Accountability and moving on

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So the last couple of weeks have been particularly stressful around here, but despite the emotional and physical energy spent in dealing with all the stuff of life, I learnt a few more things about myself when it comes to money.  Well, to be more specific, a few things I already knew were confirmed in the absolute, and required a very honest, unfiltered look at myself.

When life throws curveballs at me, I drop the balls I’m already carefully juggling to to be able to deal with what’s right in front of me, and invariably turn to junk food for comfort, which requires spending money, and I will find money in areas I have no business looking to fulfill this comfort.

Even though I know that this is borderline harmful for me in so many ways.  I still do it, just for the relief of a few moments of getting what I want.

And then I start feeling guilty.  And my physical symptoms worsen because of the c**p I’ve eaten.  And I get grumpy, and my family bears the brunt of it. whether it be my snappy mood or my withdrawal to try and deal with it all in my head.

Ouch.

That’s an intellectual ouch.  I wish it physically pained me to write that, but it doesn’t.  Because it’s not new information, it’s a truth I’ve known for a long time, but have never really, truly faced up to, let alone spoken it aloud.

Yesterday was one of those days, and also my youngest son’s birthday.  I had chosen to cope with yet another emotional upheaval with c**p food, and by mid-afternoon felt absolutely terrible, and limped through the rest of the evening, a version of myself that I didn’t even have the energy to feel guilty about.  Awesome birthday present for my kiddo.

So yes, I most certainly have emotional triggers when it comes to spending money I shouldn’t, and eating food I shouldn’t, and I’m tired.  Physically and figuratively, I’m so, so tired.  But today is a new day, a fresh page to keep writing this story.  And I will, as imperfect as it is.

Where to now?

So.  We’ve talked about creating the vision of your ideal financial life, and starting to take steps to work towards it.  I’ve said it before, and you’ll keep hearing it along the way, I am far from being an expert in all this, and I’m just fumbling my way through.  But I have got enough experience and knowledge to work out a rough plan of where to go next, and for me that’s been working out the most important things requiring money right now, and working out my budget.

I get paid fortnightly, as is probably the most common format here in Australia, so I work on a fortnightly budget.  Each round of two weeks has some constant spending requirements, and some that vary, depending on the time of the month.

To work out what needs to be spent where, the first thing I do is look at my list of Essentials, Helpful and Luxury.  At the moment, my income only covers the Essentials category, and for me the list looks like this:

  • Mortgage
  • Giving
  • Grocery shopping
  • Electricity
  • School fees
  • Petrol
  • Personal loan repayment
  • Credit card minimum balance
  • Home and contents insurance
  • Phones (home and mobile)
  • Council rates
  • Water supply
  • Car registration
  • Medical costs
  • Miscellaneous (a tiny amount!)

That’s it.  Right now, there is no wiggle room for anything else.  I have two jobs, one for which I’m paid a fortnightly retainer + any extra work above that amount, and the other which is casual for a set amount of hours per week.  To work my budget, I work on the absolute minimum amount of income I can receive in a fortnight, and anything extra is a bonus.  As it stands at this point in time, my income plus government family allowance *just* covers the bare minimum essential expenses. I am very grateful that I have these jobs to provide for what I need, and the last year has very much been a lesson in defining needs and wants.  Losing your job and being unemployed for 5 months can do that for you!!!

Whenever I work more hours in my main job and earn over the minimum amount, I try to put that towards some of the things in the Helpful category, but something always inevitably comes up, and as I don’t have an emergency fund, or funds for the unexpected, that’s where the money goes.  I have been very fortunate to date that I’ve (nearly) always had money when I’ve needed it, just the right amount, and the times I’ve been short I can look back and go ‘hmmmm, if I hadn’t bought that c**p food/ coffees/ insert any other things I didn’t need, I would have more $$$ for xyz that I DO need!!’.  So yep, lessons learned.

