Lara's surprise holiday

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Meet Lara - she’s 27, living in Bristol and working as a freelance designer.

This is her Chip story...

I downloaded Chip in November last year. Pre-Christmas, skint as hell and feeling pretty low. Calling it rock bottom would be melodramatic, but it wasn’t great. I don’t mind living on beans for a week, and I really don’t get fazed by the “am I going to make rent this month” feeling. But once I started thinking about my precarious financial situation, I had to sit myself down and give myself a good talking to.

After a proactive burst of getting my sh*t together, I felt on top of my money situation for once. The trouble with getting your sh*t together is that it’s tiring – January hit and my new-found motivation abandoned me soon after (or I lost it). I went back to normal with my money and my healthy eating and gym habit failed too. But Chip carried on, navigating my chaotic freelancer’s bank account and keeping a small trickle of cash going into my savings account.

Although I didn’t have any specific goals in mind at the beginning, it was a pretty good feeling the first time I checked my balance and saw that it was higher than I expected. The first thing I paid for using savings was a guilt-free shopping spree. I’m not really a big spender, but I do find that buying new things always seems to come with guilt as well as excitement. Anyway, once I hit £200 savings (this was in early Feb) I cheered myself up with a £50 mini-binge in the ASOS sale. NO GUILT. It made me really happy.

I carried on living my life normally until about mid-March, when my savings balance was about £250. An idle googling session took me to Skyscanner, and my old friend the ‘UK to Everywhere’ search. There are always good deals going, but I never book because basically anything more expensive than ‘free’ is usually beyond my budget. But I saw some return flights to Geneva for £90 and I thought…I can afford that. We’d been wanting to go hiking in the Alps for ages (when I say we, I mean my and boyfriend Ste). And I could afford it. Shall I just…? So I did. I withdrew my savings and booked the flights with the money an hour or so later.

So, I’d made this impulsive purchase…and I wasn’t sure what to do. For context, Ste had booked and paid for the bulk of our last holiday together. It hadn’t been extravagant but it was more than I could afford, and he’d volunteered to pay some of my share so that we could away together. He said he didn’t mind, because he earns more than I do, but…still. I picked up my phone to call him about the flights, but my thumb hovered over the button. I kind of wanted to tell him right then so we could start getting prematurely excited, but I wanted to keep it a secret even more. So…I didn’t tell him. Instead I worked out when I would need to book accommodation, and how much I would need.

That was the first time I had a goal that I actually needed to reach. The first thing I did was knock my ‘saving level’ up to ‘high’ (from normal), and secondly I tried hard to be more conscious of my spending. Anyway, I got to £280 by the end of May which was enough to pay for a week’s stay in a beautiful chalet right in the mountains. And Ste still had absolutely no idea what I was up to. In the end, I surprised him with the tickets the day before we were due to fly. He was very sweet – I actually think he almost cried when I told him. We had the BEST TIME.