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Hark back to the decade of phone charms and burnt cd’s and I was bleeding money. 

I was overspent paycheck to paycheck. I was denied a credit card because of a nonexistent credit score. Worst of all, I bankrupted my future by cashing out the biggest asset I had, my retirement account. 

The times were darker than Mordor at midnight. When prompted, I said shopping was my hobby. The eye watering proof is in a local newspaper clipping that proudly hangs on my family’s wall. 

These memories prompt goosebumps. Yet, my DIY optimism is more stubborn than a cow not wanting to be tipped. 

Instead of focusing on all my past wrongs, I focus on how much I’ve grown in since those youthful years. As with most journey’s, the hardest part is the start. Those low moments of the past have matured into the most valuable financial growth of today. 

Much of my financial failure was because I wasn’t track my spending.

Instead of taking time to track my exports and compare them to imports, I used hope. 

I hoped that I would intuitively keep track of my bank balance. Somehow my gut was suppose to let me know if I had overspent my bank account with fortune telling bloating. 

No amount of tums could prepare for that systemic error.

Month after month, I overspent before the next payday hit my account. Overdraft fees would pile up and shrink my incoming paycheck. 

Though I wasn’t thrilled, I didn’t do much about it besides cleaning up the mess and grumble about making better life choices.

It was a mess I cycled through until I was unemployed. Since I was missing a normal paycheck, I couldn’t overdraft because I didn’t have enough of a paycheck to clean anything up. I was on unemployment and if it wasn’t for a roommate, I would have been homeless. 

From there, I was forced to learn how to avoid the overdraft. I feared credit card debt more than living below the poverty line. 

Going from seasonal income to zero income changes things. As a way to gain control, when work was unpredictable, I made a budget. 

It wasn’t very good budget and for a while, all I could do was plug in numbers. As much as I tried to leverage those numbers, I couldn’t. I didn’t have enough skills to follow through. I’d start strong, but my will would wavier.

Eventually, I felt competent with data entry and got a job with predictable income. That’s when I tried to adjust spending flows depending on what the spreadsheet was reporting.

Eventually, the overspending bumps smoothed into a system of balances where I could leverage what I wanted, like not busting my budget yet again, over spending uncontrolled. 

I started getting addicted to watching my savings grow more than my wardrobe. To this day, I crave saving over stuff

Growth doesn’t happen without trial, error, and try again. 

Once I figured out that tracking is the very best way to manage what I’m measuring, I started getting greedy. 

I wanted more.

At first, I wanted to save because saving is easier than making more. 

With minimal effort, I could start saving where as making more involves time and effort. 

I wanted to start where I was and build enthusiasm for financial friskiness. I added content to my knowledge by reading blogs to books, if it was about finances, I was interested.

Learning only goes so far, at some point, action is needed. I started testing (experimenting) with what I read. Some of the things felt easy or I enjoyed, what didn’t seem to fit was discarded.

These ways to save are habits that have withstood whims:

  • Monthly no spending sprees,
  • Rarely eating out, mostly eat in for all 3 squares,
  • Canceling subscriptions and memberships,
  • Collecting change,
  • Switched my cell phone plan from $90 to $25 a month,
  • Delaying shopping impulses,
  • Restrict online shopping,
  • Striving for free hobbies, 
  • Batching errands to reduce gas use,
  • Searching before I shopping,
  • Capturing coupons, cash-back apps, promo codes, and discounted gift cards,
  • Churning credit cards and their rewards too,
  • Minimizing insurance by avoiding protection plans, choosing term over whole life, and
  • Declaring secondhand is always on demand.

Once I felt as confident as a cat on catnip, I started the gradual slide into the intimidating side of finances, investing.

The biggest hurdle was a lack of confidence, once I figured out what the concepts were, then I had enough knowledge to try bigger experiments. 

Experiments with money. 

When my money is on the barbecue, wether its frying or frozen, I learn faster and the lessons stick better.

Once investing reached its limit and I controlled how my assets were invested, I rounded it all up with a will. 

The most valuable financial growth isn’t money, its ensuring a legacy that lasts beyond a lifetime. 

The most valuable financial growth includes feeling like I’m in control of my future instead of my future controlling me.

Having a fiscal foundation gives space and grace for dreams to grow.

Before, when I lived on less than paycheck to paycheck, I didn’t plan further than the year ahead. My finances couldn’t withstand the next month, let alone the next year.

Solid finances creates a platform for churning dreams into reality. It seems more probability than possibility to travel once a year because my budget is a blueprint for what I’m capable of saving. 

A $500 medical bill isn’t Earth shattering because I have a sinking fund with enough money to take care blemish. 

I can donate $500 and be the person I want to be because my financial backer is me and my lifestyle allows for investing in the greater good.

Being unable to plan removed possibilities, now having survived the struggle, I have scars as a reminder of how much I survived and what I can do.

The most valuable financial growth is the belief that I can learn, experiment, and plan my way to a green and growing future. 

The lessons I learned I wouldn’t wish upon a crown of thorns sea star, even if they eat the ultimate plant/animal giver, coral.

I survived years of struggle and strife to figure out what I wanted my financial future to look like. 

The wasted time and lost funds is an ache that dulls with time. However, without hard lessons I wouldn’t have the grit and persistence to keep going for bigger dreams like donating 5% of my payday, paying off a mortgage in 15 years, and early retirement.

What doesn’t kill you gives you the will of Wonder Woman. 

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