Anatomy of a chronic spendthrift | How did I get into this mess?

People, including myself, often wonder how I’ve survived 6 years of crippling debt. How did I let it get so bad? How could I sleep at night? How do I remain cheerful and upbeat even when I have £20 in my wallet to last me a week? How do I stay generous – even going as far as taking on debt to help someone out? How did I keep it all to myself? How didn’t I crack under the pressure? I like to attribute the answers to all these questions to one thing, it’s just the way I am. Let me break it down though.

I have infinite belief in my abilities as a problem solver

When I was a kid, I discovered quickly enough that there were some chores that I didn’t like.  Cooking for large groups was probably second only to going to the market in terms of a source of annoyance for me. I come from a huge, generous family. At any one time, we had 12-20 people living at our house. Only 6 of us were part of the nuclear family. My mum ran a tight ship. We had to eat at specific times. The kitchen had to be cleaned (to her high standards) immediately after – on no occasion were we allowed to go to bed with stuff in disarray. We also hosted a lot of parties. These were the worst for me. Entire days spent cooking and preparing ingredients in MASSIVE proportions.

Now, I could see my siblings and other members of the household hated clearing up more than I did. They were overwhelmed by the huge stacks of dishes and crockery, the leftover food on plates, the lack of space to drain everything. I, on the other hand, loved the challenge of discovering new and efficient ways to dismantle the mess and leave a sparkling kitchen in my wake.  By the time I was 13 or so, I figured out that if I disappeared when the cooking and prep was going on, I’d be left to tackle the huge mounds of washing up that needed to be done. A total win, win situation for everyone. I avoided the bits I hated but couldn’t be accused of shirking my responsibilities to chores.

Relating this to my debt, when I hit several low points I would just go to bed. I knew that when I woke up the following morning, I would have some sort of solution to my immediate problem. Thankfully, my problem solving has extended beyond the hack/immediate and I’m now aiming for the future-proof.

I never worry about things that are out of my control

I am a ridiculous control freak. I hate being out of control – of my emotions, of my situation etc. However, all of this rests largely on what I define my “control”. Was my spending out of control really? Of course. Did I believe it to be? Nope. So I was fine. I thought I was spending on what I wanted to therefore things were good. Sure I was broke and beyond living from payslip to payslip but since I had all the elements in my life that I “needed” to be happy, all good! My hack for things that I really can’t control (like tomorrow) is to imagine the worst case scenario and deal with it first. That way, everything that really happens, will just be a pleasant surprise.

So when the worst really happened, I slept. I’d run through the scenarios of what would happen when I told my friends (they’d “unfriend” me), my partner (I’d be single) and my family (they’d disown me) and figured that I could just move to a different country and acquire some new friends, a new relationship and some parent substitutes (I actually asked a couple of friends if their parents would be OK treating me like their adopted kid, no joke!). So, whatever I had to do that didn’t involve building a new life was always going to feel like a win.

I was only 1 payslip away from an opportunity for a quick win

I earn a decent amount of money. Every month I’m paid enough to cover my rent and bills and other things so really, no batter how bad things got, I only needed to figure out how to get to the next payslip. I would borrow money (friends, credit cards, pay day lenders etc), play the lottery, sell things like my phone or Playstation (or use “buy back” options). This worked conversely on the spending. Sure I couldn’t really afford to go on holiday with this payslip, but if I borrowed money now, I was only one payslip away from affording it.

Unfortunately I never thought beyond a single payslip away. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t have made some of the decisions I do now. Now that I’m thinking about compound interest, a year of payslips and much longer term than I used to, things are so much easier. In the 6 months since I started “adulting” properly, I have made progress even beyond what I would have expected any time in the last 6 years. If I had known that there was much more to life than a single payslip, I might have been financially independent by now.

What now?

I’m still the same, but not quite.

  • I know that given enough time, I can figure out the solution to any problems I put my mind to. I’ve got 9 different bank accounts now to keep my spending and savings separate. I have an emergency fund. I’m side hustling using 3 jobs. I am tracking my spending to ensure that when I create my goals and objectives for 2017 and beyond, they will be accurate. The only things left to tackle now are the less “practical” and more innate. I have to battle my desire for instant gratification. Find the balance between living now and waiting for the future. I have a bit of time. So I will figure it out.
  • I still don’t worry about things that aren’t in my control but I’ve left shifted the line for “out of control”. No, not everyone spends money like I do. No, the people that have their act together are not earning more or better at finances than I am. They just had a head start on knowing that their future selves would be grateful that their present selves spent some time thinking about them. I’ve acknowledged that my spending was out of control and I now know I can control it.
  • I now know that a single payslip of mine is still quite powerful but I have a better chance harnessing the power of several payslips. 84 – 144 payslips to be precise. I will get out of debt. I will save and invest. I will get freedom and be able to live the joyful lifestyle that is important to me and that I was hacking my previous lifestyle to emulate.

One thought on “Anatomy of a chronic spendthrift | How did I get into this mess?

  1. Pingback: A third of the way through the uber frugal month challenge | an update | Diary of a reformed spendthrift

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