I have also learned that the best way for me to not spend money on things that I don’t need to – and to avoid filling emotional needs with food (or anything else) – is to make sure that every single dollar of income is allocated to a category (also known as creating a ‘zero budget’ and ‘giving every dollar a job’, read much better advice at Dave Ramsay and You Need A Budget) and to get rid of my income as soon as it comes in, on the things I need to spend on.  I get paid on a Wednesday evening, so I sit down and pay all the bills I can via internet banking that night, and as of today I will be doing my grocery shopping on a Thursday morning, to make sure all the grocery money is spent on groceries, and not dipped into for anything else!  I’ll go into how I plan for meals and grocery shopping later, right now I’m focusing on the ‘mechanics’ of spending my income as it needs to be.

I’m sure some of you might be asking ‘but HOW do I work out my budget?  How do I work out what I need to to spend each fortnight/month/ whatever, when my bills are all over the place?’.  Some bills/commitments will fall into your budget cycle (fortnightly/monthly), but other don’t, like the bills that come quarterly, every 6 months, annually etc.  For all the bills that fall outside of your budget cycle, work out the total annual cost required, and divide them by 12 (for monthly payments) or 26 (for fortnightly payments), depending on how often you want to include it in your budget.  You can do this with any payments that you want to split up.  For example, I have some payments that are debited directly from my account fortnightly (school fees, personal loan repayment), so I don’t have to worry about those.  Then my mortgage payment is monthly, but I divide it by two to create a fortnightly payment – the amount is still debited monthly, but the full amount is spread out over two budgets (this is in theory anyway, this month will be the first time I’ve done it!!). For my quarterly payments (council rates, electricity, water supply, car registration), I add up 12 months worth of bills, then divide that amount by 26, and allocate funds in my fortnightly budget toward that bill (again, in theory, I’ve done it in the past and have fallen off the wagon, but am back on it now!).  This way I don’t have large payments consistently in each budget that I’m struggling to pay (as has been the case for the last 12-18 months).

Once you have the amounts worked out, you can decide what method you want to use to pay them, whether it’s contacting a company and requesting a direct debit be set up, or you manually make a transfer via internet banking, or go and pay it in person with cash (do people still do that anymore?), it’s completely up to you.  I use a combination of all three, but do try to set up direct debits as often as I can, that’s what works best for me.

Now some of you will have unallocated funds after fulfilling your Essentials commitments, and even Helpful and possibly Luxury categories (well done if that’s you!!!), or you might have some other goals you want to include in your budget – don’t worry about that so much for today, we’ll come back to that next week.  Just keep your $$$ in a safe place and try not to spend them!! (Yes I know it seems a bit backward, to wait to ‘finish’ your budget, but I’m just making this up as I go!!)

Phew!!  That seems like an overload of information even for me, and I’m the one writing it!!!  There are some fantastic resources available online for all things regarding money management, budgeting being just one of them – my favourite go-to sites and goldmines of information are Money Smart (Australia), Dave Ramsey and You Need A Budget (both US).  Go here, here and here for the budgeting areas on each site (or search for ‘budgeting’), I’ll be referring to these sites throughout this journey as I have learned a lot from them, and love their very practical approaches to managing money.

This week, I’m going to set you some homework – go forth and budget!!  If you need any help, please feel free to contact me via e-mail stitchingmum at gmail dot com, or in the comments below, and I’d love to Skype with anyone if they’re game (contact me via e-mail for info)!!!

Remember, you’re not alone in this, we’ll take it all one step at a time.

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Look up

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This.

This was the reminder I needed today.

I’m dealing with some hard heart stuff at the moment, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and suffocated by the weight of hurting and sorrow and not knowing, and to wonder if there will ever be life without dealing with something.

Today, the weight sat heavy, and I had to breathe deep and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

Then I looked up.

I work at my church a few hours a week in a casual/relief admin role and as I sat outside eating my lunch in the glorious sunshine, I looked up, and saw the cross on the roof that I had never really paid much attention to before.

The cross.

The cross that means I don’t have to bear the weight and hurting, because the Jesus that died on that cross tells me that I can come to him, and rest. I can give up the heaviness of it all to Him, and there I will learn the unforced rhythms of grace. It is there, with Him, that I will learn to live freely and lightly.

Breathe.

Rest.

Trust.

Look up.

One step a time

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I worked through the next step in this evolving process today, and for all the work I’ve done one budgeting and trying to change my spending habits in the past, this one was relatively new.  It’s something I’ve thought about a lot over time, but haven’t ever actually articulated on paper.

