Around my 20th birthday I had a bit of a life changing moment, and reached a certain point of maturity. I was still living at home while I studied, but at the time I was housesitting for three months, and about to quit a part-time job that I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up during next part of my study. For whatever reason, I sat down and worked out how much I had earned in this job, and then looked at my bank account and wanted to know where it had all gone. Before having this job, I’d been unable to find a part time job for various reasons (not least being my lack of maturity!), and had relied on a chunk of inheritance money I had received from my late father’s parents’ estate after they both died. It was enough to be the equivalent of whatever I would have earned working part-time through my five years at uni.
I have an excellent memory, and had been able to sit down with my bank statements and work out roughly what I had spent money on over the previous year. I was shocked, saddened and ashamed to say the least. I had spent every last penny of my earnings on crap. So many books I intended to read. So many CDs. So many clothes, jewelry and make up. I’m so glad I never thought to get a credit card while I was at uni!
I didn’t exactly stop buying stuff. I would still see ‘bargains’ and the shops and buy them even though I didn’t really need them. I still bought books that I intended to read. I still bought fabric intended to sew stuff. I still bought CDs for just one song. But I did start to spend less, and spend within my budget.
Straight away I stopped using my debit card. I had been buying everything electronically, and had no idea how much I was really spending. I just got the cash I needed and only spent that. That plan has worked on and off for me over the last 10 years! Nearly a year later when I was able to take on another job, they only paid in cash, so I very diligently kept what I needed and banked what I didn’t for the time I worked there.
I was probably fortunate in the next semester that I was well and truly overloaded in my subjects for uni: finishing off my Arts degree, while starting my Education degree because the penny finally dropped that to get a career in music I had to KNOW people, and I didn’t. I was doing 18 credit points instead of 12, and had no time for anything much, especially not shopping!
In my final year at uni I had a job earning good money, except that because I had to do 12 weeks of teaching prac during the year, it meant I could only work one or two shifts on weekends. That only covered the cost of fuel in my car, and maybe coffee with friends after church on Sunday. So by the time I finished uni and got a full time job in another town, I had about $175 in my bank account. I had to borrow money from Mum to pay the bond on my unit!
But my lessons had been learned, and I didn’t want to find myself in either position again. And I haven’t. I managed to save 25% of my after tax income in the two years I worked in that job. Since being married, we have never spent more than we’ve earned in a year. Which is a start, but when I look back on how much stuff we’ve bought and not really needed, and some not really even used, I think we probably could have saved an awful lot more than we have. And have a somewhat less cluttered house!