I named this blog “Diary of a reformed spendthrift” after I had the epiphany that I had been living a life of financial irresponsibility. It’s past tense and alludes to the fact that I’m a finished product, that knowledge of my previous state of mind would automatically propel me to the destination that I seek – one of luxurious thrift. My previous posts on failing my ‘£1 a day on food’ challenge and my extremely spendy February share my frustration at my seeming inability to spend in line with my aspirational budget.
I know where I want to get to …. roughly
I want to gain financial freedom. I waded into the use of labels on the our next life blog a couple of days ago and I don’t know what I might call this state that I’m aiming for nor what shape it might take.
- It could be retiring early
- It could be working freelancing or working part-time till I hit 65 such that I spend a lot less time working per year.
- It could be enduring the traditional work cycle for a couple of years at a time and taking 3-6 month sabbaticals more regularly than normal
- It could be working exclusively on passion projects and work that I want but cannot afford to do now because they wouldn’t cover my annual expenditure
I also don’t know what the timeline or number will be eventually but I know/knew what steps that I need to implement:
- Track spending
- Get baby emergency fund
- Pay off consumer debt aggressively
- Get 6 months expenditure saved up in emergency fund
- Hit 50-70% savings rate
- Hit magic (fuck you fund) number
Although I’ve numbered those, they aren’t happening in linear steps. I still track my spending even though I’ve now got a budget. I’ve started investing via Moneybox even though I haven’t got a baby emergency fund fully sorted. I’m also on track to put another 3 grand into some sort of investments by the end of 2017.
I struggle to maintain a steady state
I have struggled all my life to be just average. I’m usually ‘yo-yoing’ between extremes. Super active or super lazy. Super hardworking or super lazy. Super pumped or super flat. Verging on too skinny or verging on too fat. Sleeping too much or seeping too little. I just can’t seem to hold a steady course. I start a diet, hit it super hard and achieve my goals well ahead of time. At the first compliment about how good I look, I promptly relax and go back to eating like a baby elephant.
My first month of tracking was ridiculously frugal (by my not-so-high standards). Even my seemingly catastrophic October pales in comparison to the aforementioned February disaster. However, once I stopped panicking at the start of pay-day week, had at least 1 grand of available cash in my accounts and got some traction on paying off debt, I did my thing and relaxed into a relatively exorbitant 2017. Relative because it’s only rubbish when I compare it to a seriously ambitious budget. If I compared it to nearly a decade of stupidity, then I’m way ahead of the curve. If I carried on living and spending the way that I am now, I’ll be way better than the average joe in a couple of years. I’m only rubbish because I’m comparing myself to the dreams of others. I’m keeping up with the much more frugal Smiths** now – beating myself up because I have not managed to go from a negative savings rate to paying of all my debt in less than a year of making a concerted effort to change.
How do I find a balance between excusing bad behaviour and comparing myself to other more frugal people?
I need to pause, reflect on what I’ve done right so far and focus on changing things slowly. I’m not naturally frugal. I know what brings me joy and I’m supposed to align my spending to it. I have debt but as long as I pay it off within the next year or 18 months, I’m not doing too badly. I might need to take a few months to tackle my problem areas – build my frugal muscles and identify ways to ensure that I build good habits instead of constantly battle with the temptations that are a result of my naturally spendy nature. I need to focus on the journey a lot more than the destination.
If this were a long distance cycling trip, I’ve been attempting the equivalent of setting off on an aggressive 24 hour ride to Paris from London (214 miles) on my first bike. I’d not only find it impossible, I’d probably hurt myself trying – either from the actual exercise or exhaustion from lack of sleep. I have a friend who has done the 24 hour ride to Paris. I also know that she honed her skills and ability doing the 54 mile ride to Brighton first. Continuing the analogy, I need to tackle Brighton first, figure out my strengths and weaknesses and when I’ve built the right muscles, then plan my 24 hour ride.
I’m going to take my foot off the gas a little. Reflect on the progress I’ve made so far. Understand the challenges that I’ve encountered. Work on individual areas of my spending. Reevaluate and adjust the budget to reflect where I am as opposed to where I want to be. After a few months of focusing on the present, I should be ready to make a more aggressive plan to get to my destination of financial freedom.
Welcome to the diary of a reforming spendthrift!