Being an adult about money

Money-quote

So today I wanted to talk about something that isn’t really to do with craft, or clothes, or any of the things that I usually write about. But it’s something that I worry about, and suspect that others do to. It’s something that I’m only really starting to think about properly, and what I’m learning is that it does actually underpin all the other decisions I make in my life, even if it’s not obvious at first. I’m talking of course about money. Or more specifically, anxiety about money.

For the last few years the approach I’ve taken to my finances is to bury my head in the sand. I’ve done exactly what I’ve wanted to do, eaten what and where I’ve wanted to eat, and traveled where I’d want to travel. I used to hand over my credit or debit card without thinking about what I was spending and my bank balance at the end of the month was always a complete surprise. Sometimes it was a good surprise: I had somehow managed to save a few hundred pounds. Sometimes it was a bad surprise: I had somehow managed to become overdrawn and had been charged.  Generally things balanced out but I never felt like I was in control.

It started to dawn on me that my relationship with money was making me very anxious. One of the reasons I never thought too much about it was because every time I did it made me feel slightly sick.

Then this blog post changed my life. When Kathleen shared how she used to be about money she could have been describing my life. Then she shared some things that helped her. One of them was a sort of visioning exercise where you think about your ideal day:

“Take yourself 5 years in the future. You are your most perfect self and there are no rules. Wake up and describe where you are. Who’s in bed with you? What sounds do you hear? What can you smell? Get up and go look in a mirror. What do you look like? What’s your hair like? What’s your body like? Now go eat something – what are you eating? ... Now make 3 wildly exciting and improbable goals based on this future ideal day. Write them down.”

I read this post over a breakfast of instant porridge at Latitude festival. I was awake earlier than most other people and the campsite was eerily quiet. I sat in the entrance of my tent with a plastic cup of tea and thought about my ideal day and how I saw my life in five years time. I wasn’t overly ambitious but I realised with a clarity I’d never had before that I needed to start putting money aside.

The major revelation was finally letting myself admit that I want to own my own home. This has always seemed just a unrealistic pipe dream I had never let myself think much about it before: it just seemed too abstract a concept. But the glimpse of my future showed me that I do really want my own flat or small house, to decorate as I wish and to call home.

I also want to be able to buy good, nourishing, local organic food without worrying about the cost of it. I want to be able to invite people over and give them more than enough to eat and drink. I want to have beautiful hand crafted objects. And I want this when I’m in my early thirties.

The next step was to think about how much money I would need by when, how much I would have to save each month to get there, and which monthly expenses I was prepared to sacrifice to get there. I decided I could give up takeaway coffee and tea, magazines, owning books (I joined the library instead), and staying with a more expensive phone contract so I could upgrade my phone. I decided I still needed to spend money on rent, utility bills, visiting friends and family, yoga classes, good food and semi-regular hair cuts. I resolved to cut down on buying music, eat out less and try not to drink so much alcohol.

Having a vision of the future really helps me because when I’m deliberating over an unnecessary purchase I can ask myself “Is this worth sacrificing or delaying my dream future for?” The answer is usually no.

I’ve also downloaded a budget app onto my phone where I record everything that I buy: no more burying my head in the sand. To make myself accountable to something I’ve created a ‘Money’ category on this blog, so I can let you know how I’m getting on and share tips and tricks along the way.

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