Here’s a surprising fact. Earning a good income does absolutely nothing to guarantee financial freedom. According to a KPGM report compiled in April 2017, around 10-15% of households appear to be consistently unable to pay bills as they fall due. The report refers to this group of people as the ‘have-nots’ – which aligns directly with the way I’ve always defined feeling free of financial stress.
Often, the people earning higher incomes have just as much financial stress as families surviving on a far lower income. In fact, it’s entirely possible to build wealth on a low income with some simple tools to help guide you in the right direction.
Don’t buy iced coffee at the servo
Seriously – just don’t do it. For most adults – if you actually take the time to add up all the incidentals you spend money on in a week – and then multiply that figure by 52 – you might start to understand where your money goes.
Now I’m not saying don’t ever buy yourself a treat. We should certainly be able to reward ourselves every now and then. What I am saying is this: think about the value all the little things are adding to your life. Lunch bought from a food court on the daily probably offers some pretty disappointing substance to your day. Is it delicious? Is it nutritious? And if it’s not both – I bet that with a bit of thought and forward planning, there’s something awesome you could whip up at home and bring with you (more on that in my next blog).
If you’ve got a hefty coffee habit – what’s it giving you? Is it ‘me time’? Or the opportunity to socialise? Is it just that the place on the corner makes the best coffee in the world and you need it drip fed? Once you’ve figured out why you’re buying coffee out – keep thinking. Could you socialise without the coffee? Could you sit with a thermos on the beach for your me time? And if it’s just that the coffee’s amazing, and you can’t make the same at home – well maybe there’s your value, so allow yourself the treat and look for another way to cut unnecessary spending.
See what we’re doing here? We’re buying consciously. If it adds value to your life – then go for it. But don’t just buy because that’s what you’ve always done.
If it helps – you can overlay a couple of other principles. On the go purchases are often unhealthy, and carry a load of packaging. Ask if it adds value. Then ask if it’s packed full of nutrition. Then ask if it’s good/bad for the environment.
If you try making the smart decision on all three – you’ll find most of your hasty purchases drop away pretty quickly.
Practice walking away first
Long ago, I made the decision to consider my clothing purchases slowly. That means I don’t just ‘shop’ for the sake of buying new clothes. I’ll notice a gap in my wardrobe, then specify the exact item/items needed to fill the gap.
Armed with this information, I’ll shop. Make a short list. Then walk away for a bit. Ask for my short list to be held on to, while I grab whatever else is needed at the shops. And I’ll mull the items over in my head as I shop. Did I love the item/s? Did it feel like it could easily be my favourite item of clothing? If the answer isn’t a definite ‘yes’ – then what’s the point in buying it?
As a result – I genuinely feel like a fantastic shopper. And I don’t spend any more than I need to on clothes to make me feel good, and like I’m dressed appropriately for the occasion. Regular clean outs of my wardrobe also mean I’m not sifting through clothes I never wear, to find the right outfit. Sometimes less really is more.
Make a list
About once or twice a year, I’ll pour a glass of wine and sit with my husband to talk about the upgrades we’d like to see in our lives.
For me, progress has always been important. I work hard so I like to feel rewarded for my work – and not like it’s more of the same today, as it was yesterday.
And I like to think my tastes improve as I get older. So, the dining chairs we bought 9 years ago, aren’t going to cut it for very much longer. Which is a big shame, because my kids seem to think chairs are a great place for cleaning your hands – they definitely do not deserve new chairs!
Making a list means I can look back on it 6 months later and see the improvements. And it feels rewarding. It also creates an incredible feeling of contentment. It can be easy to feel like we’re never getting anywhere. But if you write down your priorities, then look back at them months down the track – you’ll often get a clear and surprising picture of how far you’ve come.
If you’re keen to make a change, I’d encourage you to commit to adopting one (or all!) of these strategies to see what a difference it can make to your bank account balance each month. Remember, change starts with you, and the best time to get going is now. All it takes is a small step, in the right direction, each day. I’d love to hear how you go!