In the process of working out my budget, I really looked at my spending to identify exactly what things in life I need to spend money on, and what are the non-essentials of life.  Like I said, this is something I’ve thought about a lot, but actually putting it on paper was enlightening.

I created three categories to allocate all my spending to – Essential, Helpful and Luxury.  I then went through my bank statements and wrote down everything that I regularly spend money on, and allocated each item to one of these categories.  I also noted the frequency of these payments (fortnightly, monthly, quarterly).  The bulk of my income goes towards direct debit payments from my bank account, which I’ve set up to make paying it easier to bay bills on time (and keep track of them), so that was a straightforward process for me.  I recorded any out-of the-ordinary payments (such as PayPal payments for items I’ve bought), and thought about the things I paid cash or use EFTPOS for (like petrol, food shopping, coffees, going out for lunch, prescriptions etc).  Everything fit into one of the three categories and for me, the vast majority of my spending came under the ‘Essential’ category.

So here’s a bit of a rundown of each category –

 ‘Essentials’ covers everything I absolutely need to live, and everything I have to pay (e.g. loan repayments) – home loan; food; car running costs; school fees; utilities (electricity, water, council rates, phone); insurances; medical expenses; clothing (basic);home maintenance; loan repayments and minimum balances on credit cards.  I also include giving/tithing in this category.

‘Helpful’ is for anything that makes life a bit easier, or even just pleasant, but isn’t essential to our living and if I’m completely honest with myself, I could go without.  Things (for me) like health insurance, my mobile phone plan, adding essential oils to my collection and Spotify Premium (I actually didn’t have much to put into this category).  Other things could include gardening services, cleaning services, newspaper delivery, gym memberships.

‘Luxury’ covers everything else – all the things we truly don’t need but simply like to have, and can absolutely live without.  Eating out, pay-TV (cable), shopping (for anything – clothes, toys, craft supplies, at the hardware store, anything that isn’t essential to life), online courses/subscriptions, iTunes, going out for coffee or drinks, hair and beauty appointments, take-away meals, holidays, going to the movies or the theatre, gourmet food, home decorating – I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

This part of the process is where you start to see a clearer picture of your spending, especially where all those little things add up to A Big Thing.  It’s also where, if we’re truly honest with ourselves, things start to get confronting and uncomfortable.  If we are really, really honest, we would put a lot of our spending in the ‘Luxury’ category, because we know that we can live without them, we just don’t want to – and recognising that can be either enlightening or disappointing, depending on your perspective.  I’m the first to admit that I don’t like giving up the things I want, however I’m choosing to embrace this part of the process, but more on that later.

Categorising your spending helps you to see where you can start making changes, what you can possibly cut out or limit to help you create your ideal financial life.  It also shows you how often when we think ‘oh, it doesn’t cost that much’, $2 here, $5 there – it all adds up and could actually be taking a significant chunk out of your budget (as has been my experience).

This is where we work out where to spend what you earn, by prioritising every spending requirement (or desire) in life.  For me, I will allocate my income first to the ‘Essential’ category, then ‘Helpful’ and finally ‘Luxury’, and I don’t think anyone would disagree that this is a sensible way to manage money.  Whilst I have always done this for the most part (making sure the main essentials are paid), I have manipulated things to get what I want, at the expense of what I need to pay for, and this is where creating these categories and writing it all down in black and white will give me clear direction and keep me accountable.

This is an emotional process.  Looking deeply into and analysing your spending opens your eyes to the ‘why’ of your spending – especially when you already know there’s a problem.  Why did you buy another pair of jeans last week, when you already have 6 pairs in your wardrobe?  Why are you buying a latte every day at a cost of $30 a week, when you know you really can’t afford it?  Why are you spending money on things you know you truly don’t need before you pay the bills?  Why is there ‘just never enough’, even when you’ve cut back everywhere you can (or at least you think you have)?

All these questions – and the ones you know you need to ask (and probably know the answers to) – bring to light the emotional side of managing money.  I know what my answers are and until now, I’ve kept them in the dark, thinking I could keep the truth hidden even from myself, but now I’m bringing them into the light –

I feel entitled to have what I want, when I want it.

I don’t want to wait.

