I managed to go 31 years without really paying any attention to my finances. That’s quite a long time to be in the dark. Now I have never been a big spender but that’s more because there isn’t much I want. If there was something I’d really want then I’d save for it. Maybe getting married and thinking about starting a family in the near future has provided me with more purpose. I certainly don’t ever want to be a financial burden to my sprogs if/when I make it to be an old grey codger, dodging the call of the coffin year after year.
My parents were supportive in teaching me that money doesn’t fall out of the sky. When I was 12, my dad used to accompany me on my paper round. We’d deliver the mail together. I have fond memories of us waking up early and laughing and joking as we walked over to Ambergate to pick up the bags. Work was fun!
My mum sent me off to work in the kitchen at the local pub from age 14 to gather some extra cash and to learn that money must be earned through graft. I am very grateful for her pushing me into this. I loved working in the pubs and my boss was an excellent teacher and role model. I worked in pubs throughout my schooling and I was able to pay for holidays, get my hands on booze, pay for driving lessons, buy my first car, a Nissan Micra, for £400 with the proceeds. Now that reminds me of a story.
I promptly crashed the Nissan Micra into the wall on the way to school. I was taking a bend a little too fast and the wall jumped out at me. It was going to cost more to fix than I’d paid for it and I only had £200 in my account at the time.
My mate picked me up and took me to school. On the way he stopped at the newsagents and I bought an Ad Mag (maaaan, is that still a thing?) for 50 pence. Unbelievably, there was a Nissan Micra for sale, same year, more mileage, much more beat up with an asking price of £200. I called up and the lady told me there was someone coming over at lunch to view it, but I was welcome to come over when I was free. It was a 10-minute walk from school. I skipped first period and went straight over.
The lady selling took me for a ride on the A38 up to the M1, J28 roundabout and back. During our chit chat she proudly told me that she’d had 100mph out of the car. I was shocked as it only had four gears and I think I’d only topped 70mph in the one I shunted. It didn’t put me off buying it and I paid £150 for it so I still had £50 to my name. I was able to transfer the insurance from my first Micra to this one, which I was really chuffed about.
The car itself was in pretty bad shape. I remember there were electrics hanging out by my right leg and when I stopped at traffic lights, I had to lift them up with my foot to stop the car from stalling. There was no petrol cap and I went to a few scrapyards to find a replacement but no luck. It didn’t have a tape deck, just a radio… which didn’t work.
I took a few extra evenings at the pub to save for another car. It took what felt like forever to get enough saved, but after 8 months I was ready for my next car. I took to ebay to flog the Micra that was now on its last legs. I listed it for £100. Success! I had two bids and it sold for a whopping £101. The car itself had cost me £49 minus fuel and stuff! At £6 a month, I still think I overpaid ; )
I met the buyer at Ambergate train station the following day. He’d come all the way from Northampton to pick up this proper banger of a Micra. He told me it was a present for his wife. Lucky lady! He handed me £100. I remember cheekily asking “Wasn’t it £101?” as he fumbled for the extra pound I told him it was ok, like I was doing him a favour! I was really happy to be shot of it. Without inspecting the car, husband of the year took off for Northampton. Later on he called me to ask if there was a petrol cap. I apologised sincerely, explaining that when I had bought it there wasn’t one. He was ok about it and said he’d get one from the scrapyard.
Cool story bro.
Yeah, so I was always pretty decent with not spending money and I liked to work, too. I worked for Royal Mail all the way through uni and when I graduated I bought what would be my fourth car. A 6-month-old little blue Hyundai i10 which I paid cash for. I loved this little beaut and felt bees knees driving to my first teaching job in it. Cute.
That first teaching job was the first job in my life that I received no enjoyment from. I had a huge, mixed age class and I found it really challenging. I wanted to escape. At the time I didn’t realise as I was trying to stay positive but now I’m certain, I really hated that job. It got me down in the dumps. However, this didn’t lead to a financial epiphany.
I was still living at home with my parents at this stage and as a means of an escape the teaching job, I enrolled on a full-time Master’s programme until I could figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. It was on my Master’s that I meet an Asian princess who would later become my queen. I’m proper punching and I lucked out big time. Financially, The Mrs is my opposite. Spend, spend, spend. She loves to shop for anything!
The Mrs has rather successful parents who run a business in Taiwan. They have provided her with many opportunities to travel the world and gain a very good education. The Mrs tells me the ‘Asian Way’ is to treat your children to a life where they want for nothing as this is seen as a measure of success and wealth. Throughout her travels there was no budget for her to stick to and when she did, she’d always manage to overspend by 20% (at least). When I visited Taiwan to ask The Mrs’ parents if I could marry their daughter, mama (her mum) asked me what I’d do when she spent all my money. “I guess I could get a second job.” I replied jokingly… “And when she spends all of that?” mama questioned (less jokingly). I don’t remember my response. I think I laughed nervously and laid a couple of bricks in my grundies! Somehow, I managed to do enough for them to approve of our marriage.
Her spending habits made me loosen the reigns and I simply followed suit. I let go. I started to spend too. Fancy hotels, top nosh, new clothes, new phone, loads of new furniture for the house and so on. The differences in price and quality were pretty huge. Previously, I’d shop at Primarni once a year and get everything I needed. Fast. I hate shopping!!! It would come to approx. £100. £2 T-shirts, £12 cargos, £8 jumpers and the like. With The Mrs my £2 T’s turned into £25, the £8 jumpers transformed into £80 cashmere sweaters and the £12 cargo pants tripled in price and became chinos. I left The Mrs to her own devices as she would be the one to go out and buy me all this stuff which I though was ace. I no longer had to shop any more. Get in! To be fair, top quality gear and it has changed my opinion on buying clothes to last – a lot of the stuff I still have several years on and it’s still all good.
Fast forward to the Summer of 2017 aged 31 and 28, now living in Brunei together and we’d just got back from our vacay in Perth, Oz. It was a mint trip and we made so many fantastic memories, but Jesus, Mary and Joseph did we spend! Wine, cheese, beer, chocolate, spirits, fun, restaurants, clothes, shoes and on and on and on.
Standard procedure, I was sat on the toilet, dropping the kids off at the pool and I decided to see what was left in the bank account. I logged in (unintentional pun) to the banking app. We were deep in the red with no pay check due for another two and a half weeks. I had no overdraft limit set up. This hurt and I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I came to the realisation that we couldn’t keep on living like this. Ahaaa. The epiphany. The smite of financial illiteracy caught me smack between the eyes and woke me up to reality. It was time for change, but change takes time.
Since my lavatorial epiphany, we got out the red and eventually I started to read, watch and absorb content that I wish was taught in school. Unless disaster strikes the pair of us we will never be in the red again. We move further and further away each and every month.
Did you have a financial epiphany, or have you always just been a boss with money? Let me know, if you want.