Confession time: I’m not the best person when it comes to being careful with money.
At least, historically that’s the case.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me saying I’m a big spender or the type of person to blow their money on shit and then hoard it. I’m not a gambler. I’m not likely to spend hundreds of $$$ on a shopping trip or max out credit cards. I’m not a crazy spender. But I’m just not cautious. Or at least, wasn’t ever that cautious.
When I lived in the UK, I knew how much money I had and what I could feasibly afford, but I definitely spent way more than I should of been spending. I was throwing away money unnecessarily. I did not know how to budget at all. So when it came to spending, whether it was at the bar or in the supermarket or on transport, little things didn’t phase me. I had no qualms spending a couple of quid on an overpriced bottle of water if I was thirsty, buying a magazine that I had no real interest in reading because I was bored, or ignoring deals and potential money saving hacks and just buying what I wanted.
Now I’m in Australia, I’ve spent nearly all my travel money, and I’m living and working (hard) in Brisbane, keeping my head down and squirrelling away. I have just enough money to get me through to payday, but thats just for rent and food. When it comes to food I can no longer justify spending $4 on a bar of chocolate just because I fancy it. I need to save, because I don’t like living like this. I don’t enjoy the feeling of having very little money and not being quite sure how far it will stretch.
When everyone says travelling in Australia is expensive, it is very true. When I lived in Melbourne I didn’t feel this struggle because I had a decent paying job. I was also very fortunate to live in an incredible house, only 20 minutes by tram outside of the CBD, for just $165 a week, which is such a little amount of money for what we had. When you are travelling in Australia and not working however, it becomes a different ball game. Experiences like going to Fraser Island or visiting the Whitsundays are expensive, and these are the major things that ate into our budget. We were super sensible with money travelling down the coast. We didn’t do some of the cool things we could have done. We didn’t really go on nights out. We cooked nearly all our own meals. Yet we still got to Brisbane with very little money. And I think thats because we didn’t quite save enough when we were in Melbourne.
Honestly though, for me, this goes beyond Australia being expensive. It’s more a case of: I’ve been silly with my money in the past, and now I know I have goals in my life that require savings. If I want to save I can’t waste money. Right now my goal is simply to get out of Brisbane and spend quality time in Byron, but then it will be to travel New Zealand, and one day it will be to get my yoga teaching qualifications and to have a place I can call home. I now recognise the importance of saving, of budgeting, and of how to tactfully spend your money. I recognise this because right now I HAVE to. I literally can’t afford to waste my money, and I don’t have regrets, because this has been a huge wake up call for me. I also really do not regret spending a lot of money in Melbourne because I had the time of my life and had experiences that I know I could never replicate. However, I now know what I need to do in the future so I never have these money issues again. I need to stop spending simply because the money is THERE.
It’s too easy to do when you’re earning though right? You have the money in the bank, it’s accessible. It’s little things.On a day to day basis it doesn’t seem to make that much of a dent in the bank balance to have a latte every morning, to get sushi for lunch instead of pack your own salad, to buy plastic bottles of branded water instead of investing in a refillable bottle, to go to the discount store at the weekend and buy clothes you don’t need because they’re ‘only $10’. To get that extra beer or glass of wine at the bar. To buy chewing gum or chocolate or cigarettes or whatever your unnecessary vice is. But obviously, it all adds up. Right now I can not justify spending money on lattes. I’m unintentionally detoxing because there is no way in hell I’m spending my money on booze.
These are all things I’ve done whilst living in the UK, living in Melbourne, and travelling in Asia. In the UK and Melbourne I had either a student loan or a constant source of income, so it seemed justifiable. In Asia, the excuse was the classic: everything is so much cheaper! And it is. But that doesn’t mean I need to buy 10 vodka cokes just because it’s way cheaper than at home.
I’m learning all this now and while I’m learning the hard way, I know it will stand me in good stead in the future. I know now that when I go home, even if I have a well paying job, I will be more careful with my money and have a weekly or monthly budget, so that I can afford the things in life that are important to me personally – to have money to go on the next big adventure, whether that will be India or Iceland, to afford a weekend festival with my friends, to get more tattoos (sorry Mum).
Lately I have been stressing about money, which is terrible. But after one night of stressing, I woke up with clarity and gratitude, because I know my money ‘troubles’ aren’t really troubles at all, in the grand scheme of things. I’m not thousands of dollars in debt, struggling to keep my home or my job. I’m not living on the street, not knowing when I’ll next have a roof over my head for the night or where the next meal will come from. At the end of it all, I have a roof over my head, I have three meals a day, I have an incredible support network who will always help and support me through thick and thin, I have a job. I work hard to prove that I want to be there, I want to earn that money. I have clothes on my back. In many ways, I am living a life many dream of. I am not stuck in a job I do not want, living a life that doesn’t belong to me. Right now I have spent too much money, money is tight and I want to work hard to get out of that situation, but this life is mine. It belongs to me. I might not be in the best situation right now, but i’m definitely in a good place and I’m owning up to it, and I’m owning it.
This isn’t a money crisis. This is simply a lesson. A lesson in budgeting and saving and being sensible. Of not being wasteful. Of setting goals and planning what I can do financially to achieve those goals. It’s a lesson I wish I had learnt whilst still at Uni, but I’m learning it now. It’s not exciting or thrilling. It’s sensible. But it’s important. And I hope that if anyone reading this is planning to travel in Australia they come up with a financial plan, because it really is expensive, and having to cut your travel plans short to work in a city you have no real desire to be in sucks. But hey, at least I have that option.