Getting what I want makes me feel good (for a short time, anyway).

Hooo boy, there it is.

(Insert uncomfortable shifting and red cheeks and a strong desire to hit delete right about now)

You know what?  Looking at these answers, these words, I can see them for what they really are – total, utter self-indulgence, resulting in stress and worry and self-loathing after the fact.

My history has been to give up what I really want in the future for what I want now.

I give up being debt free because I really want a Fitbit now, which I justify by telling myself how it will help my wellness journey, and I can get it cheap second-hand from Gumtree.

I give up having any savings so I can ‘treat’ myself to breakfasts and lunches at my favourite cafe, telling myself I deserve the treat for all the work I do.

I sacrifice much-needed maintenance on my house so I can buy another online course that I’m convinced will be the catalyst for change in (xyz area) of my life this time.

Constant compromise of my future to satisfy my self-indulgence now.

Not. Very. Pretty.

But the truth often isn’t pretty.  So often it is ugly, brutal, offensive and very, very confronting, and right now I am so, so grateful for that.  And I am so grateful that I am not my behaviour.  I am defined by my choices and I have the freedom to make different ones that will change not only my future, but my present, the reality I’m living right now.  I get the chance to write a different story.

God is giving me the tools I need to make things different, to learn to be a good steward of what He entrusts to me.  He gives me insight, wisdom and direction to choose the path to freedom – He gives this to all of us (and has been for a very long time) through His word, when He tells us that we can’t serve both God and money, we have to choose which one we will worship.  Money is a tool, a provision given by God to use to live well, to live full, to live the life He intends for His glory.  We are to use money to serve God, it is not a god we are to serve.

So this week, make your lists.  If you don’t have a clear record of where all your money goes, I encourage you to keep a spending diary, for at least 2 weeks, recording every cent that gets spent.  Then gather up all the information you’ve recorded from your bank statements, receipts, spending diary, whatever you have, and find some time to settle with what’s before you.  Really look at your spending with honest, open eyes, and honestly evaluate what needs to go in which category.  We’ll come back next week to start putting together a budget, in the meantime take the time you need to walk through this process, lean into the hard parts, and know that I’m here praying for you as we travel this journey together.

Here and now

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It occurred to me after posting last week that I haven’t really updated the going on in my life for a while, and there are some new readers I haven’t yet introduced myself to.  You can brief yourself on the short version of me here, but for the updated version, here you go!!

I’m Alison (just in case you hadn’t guessed!!), I live in the south of South Australia, in what is a large-ish town in Australia (approx 27,000), and I love living in a rural area that’s not too far from the beach.  I’m a sort-of wife (it’s a long story….), mum to 3 kids aged 17, 13 and nearly 12, and a Registered Nurse, and currently working as a return to work consultant, helping people get back to work after an injury.  I love my church and our family there, and get to serve as a worship leader and the missions and evangelism co-ordinator (how I got there is another whole story in itself!!).

Right now?  I’m working part time from home, along with a few hours a week at church as a relief secretary, working on fixing up my house to sell (so we can all live under one roof as a family again), and recovering after a hard and heavy year in 2014 (which didn’t not turn out to be as awesome as I’d anticipated), which left me feeling more than just a little battered and worn.  The year started with having to deal with some health issues, and then in February I lost my job, a job that was supposed to last for as long as I wanted to work there.  A couple of months later I had a hysterectomy and some other surgery, and spent the next couple of months resting and recovering, as well as trying to work out what on earth I was going to do now.  Fun times!!!!

I started my current job at the beginning of July, and continued to deal with ongoing health issues, along with all the ups and downs of life in general, especially life with kids.  And people.  And pets.  And you know how it goes…..

And here I am now.  Working part-time, being who I need to be for my family full-time, and just trying to figure out this whole life shebang.  Still.

I could really do with a crystal ball and a magic wand right about now.

Not really.  Fortunately for me, I’m ok with change, and I’m very much used to dealing with the unexpected in life.  That doesn’t translate to being prepared, but I’m used to suddenly having to change gears and work things out and just keep going.  And as I get older, and learn to trust God more with the big and little details of my life, I am more and more comfortable and less anxious with not knowing what the future holds.  Because if there’s one thing that has become absolutely crystal clear in the last year, it’s that the ability to control my life is a complete illusion, and life is a lot less stressful when I just focus on one day at a time.  I’m still working on that, trust me.

