What am I doing wrong?

Money has been tight for the last few months and it has got me thinking again about how I manage my finances in general. The period between December and January are usually more expensive for me but this year it has gone on longer due to a variety of other expenses that have come up. Thankfully, I also received an unexpected pay rise but this too has been consumed with new expenses. More than management, I am wondering what I am still doing wrong? What unnecessary spending am I still doing? What could I be doing differently? You get the idea.

Generally speaking, I don’t go into debts and avoid big spending on anything that isn’t necessary. I’ve only had a credit card a couple of times and always with a $2000 limit. I got rid of my last one last year and will not be getting another. Most of my income goes to living expenses for my family and I don’t buy expensive consumer items, go on frequent holidays or have anything on finance — not even a car. My income is above average but still relatively modest and I also feel I live within my means — though not well within it. In my review of The Barefoot Investor last year, I went over some aspects of my lifestyle so I don’t think I need to go into too much more detail but I have continued to cut things I spend money on with only books still being frequent purchases.

So I don’t have a credit card, I avoid debts and I won’t buy anything I don’t need and can’t soon pay off. Yet, I am still often struggling between each payday. Every time I seem to be home free — something else comes up. Just last week the power supply on our modestly priced television blew. It was almost five years old and safely out of warranty for the manufacturer. I won’t be buying a new one in a hurry (as I don’t consider it a necessity) but this is the kind of thing that seems to keep happening just when the finish line is within sight. I keep looking for that one payday that will finally let me put aside some money but it never seems to come. I still keep going though.

I still work in the hope that this day will come though as I write, it is looking very likely that we’re about to head into another economic depression which I’ve been expecting for a while. This is actually one of the reasons I’ve been so focused on not having any debts and I will soon have got rid of the last bit of a student loan.. Still, even with this out of the way by (hopefully) the middle of the year, I am still just a single unexpected problem away from being back in the red. If my car was wrecked or had a serious problem, I would be unlikely to be able to afford another one soon — even with an insurance payout. If there was a serious medical issue or I suddenly lost my job, I would be in an even worse muddle.

This all isn’t intended as a long complaint though and what I am talking about will be familiar to a lot of families. Really, I think it is not so much what I’m doing wrong now but what I was doing wrong earlier. In my late teens and early twenties, I spent a lot of money for which I have very little to show. I didn’t use this time to save or build up skills outside of training for my current profession. I didn’t take on a much part-time work as I easily could have. I gave little thought to the future and was even dismissive of the student debt I accumulated; thinking I would have no trouble paying it back. Young people do stupid things but I am still responsible for these actions and I am paying for them now.

Thinking back, if I had been more sensible with money and saved, I probably could have bought a home for much less than they cost now and could even have paid it off. I can’t be sure of that of course, but it was not impossible. I know people who have done it. Of course, people who have more often add on more debt so I may have made more mistakes later along this path too. Who knows?

I also don’t now actively seek out other ways to make money outside of my main income. I’m not working night on “side hustles” or taking on a second job. I quite like the leisure time I have. From early adulthood, I was not an ambitious man and wanted only to live simply and comfortably. Some may not say this is so bad but it has consequences that I am feeling now too.

The point I think I want to make if I have one, is that while many things may be “unfair”, I still have agency and I am responsible for many of the things that have put me in difficulty today. I don’t want to be someone that complains about my problems and makes excuses why I am not making them better. I’ll keep working to get to that sunny horizon with no debt behind me and savings ahead even if it never comes.

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