I’ve always been a cautious person. Reluctant to bend the rules or stand out from the crowd. Unsurprisingly, I’ve taken this tip-toe approach when it comes to my bank balance too. Well, mostly. I was lucky enough to have parents who supported me financially until I moved to university. I know many people who weren’t in the same position and I’m forever thankful they allowed me to escape any money worries while I was still in high school.
But instead of splurging when I became the controller of my own financial destiny at 17, I was even more cautious. Going into uni, I had a set figure I’d deposit into savings each fortnight and a strict budget. Whenever I considered buying anything which wasn’t essential (books, clothes, a nice dinner out off-campus) I’d spend ages weighing it up.
When I landed my first full-time graduate position, the salary figure seemed larger than my wildest dreams. Of course, once I started paying grown-up bills it shrunk a little. But I always had a very firm rule: half my fortnightly pay went straight into savings. I was determined to buy a good car without a loan, having already racked up plenty of student debt.
Yet once I started working, my mindset towards money changed. I didn’t worry so much about buying a bunch of new clothes in a sale, or grabbing the latest book I wanted to read. It was so incredibly freeing to be able to enjoy spending money I’d worked so hard for, while still seeing my savings increase and covering all my bills. Whenever I start to worry about my finances and whether I’m spending too much on books, shoes or tickets to Adele, I remember something my mum always reminds me. I work hard to enjoy the money I’m earning. You can’t take it with you, so you should make the most of it.
Obviously, I’m not the sort of person who’s going to get reckless. I still have firm savings rules, but I’ve definitely relaxed a little. I don’t really look at the price of meals out anymore, order books when I want, and signed up for unlimited internet so I can enjoy Netflix. Of course, I’m not splashing the cash everywhere. I cut back in other ways, like packed lunches and limited takeaway coffees, and love to look for bargains wherever I can.
But I’m no longer afraid to treat myself to tickets to a concert which, given where I live, means factoring in flights and accommodation as well. I also didn’t think twice before spoiling myself to an expensive order from my favourite US clothing brand for Christmas. I’ve also started paying for house cleaning since I went back to uni for my Masters. I’m going to be working for quite a few decades yet and I don’t want life to be bleak just because I’m too scared to spend. I want to love my work, but also be able to enjoy the life that allows me to lead.