One thing that has become even more apparent to me in the events of 2014 – something I knew but hadn’t really given much thought to – is that I’ve always tended to live my life reactively, as opposed to proactively, which explains a lot about why I’m in the middle of the state of affairs I am right now.  I don’t want to live like that anymore.  I know I can’t be prepared for any and every eventuality, but I can learn to be organised and prepared where I need to be, and to not be constantly chasing my tail. Or putting out fires (figuratively).  Or yelling at a child.  I’ve been doing Whole30 since January 1, and this time around has shown me just how much better things go when I plan and prepare – when I have food cut up and cooked and frozen, I’m ready for every meal and am not left thinking ‘it’s too hard, I’ll just grab (xyz), even though I know that ultimately, I’ll feel terrible’.

Whole30 takes planning and discipline and limits, and I want to take these principles I’m learning and apply them to the rest of my life.  I’ve already put on my big girl pants and faced the reality of my financial situation, and it’s not the only area of life where I need a decent reality bite. But one thing at a time for now, because I know from past history just how likely I am to crash and burn at implementing any positive changes in my life when I try to do it all at once – and of course it doesn’t turn out perfect, and of course I give up, and of course feel like I’ve failed (again).  And rinse and repeat.

So my snapshot of life today?  I am loved by God, I’m a sort-of wife to the love of my life and mum to three infuriatingly wonderful kids, trying to get through life one day at a time, and learning how to look at life with new eyes, eyes that see the joy and beauty in every day, and not the pain and weariness and hardship.  God has shown me some of what is in store for me in the months to come, some very exciting changes and new paths to walk down, but the rest?  The rest will reveal itself in each new day, and it will be beauty-full.

I’ve been asking myself as I’m writing this, ‘Why?  Why am I writing all this all-about-me stuff, which really isn’t interesting to anyone (not really even me to be perfectly honest), but I know I need to, here and now, and I really want to lean into that, to lean into the vulnerability, and it’s kind of awkward, and embarrassing, and, and……..’ And the answer is really very simple.  Because I know I’m not alone.  I know I’m not the only one feeling like this, living this version of life, dealing with these issues.  And as I’ve said before, to anyone reading these words, you’re not alone.  So if you find even an ounce of encouragement and support in my ramblings and word vomit, and I leave you thinking ‘It’s not just me’, then it’s all worth the risk.

How about you?  What does your life look like right now?  Is it where you thought you’d be?  Or is life taking you on a completely different adventure?

Picture this

Your vision of where or what you want to be is the greatest asset you have.  

Without having a goal it’s difficult to score.

(Paul Arden)

I’ve never been one to dream big – or even small – generally because I’ve never thought I could bring any of my dreams to fruition, and have a long history of never achieving anything I set out to do (but that’s a whole other story for another day).

In learning to look at my life with a different perspective – an ‘I can’ one – I’m learning more and more how effective it is if you can visualise or paint a picture of something you’d like to happen, or how you want something to be.  The first time I remember doing this was during the first year I was a single mum, just over 10 years ago.  A university was starting a nursing degree in our local town, and it was my dream to become a midwife.  I was talking with my counsellor about how I planned to apply, and hopefully start studying the following year, but I was also afraid I would end up not finishing the course, as had happened so many other times is my life.

My counsellor said to me ‘what would the graduation ceremony look like?’, and I described to her the vision that came to mind.  Walking across the stage of our local theatre in a cap and gown, my family in the audience, and how I knew they would be proud of me.  She told me to remember that as I went through the course over the next few years, to encourage me along the way.

It worked.

There were a few times I was tempted to chuck it all in, and I would recall that picture to mind, and keep going.

And when it came to my graduation 3 years later, the reality was a near-perfect rendition of the picture.

It has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life – work out where you want to go, what you want to do, and think about what that looks like.  There have only been a few things that I’ve started and followed through on since then, so obviously it’s still a work in progress, but each time I have pictured the journey or the end result, and I’ve achieved what I set out to do.

