Sunday, June 26, 2022

How I manage my money: The boss of an online gift shop whose income varies between £400 and £2,000 a month

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“We have a large customer base, but I am seriously concerned about rising costs. I feel compelled to raise my prices to try and make a profit.

This week we speak to Jenny Blyth, 35, who lives in north London and owns and runs online shop Storm In a Teacup Gifts.

In our How I Manage My Money series, we aim to find out how people in the UK spend, save and invest to help them meet their costs and achieve their goals.

I finished school with three A levels and went on to study Drama and Theater Studies at Middlesex University. I successfully applied for a student loan and scholarship at the time, which turned out to be very helpful. Growing up I was lucky enough to never feel poor or in trouble, but I definitely knew the value of money. My mom taught us little techniques when we went shopping, so I knew how to be sensible — and I saved money in my piggy bank.

I also got an Isa from my grandparents when I was younger. My first job was working Saturdays as a retail assistant in a store, but I also worked as a game attendant. I also worked with my father, who ran a garden center at the time. After graduating from high school, I wanted to work in the theater, but a connective tissue disease thwarted that plan.

I worked for a time as a fundraiser for the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital, which I really enjoyed, but once again my health dictated a change. So I took the plunge into self-employment and haven’t regretted it since.

I started Storm In a Teacup Gifts in October 2014 after realizing I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to start a business specializing in fun and quirky gifts that would suit any budget but also have a strong sense of community. Starting the business was daunting but I knew it could work and with a little faith and support from loved ones I made it happen.

We have a large customer base, but I’m seriously concerned about rising costs. I feel like I’m forced to raise my prices to try and make a profit, but if I do that my customers may not be able to afford to support us. Small businesses have been left in the gutter since the pandemic subsided. The few grants and programs available require certain criteria to be met, which is why micro businesses like mine
are fighting.

I try to put £80 into my NatWest savings account each month but it’s not always possible. The interest rate on savings is so low that unless you have a significant amount invested, you hardly notice the pennies that count as a return. I also use the Plum app which calculates your finances and then automatically puts money aside for you every week. It’s amazing how quickly you can save pennies with apps like this.

I really enjoy saving money, but it’s getting harder and harder. I’m always on the lookout for a bargain and I like to spend hours researching gift ideas to make sure I have the best deal. I buy most groceries from Aldi which I think is great for its prices. I also love to bake which helps cut costs and if too much food is cooked I save it for another day so it doesn’t go to waste.

I’m checking every penny I’m spending right now. I can no longer be reckless and occasionally treat myself as I used to. I’m now much more focused on my business’s sales and what I need to try and earn each month just to survive. I didn’t see myself living like that.

As a self-employed person, I always knew that it was important to set up my own pension fund for my future. I use an app called Penfold that lets me choose how much money I save each month. As for Guilty Pleasures, I’m probably happiest at stores like TK Maxx when I find a bargain.

My short-term plan focuses on keeping my business afloat and weathering this wave of high inflation. Times are tough and I am focused on making sure my customers have the best possible experience.

In the long run, I want to be able to have enough funds to afford to open a brick and mortar store. Personally, I want to have enough savings to live more safely without worrying about money.

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