Taking Control of My Finances: A Year After

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s been a year since I decided to take control of my finances. It’s been a year since I realised I wanted a bigger goal than saving at least $250 a fortnight; a year since I told myself my money deserved to be respected.

It was September last year when I first attempted to calculate my net worth. While my net worth appeared to be high at about $20,000 (for someone starting out, anyway), only $800 of that was liquid. $800 was all the cash I had saved up at that time. $19,200 was mostly my superannuation and other assets. Typing that made my stomach (and heart) hurt a bit. $800! That wasn’t even enough for an emergency fund!

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But, things are much better now. Thanks to the Internet and to selfless PF geeks who continue to encourage others to better their attitude on spending and saving. After a year of putting what I’ve learned about personal finances into practice, my cash and investment accounts are now more than my net worth when I started. I feel both proud and humbled of this accomplishment and I hope to do the same, if not better, for the years to come.

So, what did I do the past year to increase my net worth, you might ask? I wrote about my simple money rules in the past and they include paying myself first, tracking my expenses, allocating my savings, etc.  I also made some small changes to lower my expenses, like downgrading my mobile plan, reviewing my health insurance cover, ditching my gym membership, shopping in markets, etc. And while I didn’t go on a shopping ban, I changed my clothes spending habit, too.

On the bigger scale, I had to postpone major travels. Before the great change happened, I started my travel-overseas-every-year challenge. I did 3 international trips (Singapore, Cambodia and New Zealand), excluding my trip to home last Christmas. If I wasn’t doing this whole PF thing, I would’ve probably gone to Japan or South Korea this year, but I am, so major  travel will have to wait until I have more funds for it. I say major because we still do mini (road) travels, and I enjoy it a lot (sometimes a bit more than major ones). My boyfriend likes to drive and we’re trying to go to as many national parks in Victoria as we can. So far, Wilson’s Promontory is my favourite, because mountains and beaches!

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The view from the peak of Mt. Oberon. How beautiful is that?!

I also had to cut down on watching concerts and gigs. I don’t go out to party or even to watch movies because they are both expensive activities (plus I’m an introvert) but I would spend whatever money I have to watch a concert. I love music and I’ve always said that I live for moments like a Bloc Party concert. Haha! (Seriously, though, I feel most alive when I’m in the crowd, singing along to a great song with a hundred or so other people. My friends over at Our Next Life recently posted about their ‘happy sacrifices‘ and they included concerts in their list too! I guess I’m not alone.) Last year, I spent heaps to see TLC, Justin Timberlake and Bob Dylan. I’m admittedly still looking for concert schedules regularly but I no longer give in easily. I haven’t been to a concert this year but there are 2.5 months to go before the year ends, so…

And books, ah books. I used to read at least 30 books a year and all of them I would buy. My mum once asked me what I’d buy if she gave me a fair bit of money, I only replied with ‘uhm…’ and she understood what I meant by that. Of course, I’d spend all my moneys on books. At least that’s how it used to be. I dream of having a library one day but I realised that aside from the costs involved in buying books, it’s a hassle to pack and move them around. I’ve only bought 2 books this year, so far, and as much as I’d like to avoid buying an e-book reader, I think that it is actually the most practical thing to do.

It seems that a lot has changed in a year, if I think about it, having more savings is merely a result of the adjustments I made in my habits, priorities and attitude about spending (and saving) in general. Sure, I’m happy that I have better finances, but I’m even happier that I’ve learned to be more content and grateful for what I have.

How much has changed since you started taking control of your finances? What are the changes/adjustments you had to make to get to where you are now?