The Achilles Heel
University has come to an abrupt end. Higher education has come to an abrupt end. It is a strange feeling being in the education system for seventeen years and then one day being told you have completed it. Many things have changed since I finished university, I moved back into my family home, I got a job, I appreciate weekends. But what may be the biggest change in my life has been the transition from my simple frugal student life to working a full time job and actually earning a salary. This is something that every graduate starting their first job faces, regardless of what your actual income is. This is a universal issue because of the simple fact that one earns more money working full time than one does being a student at university.
One of the biggest difficulties I have faced since earning is figuring out what to do with my money. I had an honest conversation with myself and realised I am at a time in my life where I have an incredibly small amount of financial responsibility, I am living at my family house, meaning no rent, I spend minimal money on food and I have no one else to look after. From a financial perspective this is pretty easy going. However, this is a moment in time I don’t particularly want to last that long as in all honesty, I would like to live with my friends and have my own space. With this being said I knew I needed to take advantage of this fortunate situation and make sure by the end of the year I could be in a position where I could comfortably afford to rent a place in London that didn’t look like a scene out of Trainspotting. So I started properly budgeting my money for the first time ever.
From the get go I encountered some serious hurdles that I struggled with. Most of my friends are in a similar boat to me, I have a few on the job hunt, a couple doing Masters but most of them have just started working in full time employment and that meant they could dig further into their pockets. This freedom to dig deeper led to my friends buying more rounds at the deadly after work drinks. This social occasion was a mere myth in my student days. I went to a university in the centre of London, there was something incredibly in your face about the after work drinks, those boys and girls were louder than the rest of the pub, had a stronger sense of entitlement, and let everyone in a forty metre parameter know that ‘Janet’s going to get fired if she is caught online shopping at Asos one more time’. Yet here I am, my own worst enemy, surrounded by suited and booted friends telling me the same story about Janet.
I very quickly entered this troubling pattern of finishing work and going straight out for a drink afterwards. It took me a few weeks of following this pattern for me to realise that this lifestyle was making it impossible for me to follow my budget. The amount I was spending in my drinking category had soared above and beyond everything else. While one might think my lifestyle choices parallels with someone in an early stage of alcoholism, the reality is that a drink in a pub in London costs on average just under £5, which means if you have two pints after work each day you could easily be spending a whopping £50 a week, a number which has no room in my personal budget. To get back to the point, in my first few weeks of budgeting, I failed. I failed to save the amount of money I set out to put aside, however, looking back I am not too disappointed with myself. This was the first time in my life that I felt rich, I wasn’t rich, I am not rich but I had just started working a full time job, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, I was earning money that I had never seen before, so it comes to no surprise that I when I first got it, I spent it. Another reason why I haven’t been particularly critical of my disorderly spending pattern is because it can be incredibly hard to budget when those around you have no care for budgeting. I work for a personal finance start up, it goes without saying I should be dipping my feet in the budgeting game, however the majority of my friends were and are very much still in the ‘I just started working, I am rich phase’, budgeting was not on their agenda. This left me in a real spot of bother. On one hand I still wanted to keep up with my friends’ lifestyle, no one wants to be suffering from a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out), but on the other hand I recognised I was in this financially fortunate position where I had the potential to save a healthy amount of money.
Writing now, this was an issue I decided to face just over a month ago. Looking back at my last month’s spending pattern, I can say I have done a far better job of saving my money. I am still not saving as much as I would ideally like to, yet I am doing a whole lot better than when I started earning. I am confident to say that with time I will get better as budgeting, as with anything takes time to get good at. When I first started off I put down some random numbers into my spending categories and decided how much I would let myself splurge on a weekly basis. However, I quickly realised you need to experience your spending pattern to see what your achilles heel is. For me, it was the dreaded after work drinks, I dealt with this costly issue by doing two things. Firstly, I was more self disciplined, I knew I had to step out of my university mentality, I couldn’t be waking up at 11am anymore, I had a job I needed to take seriously and money I wanted to save. So I simply stopped going out for after work drinks as much as I used to. This is not to say I became a hermit, at the end of the day I was still spending more than enough time with my friends just not at the level I was at previously. The second thing I did to deal with my achilles heel was that I made sure we went to more affordable places to drink, this meant that I had to travel further away from central London to find pubs that worked with my budget but at the end of the day what is fifteen more minutes on public transport.
For those budgeting for the first time it is important to not be too hard on yourself if you are not reaching the goals you set out to attain from the get go as it can be incredibly difficult to decipher how to spend less money without taking away what you enjoy. All I can recommend is that you find your achilles heel and try to find a logical way to combat that costly problem. If you need some help with any budgeting problems, I would love to hear from you, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org because a problem shared….