I share this with you now because after I posted on Monday, it occurred to me that I have never pictured my ideal financial life.  I’ve thought about it – many, many times – but I’ve never visualised what that my life would actually look like if I didn’t have to constantly worry about money.  This thought came after I reflected on how I had planned what I wanted the 1st of January to look like last week, what I wanted to do to start the year off well, and because I pictured the day and then wrote it down, the day went as I had hoped.  Simply because I had a vision, and a roadmap.

To travel somewhere, we need a destination and a map.  To make something, we need at least an imagined picture and directions or instructions for the process.  Creating your ideal financial life is the same process.  You need to know what you want that life to look like, and the steps to achieve it.  If we don’t have that picture, that destination, we get lost along the way and are left wandering.

Se before we even think about budgeting, ways to reduce spending, saving money or anything else, we need to clearly identify the picture that will guide the process.  Ask yourself the following questions:

What does my ideal financial life look like?

What doesn’t fit into that vision?

For me, my ideal financial life looks like trusting God every day that He will provide exactly what I need – that He will give me each day my daily Bread – whatever form that comes in.   It means valuing the money I earn and am required to manage well, and not taking it for granted.  It means honouring God with my giving, paying the bills (and on time), paying the essential living expenses for our family, paying down debt, contributing to savings and superannuation, giving generously to charities and organisations that God leads me to and saving for some minor luxuries such as family holidays and house renovations (pretty much in that order).

It means working and earning enough income to fulfill this and nothing more, so that I’m not tempted to fall back into old habits.  It means not letting worrying about money become an idol that distracts me from trusting Jesus.  It’s knowing that anytime I go to pay for something, there is enough money in my purse or bank account.  It requires spending time each fortnight planning a budget and working within that.

What doesn’t fit into this vision?  Putting off paying bills and other essential expenses so I can have the false security of leaving a bit of money in my account.  Buying things I don’t need, but convince myself they don’t cost much, or I deserve it,  or it will be useful to (insert any excuse here).  Feeling guilty about spending money on food and household items that we truly need, because I so often feel guilty about spending any money at all.  Feeling the squeeze in my chest every time I pay a bill and see the account balance drop.  Feeling the dread of knowing it’s another 10 days before I get paid again, and there’s already no money left after paying for the basic essentials.  The almost-despair of trying to work out how to reduce my expenses even more, when I’ve already done everything I can.  Having to say no to my kids to doing anything that costs any amount of money, because we just don’t have it.  Not being able to give my kids their pocket money, because I just don’t have it. I could go on and on, and on, but I think you get the picture.

Your vision is what you can picture right now.  It can be as detailed or as simple as you can manage.  Don’t overthink it, don’t worry about if you think you can or can’t achieve it (we’ll deal with that later), but do allow yourself to believe that your financial life can be different.

One point I do feel is important to make is that this process isn’t about stuff.  It’s not about working out how to earn more money to be able to spend more money, how to get allthethings that you think will make your life better or will fill some emotional void, or even how to grow a huge savings egg that means you’ll never have to worry about money again.

It’s simply about giving yourself permission to picture a different life, to lean into hope and to believe that with God, anything is possible (even changing 20 years of poor money management).

Would you share your vision with me?  And tell me, how can I pray for you as we walk this path together?

This is not according to the plan

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This is not what I planned for my first post in 2015.

I’ve had that post mulling over in my head since Christmas, dwelling on what I would and wouldn’t write, what tone I wanted to set to start the year off well, as this year my focus is on change, and making things different (in a good way), and moving forward in life instead of letting past stuff hold me back.

And then I had to buy an ink cartridge for my printer today.  One I needed to be able to print paperwork to do my job (the job that actually pays me an income).  I knew I had to, but I’d held off, until push came to shove this morning.

So off I went and bought said cartridge, which cost $25.50.

An amount for which I held my breath as the payment was processing, praying that there was enough in the account to cover it.  There was, and I breathed out, knowing that there wouldn’t be much left next time I checked the balance.

Then I got home, swapped the empty cartridge for the new one, and felt the weight of idontknowwhattocallit thud into my chest.  I realised I actually had a spare cartridge in my desk drawer, and could have saved myself the angst of spending money I could ill-afford to spend, on something I already had.

