Apr 12, 2021
3 mins read
A few years ago, I was working as an Office Manager at a start up in London. On this particular night, I had to stay late so I could lock up the building after an event. I remember it well. The event was hosted by a 'Financial Expert' explaining how she had paid off all of her debts in record time and wanted to give advice on how others could do the same thing.
I remember walking around on the periphery of group watching people nodding along and scribbling copious notes as she spoke. My ears were stinging and my eyes were filling with tears. It was all good and well telling people to put aside 10% of their salaries each month into a rainy day account and another 20% towards specific savings goals, but what if it took nearly 99% of your salary just to cover your rent, utilities and travel to work? What then?
I raised the question to the speaker, who challenged me and said that if my situation was that precarious and I didn't have enough to save after rent, then I should get a new job. Fair play. But we know it isn't always that easy. If it were, wouldn't we all have well paying jobs? That wouldn't take into account misogynoir, racism, sexism, the practice of nepotism and many other factors that mean the job market is not a level playing field.
It was easy enough for the speaker, who was actually on a very large salary, but had ultimately handled her money poorly for years, to preach to others to handle their money better, but it's also important to acknowledge that people are in different circumstances and there is not one size fits all solutions for creating wealth or saving money.
Last week, I wrote a blog post on 5 ways to save money and I made the caveat that it wouldn't work for everyone. If you are barely making ends meet and have cut back to corned beef and rice as it is (I'm not knocking it, we love some bully beef in our house) then me telling you to cut back on coffees is useless. Even so, some of the tips I gave would still be useful, such as shopping around for better deals on utilities and car insurance rather than just renewing. Because you're going to have to pay for your electricity either way, you may as well make sure you are on the best tariff.
For me, saving money should be about working smarter not harder and definitely not making you feel like you are being punished or shamed. A good friend of mine suggested I cancel my Netflix subscription so I could save some money. She probably found my flat out refusal to do it, comical. But to me, chilling out and watching a film with my kids is one of the very few moments of joy I have. Yes, I could switch it for board games or something, but for the want of a £150 saving for the year, I figured I'd rather find a way to make that money and more via something else. You may not agree with me on this, but that's how I feel.
I think it's important that you have joy in your lives. That you find smart ways to live within your means and also to create wealth. That we teach our kids that there is a difference between hard work and creating hardships and being martyrs. I've not found the perfect formula yet but I'm trying. When I find what works for me, I'll share it in the hopes that it works for you too.