I’ve managed to make what most would consider stupid personal finance mistakes:
- Racked up $9,000 worth of credit card debt in less than 7 months taking care of an ex-boyfriend
- Was unemployed for almost a year because I didn’t plan out my job search well
- Paid the minimum on my student loans for years
- Hoarded consumer items, many I didn’t even use
- Bought items to the point where they became my identity and to impress people
- Ate out almost daily
- Kept up with the Joneses for years
- Was too good to buy generic items
- Paid to store items in a storage unit for almost five years. They weren’t even sentimental items
Despite all that, I’ve still managed to build up a net worth of more than six figures, have been debt-free for the past 8 years and thrive in a career that I love. If all goes well, I’m set to retire in 15 years, less if I really hustled.
How did I do achieve all this? It wasn’t all about budgeting and watching my spending, though that’s part of it. I achieved financial health after figuring out how important it was to take care of my emotional needs.
Improving my emotional health meant that I had to come to terms why I was spending so mindlessly. Yes, I could blame it on stress, but what was the cause of it?
To figure it out, I assessed my spending triggers. As in, what emotional need was I trying to fill by spending money?
Turns out, I had this deep desire to be accepted. I’d purchase things to make myself seem like someone worth being around. That came in the form of vintage records, cool clothes, expensive gifts and even collections of toys.
My need to be accepted ran so deep, I ended taking care of an ex-boyfriend financially. I knew I had to come to terms with channeling my emotions better after he broke up with me and I found myself, jobless, homeless and in credit card debt. I worked forgiving myself for my mistakes. I became interested in spiritual practices like meditation and yoga to help me manage the negative emotions I’d experience from time to time.
Over the course of a few years, I learned that I don’t need things to be worthy of someone’s attention. That I’ve valuable just being myself. And those people who only wanted to be around me because I’d go shopping with them or dine out at expensive restaurants? Those people slowly disappeared from my life.
I didn’t feel lonely. In fact, I had more friends than ever. As if by magic, my teaching career exploded. Since I didn’t feel the need to spend everything I earned, I started saving chunks of my paycheck automatically. I only purchased things that truly brought me joy, like a weeklong adventure in Mongolia, or yoga lessons.
The nest egg I built helped me through some tough times, like when I found myself unemployed. I was also able to transition into a freelance writing career because I knew that I could rely on my cushion of savings if I really had to. Perhaps the most important is that my husband and I openly talk about money and how it can help us move towards our dreams.
Financial health is possible for everyone. It may not be easy, but totally possible. My wish is that it won’t take you as long as I did to achieve it.