Something I didn’t realise I had, because I thought it was a different cartridge in my drawer, and I didn’t bother to check.

And now I only have $20.96 to my name until pay-day next week.

After I let all the feelings of shame and anger and self-loathing settle, I knew what my first post for 2015 would be.

Before I start, let me be very clear on something – I am not in crisis.  I have a roof over my head, plenty of food in the cupboards, clean water, a good job, people who love me, and the bills are (mostly) paid .  I am not seeking pity, or sympathy, or anything of the like, I am simply stating the facts of my life as they are as of right now.  I don’t want for anything, and this is not a cry for help. Well, it sort-of is, but I’ll get to that later.

My first thought was ‘this has to change.  Now’.  Not my monetary situation, there’s not much I can do about that for now, but the constant rinse-and repeat of ending up in this position.  I live week-to-week (well, fortnight-to-fortnight), and there is always more time left than money.  I don’t live extravagantly, I don’t spend to fill an emotional need, and I live a pretty quiet life, one I’m very happy with.

Except for this.

There is a bit of back-story to today, but I can’t even blame the events of the last 12 months for what led me to standing at the check-out this afternoon, holding my breath.  I have been living like this for one degree to another my whole adult working life, and it is all because of me and my choices.  Yes, of course, circumstances influence what happens to us and our financial situations etc (such as at the moment, my job is very variable in hours from one fortnight to the next), but at the end of the day, it comes down to the choices I make.  And apparently there’s still a huge lesson for me to learn, because there’s something I’m not getting, and here we are again.

I am so, so tired of being in this all-too-familiar place.  I want out.

I have no idea how to make that happen right now.

And this is why I’m writing – and sharing – this story, because I know I’m not the only one.  Far, Far from it.

I have read many stories of people working through and triumphing over their horrible financial crises, but they’ve always been after the fact – I haven’t come across any place where someone has shared their journey as they’ve travelled it, and that’s what I want to do here.  Share what I’m dealing with, in the hope that is will encourage even just one person wherever they are, who might be feeling alone and in despair and completely hopeless about their situation.

If that’s you, then please, please, if nothing else, hear this – you are not alone.

I don’t have any answers.  I don’t really know what I’m doing (obviously).  But I truly, truly care about the humans I live with in this world, and if there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s to encourage and walk with people in their travels, and that I can do in spades.  If you desperately need kindness, and encouragement and yes, accountability for whatever challenges you’re facing in your financial life at the moment, then please, join me here and we can walk this path together.

What I said before isn’t exactly true – I do know what to do when it comes to managing money (i.e budgeting, cutting expenses etc), it’s the practical working out of it with discipline where I get tripped up.

This journey isn’t just about money – acquiring, spending, managing.  It’s about self-discovery, being willing to face the hard stuff and finding the joy of enough.  I know this because I’ve been here so many times before, and I have learnt a lot along the way.  I’ve made lots of awesome, positive changes, and I know I have more to make.  This post is one of the first – not being afraid to talk about money (which I don’t believe we do enough of in our culture, but that’s for a different discussion), and turning away from shame and fear to bare all in a very, very personal topic, at the risk of judgement and criticism (even though I’m totally hesitating over hitting the ‘Publish’ button, and inviting people to ‘Like’ the new blog page, and yeah, there will probably be the whole vulnerability hangover thing tomorrow morning and I’ll be so tempted to delete this whole post….).  Maybe for me this is the turning point – full disclosure and no excuses in a public forum, there’s not much shying away from that!

I’ve written this post off and on over the course of the afternoon, and I’ve had time to think about where to start.  I’m an information gatherer by nature (the putting it into practice bit is where the challenge often lies), but in my many, many hours of research over many years I have collected a wealth of information and resources, so that’s what better place to start than with what I already have.  So over the course of this whatever-you-want-to-call-it, I’ll share books and blogs and websites along the way (as frugally as possible, of course!).  I don’t need to re-invent the wheel, and there are plenty of experts who talk about things way better than I can, this series is about sharing the journey and encouraging each other along the way.

Will you join me?  You can find me here on Facebook and Instagram, and of course in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your story, and for you to tell me in what particular way I can encourage you.

To quote the awesome Ben Lee, we really are all in this together, and that makes all the difference.