Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Money: On a mission

If there's one thing we Brits hate talking about, it's money. We're secretive about it, embarrassed about it, it seems like 'bad form' to discuss it. How many of us know what our friends earn, for example?

Like most folk, it's not something I talk about a lot, apart from the typical 'that's cheap' or 'I can't afford it right now' or the like.

This has been a huge year of change for me, and one of the things that's included is money. And, specifically, debt.

Last year, for the first time ever, I took a career job (as opposed to skint student bar job etc) because it pays me well and not because I was driven to do it.

For a long time money has been a huge source of stress and embarrassment for me. I hid from the reality of it – ironic in recent years when I was involved in setting up the programme for a national debt and financial literacy charity.

It all started in my student days when the collapse in the construction industry all but killed my father's business and the family's money dried up, the home I grew up in was sold and downsized, and so on. I ended up with too many student loans trying to help pay my way through seven years of uni. I haven't been debt free since I was 19. And, I'm not now.

Recently I have been talking about money though. It perhaps seems crass or inappropriate. I am by no means driven by acquiring lots of it, but the weight of monthly commitments has held me back from doing what I want to do. I am doing what I can to change that. Unfortunately it also means that the topic creeps into conversation more than I would like. Sometimes, I need to process out loud. We should be able to talk about money, and seek advice from friends as we would on relationship or work dilemmas but it doesn't fit with the British cultural psyche. Maybe I seem impolite or too open or overly concerned with the material. I'm not, but I do want to get to a place where life is simpler.

My debt has been accrued not because of a lavish lifestyle but because of extended student years, two redundancies and some unwise decisions. It felt like some awful secret.

However, way back in February/March time, I decided enough was enough. I am a woman on a mission. There are spreadsheets, budgets and a plan. All of which I lapsed from using whilst I watched my father die and then helped my mother get back in her feet, tackling her finances worm by worm. Over the past few weeks I've revived the spreadsheets, the spending diary, pinned down every balance and interest rate, reviewed my mortgage, given myself an allowance so I can overpay debts, and worked out how on earth I'm going to cover a big dry rot bill. I can see the end of the road and have learned a huge amount along the way.

It feels fantastic.

I don't want to be slowed down by money any more. I want to be in charge of it, sort it and take responsibility so that I can finally see the fruits of what I work so hard for and be free. And, one day, be able to shift a gear again, earn less and enjoy more.

In the meantime, while I'm in the process of getting back on track, I'll just need to apologise to my friends for occasionally discussing something we normally run a million miles from!

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