earth’. His piece of advice was to “Be a Zero” and what he meant by that was be the path of least resistance in stuff that you do. So if somebody asks you whether something can be done, often your instant reaction is to say “no, can’t do that”, and he says instead of saying that, try and be, where it’s reasonable, the person that says “yep, no problem.” I heard that and it changed my perspective on work overnight and completely changed the way I acted, and I think it’s probably the reason that I’ve managed to go from a complete admin job, with no office experience whatsoever, to four years later becoming a manager.


Q: If you had to confess to one spending secret, what would it be and who would you least prefer to confess that to

A: I think it’s the opposite. I think it would be confessing how little I spend on clothes. I do one clothes shop a year, where I probably spend about £100, and that is it. I usually go to Primark, and throughout the year I’ll pick up one or two bits, and might do a pants shop twice a year if I’m feeling flashy, but that is it. I feel like I’m a grown up, I should really have some nice clothes.

I remember I got a photo from TimeHop came up in Facebook recently, but the photo was from three years ago, and I was wearing exactly the same outfit that I was wearing that day looking at the photo. All items of clothing were the same. Even possibly the shoes. I find that quite embarrassing.

Work and lifestyle

Q: What’s the most you’ve ever spent on an item for a boyfriend?

A: I spent a lot of money on my fiance one year. I bought him a bloody Star Wars BB-8 android thing for Christmas which was about £100. And then I’ve also spent about £100 on a Lego Star Wars thing. Whatever that thing Han Solo drives, I don’t know what it is.


Q: What’s the biggest financial goal you’re working towards at the moment?

A: Our wedding because I’m getting married in September. We’ve paid all our deposits and I’ve got a budget spreadsheet because I was worried I might go out of control. We’ve had some financial contributions from family, which has been fantastic. But we’ve got pretty low spending habits anyways, so we’re getting married in a registry office which is cheap and we’re renting a big red London bus to take us from the registry office to the venue. And then the venue is an old Victorian music hall-come-pub, plus we’re doing it on a Sunday which was quarter of a price than if we did it on a Saturday. We asked a few friends whether the wedding being held on a Sunday would cause big problems for them and they said, the worst ones are those that are on a Wednesday or a Thursday. At least on a Sunday people can deal with it if we give them enough notice. As a piece of advice to others planning a wedding, I’d say look around for more unusual venues. If you find a wedding venue, you’ll find a lot of hotels or places that are set up as wedding venues and they’ll all be pretty expensive. A registry office is super cheap - they’re like £300. Have a look around for a nice registry office. The one in Nottingham isn’t very nice, but the one just outside of Nottingham is a big old Georgian house, so we’re getting married in that one instead, because you can choose and it’s much much nicer.

Q: Do you have any tips for someone wanting to buy a house?

A: Be realistic, work out what the deposit will be and how much you’ll need to save each month to do that and then set up direct debits between your current account and savings account and the minute you get paid, get rid of it. The key thing is having a savings account which you cannot withdraw money from at an ATM, so it’s online only. Before you know it, it builds up. We also had a Help to Buy ISA. We didn’t have it for that long, so we didn’t get a massive amount from it, but we got a fair few hundred quid. It worked for us, definitely. You can only put £200 a month in there though, so if that’s not enough for you, you can do it alongside a savings account. But here’s good tip: if you’re in a couple, you can get two Help to Buy ISAs under two different names and use them to buy the same house. We had two and got double the payback from the government.

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