My journey to financial independence has been long, difficult, and rewarding once I felt like I could actually achieve some sort of savings without depriving myself of the life I deserve. I grew up in this dichotomy of being broke with expensive taste. I was raised to look apart for opportunities and other people’s comfort more than my own. I was taught to do the right thing – earn an honest living, work hard, pay bills, and save my money for a “rainy day.” You know everything your elders preach to you about. But all of these things felt like chores and I was good at these chores until I wasn’t. It was precisely when my idea of having it all spiral out of control. The peak of the internet took over my life when I lost track of currency value with my budding addiction to online shopping. Little did I know my self-worth was being compromised thanks to influencer culture that haphazardly fed into my need to fit in. To say the least, I grew into this person who spent more money on dinners, shopping and girls trips, than what I could afford with a $20K annual salary. I was trying to keep up with the Kardashians, instead of keeping up with my own coins. I had to check myself. Time for a financial independence gut check.
To save money, invest, and buy property seemed like easy concepts in theory, but I didn’t know how to actually live in this truth when I became an adult. There’s a reason why it’s called personal finance and it mainly has to do with our mentality and the ways in which we were conditioned to think about money. When I came into adulthood after college and officially moved out of my parents’ house, I started to fear money because everything I thought would be easy was actually really difficult. Moreover, I was embarrassed to ask for help! Even though it was easy for me to create, earn, and increase my annual income, I was still struggling with how to manage it all. I would go days without checking my bank account and opening my mail, all the while indulging in my non-negotiable self-care routines. I found myself living on the edge until the pot was boiling over, pleading with my bill collectors to push back the due date just one more week until payday.
Eventually, though, I got tired of being broke. One Saturday afternoon, I decided to take inventory of what I valued. I downloaded nine months worth checking account statements and went through my activity line by line. It took hours and it was painful. I cried at the amount of money I let slip away between sips of $10 red wine. Memories of buying friends rounds of drinks at the bar and expensive wedding gifts that I never received a Thank You card for, flashed through my mind. I shook my head in disappointment. From that day forward, I decided that I was going to align my financial independence with realistic spending and savings habits. If my friends and family didn’t respect my new attitude, I wasn’t going to let them slow down my progress. I unsubscribed from dozens of online mailing lists. I started declining dinner and drink invitations and shifted my focus to free social gatherings. Promo codes and app coupons were steps to my rainbow. I didn’t bother to go shopping on the weekends; borrowing clothing suddenly seemed more economical than fast fashion. My goal was to debunk my own myths about money, feel encouraged to talk openly about my finances, as well as feel excited about the thought of seeing commas in my bank account. Overall, it took me six months to adjust my thinking, saving $5,000+, and pay off a few bills that were in collections. Today, I feel lighter, yet determined to keep growing because financial independence will only lead me closer to my dreams.