July 07

DESTINATION; FINANCIAL FREEDOM

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From denial to reality. From spending to scrimping. From shopping to saving. A hard lesson to learn but incredibly progressive and more worthwhile than any other.

At the age of 23, I was earning £21,000 a year whilst carrying the burdens of a £38,000 debt, a figure which doesn’t even take the interest into account. The good old days when borrowing money was easy but what they didn’t tell you in the small print, was the side effects of carrying that debt; the stress, the chaos, the frustration and helplessness of it all… like living your life on quicksand.

It took me years to identify and break my spending habits, the addiction, that temporary high… walking through London laden with bags and running late to meet a friend for champagne on the 5th Floor of Harvey Nics.

I began to notice some of my non-risk taking friends becoming more settled, buying property and being more ‘grown up’. There I was, terrified to put my card into an ATM and feed its insatiable hunger for plastic, pleading to borrow a few hundred pounds to get me through to pay day and eating salad cream sandwiches because it was cheap and did the job. At 27, I took action; I didn’t want to live my life like this anymore and decided that I wanted to change.

As comfortable as it sometimes felt there would be no more sticking one’s head in the sand for me, I did a financial audit of my life, looking at my spend across all areas and calculating how much I could save. I started being able to save £25 per month, an incredibly uninspiring number but on the flip side I now had savings! I began to manage my spending better, always looking to see whether I could save a few pennies and I was soon putting £100 per month away. This was all starting to head in the right direction, I was no longer a spend addict, I hadn’t cured the addiction but instead was developing one for saving. Slowly, saving, accumulating and hooked on the thought of saving more. I finally ‘got it’; I too was ‘growing up’… savings were the key to a vital shift from ‘circumstance’ to ‘choice’.

From out of control to tightly controlled, steadily chipping away. Credit cards were the first to be addressed due to their high interest rates, one after the other, paid off… paying out less meant saving more and slowly I headed off in the right direction. Next, the loan, the dreaded loan… it took a while and at times I thought I’d never get there but I’m very proud to say that in early 2012 I made that long awaited call to the bank and paid off the loan in full before heading out for celebratory beverages. Finally debt free and free of that huge, depressing weight upon my shoulders.

There’s good debt and bad debt and although the debt free position was an amazing achievement from the chaos which preceded it, I wasn’t ‘financially free’ and won’t be for many years yet but I needed to move forward in my life and buy a London home… I’m now with mortgage and back in debt. This however, is debt that makes me feel good – I might not know what’s around the next corner but every time I walk through the door after a challenging day at the office, I’m happy to be home and glad I was able to save my way to making dreams reality. Next stop, paying off the London mortgage and saving for a ‘forever home’ in the North Devon countryside. The goal after that… ‘Financial freedom’ by the time I turn 45… Nothing is impossible but wish me luck!

There is always ‘something more important’ which requires you to drain your spare cash EVERY month but I urge you to start saving today, even if it is only small amounts to start with. Consistency and focus combined with lots of small deposits of hard earned savings will one day add up to a big amount. Maybe it’s an exotic holiday, a shiny new car or a home… whatever it is that requires you to clear out those new found ‘savings’ will suddenly become possible.
Put in the hard work and the discipline, however boring this may seem and one day, not to long from now, you will find yourself hitting ‘book now’ on a travel website of choice, wandering around a car showroom rather than ‘window shopping’ or hearing the words, ‘your offer has been accepted’ before being handed the keys to your new home.

If YOU take action, stay focussed and prioritise then YOU will begin to benefit and reap the rewards of your hard work. Why? Because YOU are worth it!

The fundamental rules for success is that once you have what it is that you wish for, recognise it, celebrate it then enjoy it but don’t leave it too long before starting the process all over again and building up your savings once more… leading you to have more choices and eventually, all that you ever wanted complimented by financial freedom.