Can money buy happiness? I would argue not but I think that singular answer is very simplistic. Money alone cannot bring you happiness but even the happiest of individuals can become weighed down by financial woes.
Recently this very happy but financially tormented individual has been me. I find every conversation I have turning to money because its on my mind.
I am extremely lucky in life to love the job that I do, write a blog that I love writing, hobbies that keep me creative, friends that are like family and family that are pretty awesome and that’s just a brief overview. The list of things that make me happy in life are endless but over the past few months I have been feeling a little financially trapped. Things I can’t do because I don’t have the money, places I want to go but can’t because I don’t have the money.
I am by no means in financial turmoil but there have been years of my life where I have earnt more than I do now but I took this for granted. I had lots of nice clothes and shoes but nothing was left for a rainy day. I even managed to spend more than I was earning then thinking ‘I’ll sort it next month, life is for living’. Very quickly this catches up with you, my income changed dramatically and my back-up plan was non-existent so it spiralled.
I’m sure we all know the feeling of ignorance is bliss. Not checking your account due to the anxiety it causes, hoping that it will sort itself out but the ignorance causes you even more anxiety. The lack of control leaves you feeling exactly that, out of control.
This month I decided to take the reins. I am extremely lucky to have a friend and aunt who are smart cookies when it comes to finances and gave me options I didn’t even know about.
The first thing we did was go through my accounts to see what my income was against my direct debits and outgoings. We did this in an excel spreadsheet named ‘lollypops financial mumbo-jumbo’, my endearing nickname incorporating my name and love of food for anyone who wondering!
This was eye opening. What I actually found surprising was that seeing it all laid out in front of me relived a lot of the anxiety I thought it would induce. Although it didn’t look great to say the least, seeing what I actually spent my money on helped me to feel more in control of my financial choices and the little tweaks I could make that would make big changes.
We broke my spending into mandatory and luxury. Mandatory being rent, bills, travel etc. although I didn’t agree to her putting my contact lenses payments in the ‘luxury’ category, her argument being that I could wear my glasses. I, however, used this statement for being the sole reason that payment was mandatory!
Last month I spent £80 in coffee shops. Due to my month of veganism, and what I felt to be limited food indulgences, I was consoling myself with nice large soya latte’s and probably an added extra I saw whilst waiting in the queue! An unnecessary luxury for somebody with limited disposable income.
We used money saving expert as our main source of alternative options for being more money savvy and moved my credit onto an interest free credit card for the next 32 months. This in turn saved me £85 a month on interest payments but that doesn’t mean an extra soya latte for me unfortunately.
Then moving on to setting up a financial plan. Little tweaks like getting rid of my second gym membership, moving onto a sim only phone contract, selling old and unwanted clothes and bags on eBay (Read de-clutering blog) and cutting out my occasional but excessive lunch out payments meant that I saved myself another few hundred a month and adding in a couple of extra shifts made my income and outgoings manageable enough to make good waves at paying it all off in a reasonable time frame.
Taking control of your finances can seem like an insurmountable task but taking the leap to actually do it is the worst part over with. I’m actually glad that this period of time happened to me. I’m sure that without this I would not have the appreciation for money that I now have and although I appreciate that I really wasn’t in that much trouble I am very aware of how the lack of control over my finances effected my overall happiness.
Even if your finances are good I would still strongly suggest making a financial plan, being aware of what you are spending and how to be smarter with your money can only be a good thing. If you can find that balance between living life in the moment and planning your future financially, leaving wiggle room for the unknown but inevitable expenses which will come your way, you’re onto a winner!