Many of us wish we’d known then what we know now.
If only I hadn’t signed up for those credit cards.
If only I hadn’t signed up for a car loan.
If only I had saved an emergency fund.
If only I had discussed finances before getting married.
If only I had started contributing more to retirement.
If only I had started investing earlier.
If only… if only… if only.
Life is full of moments of hindsight.
As a student, I worked hard but wasted much of my money. I liked shopping and would be tempted by sales and clearance racks. I’d regularly spend until I had nothing left in my account. My account would be overdrawn with direct debits and I would cry at the $39 fee from the bank.
While travelling and working abroad, I was paid in cash monthly. I would spend it quickly and be stressed out for the remaining weeks. I bought so much junk food, put on a huge amount of weight, and kept ripping the jeans that were now too small because I refused to believe that I had a problem. I bought airfares to Greece to explore the islands and had to cancel it weeks out when I looked at my bank account. One time I asked my employer for an advance so I could afford to go on a hens’s weekend. I was so embarrassed and ashamed.
It was a bad cycle. I wanted to get better with money but didn’t know where to start. I was on a low income but that wasn’t the only problem. I couldn’t figure out how to manage what I had well.
I look back and wish I had known then what I know now. How different my life would have looked, and how it would look now.
I want to encourage you that you are not alone. Many of us have been there, and have struggled with money. Know that things can change. You can change. There are a few steps and choices that you can make today that will positively impact your future.
Here are some starting points:
You can do this on an excel spreadsheet, on an app or simply in an exercise book. List your income, all your expenses and figure out how much is left over. From here you might have to earn more money, rein in your spending or do a bit of both.
Not everyone budgets, and that’s ok! If you feel that a budget is restrictive or puts you off sorting your finances, don’t do it. Simply spend as little as possible and save as much as you can! Make plans and goals for what you want to achieve.
Ideally when you get married, combine finances and have a joint account. Consider having separate fun accounts that money goes into each pay, and you can choose to blow in one go or save up for something. That way you can still enjoy independence to buy what you want, but it doesn’t mess with your financial goals.
This doesn’t have to cost lots of money. In fact, they often offer the first visit for free. If it does cost a few hundred dollars, it might be worth it to get started on a plan. You may like to go once off, quarterly or annually – it’s up to you.
There are many amazing titles out there. I recommend starting with one of these:
Dave Ramsey, ‘Total Money Makeover’
Rachel Cruze, ‘Love your life, not theirs’
Scott Pape, ‘The Barefoot Investor’
Canna Campbell, ‘Mindful Money’
Chris Hogan, ‘Everyday Millionaires’
If you prefer to listen to audio books, the Library app ‘Libby’ is great. It’s free to download, and you can borrow a huge range of books for free.
This is an easy way to learn while you are in the shower, cooking, cleaning, gardening or driving. Subscribe, download and listen! Here are some suggestions:
Try not to browse the shops aimlessly. Take off your bank card details from autofill to make it harder to spend money online. Find different hobbies to do instead. Gardening, sewing, photography, decluttering, running, swimming. Spend time with friends and family.
Unsubscribe from those pesky emails that remind you of sales. Unfollow brands or people who tempt you to spend money. Be aware of what you spend your time looking at, watching, listening to and who with. If some friends make you feel inadequate for not having the right stuff, maybe it’s wise to spend less time with them.
Begin saving hard for an emergency fund. This will take the place of credit cards and personal loans. These accounts will give you peace of mind for when things go wrong, cars break down, appliances stop working or you lose employment. Start small ($1000) and work your way up to saving 3-6 months of expenses. If you bank allows, this fund can sit against your mortgage as an offset account or redraw.
Once you have money set aside for emergencies, it is also helpful to plan for other things that crop up. Have separate accounts for things you want to prepare for such as Christmas, holidays, school supplies, car upgrade, whitegoods, furniture or renovations. Decide on what is important to you and how much you want to allocate per pay. Set up a direct debit into these separate accounts, and enjoy seeing the numbers go up.
Make plans and work hard to achieve them. Reward yourself at milestones. Journal your progress, publicly or privately. Display your progress visually, whether on a pinboard, pantry or office door, or on the fridge. Download a debt free chart or make your own. Colour in the debt you have paid off and celebrate the wins.
Acknowledge your past.
You may feel proud, or maybe disappointment, frustration or guilt. Life is messy. Sometimes it’s about day to day survival. You have been doing your best. We can’t change what has happened.
Give grace with where you are at.
Show kindness to yourself, like you would bestow onto a friend. Limit the negative self-talk. Know that you won’t always be here. Sit with the uneasy feelings and let them stimulate your future growth.
Have the drive to keep on going.
Now that you are motivated to move forward, you can approach the future with anticipation and with a plan. You can make small, daily changes that will impact on your tomorrow. Get others alongside you to cheer you along on your journey.
Wherever you are starting from, it’s not too late to make a difference to your future. Life can look better, easier and exciting! One day you will look back and know that this moment prepared you for what lay ahead.
You’ve got this.
Disclaimer: The author is not a financial advisor and the information provided is general in nature and was prepared for information purposes only. This article should not be considered to constitute financial advice. Accordingly, reliance should not be placed on this article as the basis for making an investment, financial or other decision. This information does not take into account your investment objectives, particular needs or financial situation.