I’d never been without a job unintentionally, so when I was made redundant as a single mum with 2 kids I wasn’t worried, I had my back up savings for this type of thing, all good. I’d be fine. Financially, yes, but emotionally, I wasn’t prepared for that at all.
I toyed with the idea of getting my coaching business back up and running, but it was a half hearted attempt at best….. my heart wasn’t in it.
Unemployment lasted for 4 months. At the time it was the worst time of my life, but now I know it was the best thing that happened to me. Until you have loads of uninterrupted time on your hands you don’t realise how many feelings and thoughts you actually avoid. I was forced to deal with the thoughts in my head all day. They did not shut up, they continued, I analysed, turned stuff upside down and around again, spat it out and it just about drove me crazy….. But, wow did I process some stuff. I finally read Brene Brown, the wisdom in her research and findings is incredible and helped immensely in sorting through my thoughts.
There was one major realisation that made so much sense in hindsight, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t dawned on me before. It delivered a massive change to the way I spent money, saving on average $120 per week.
To give you’re the full picture I have to go back, back to my days of working full time and studying part time in my 20’s, it was at this point I developed a habit. I would study outside of work time, so most lunch times you’d find me in a local café studying away eating my café lunch. This continued for some time, I studied part time for 6 years. While developing my eating out habit and ingraining that with the ability to study, I also developed another great habit – the ability to have intense focus in loud noise. At least that was a useful skill.
Over the years my café habit also helped me to be creative. For the past 15 years I have worked from home either in my own business or remotely for someone else. Whenever I need to access the creative side of my brain I would head to café with laptop (and now earphones) and be super creative. I just couldn’t seem to do that at my “core work” desk. I was writing and creating a lot, my café spend increasing accordingly. Most weeks, especially post marriage separation that weekly spend was topping $120 to $150 per week.
What I figured out over my 4 months of forced reflection (aka unemployment) was that my café habit was no longer solely about being creative. I was seeking the social aspect of it. Seems harmless enough. Sure, it can be, but it wasn’t harmless. I was avoiding what had been an issue for over 20 years.
I wasn’t comfortable being alone.
This came as a complete shock to me. I loved spending time alone, always have, but spending time alone and being comfortable being alone are two different things. I realised I had in fact felt very alone in my marriage, and since divorcing nothing about that had changed. I spent more time at cafes, avoiding being alone. Sure, I knew everybody, made new friends but it was masking the truth.
During that 4 months, with no job to entertain me during the day, each day became a mind hash, and initially I’ll admit I was feeling very low, very low indeed. But when you hit rock bottom you bounce back up and you have to figure out how in hell to stay there. And that’s what I did. I arrived at my conclusion about avoidance of being alone, by listening to Brene. Just because you realise it, doesn’t make it all better, far from it. Once something is in your awareness you have to face it, there is no avoiding it. And so I did, it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. One day at a time. Now, I can’t even remember what I did, but I got to a point where I could stay at home all day by myself and be quite content. I was finally comfortable being alone. I stopped going to my favourite café. I instead used my super fancy coffee machine that I had at home, cooked up a storm and I was very happy doing so. And I stopped spending bucket loads of money to make myself not feel so alone. On average that’s about $500 per month, $6000 per year. Over the last 20 years at a lesser average, let’s say $300 per month, that equates to $72000. That’s a house deposit, wow. That’s the first time I’ve calculated that number out, and I’m in shock and feel a little sick. Breathe…. Okay, massive life lesson right there.
While it’s a great outcome for my financial future, it’s a very telling story, for me that money habit had nothing to do with enjoying coffee and the food, it was about enjoying the company because I wasn’t able to enjoy my own. And my biggest spending epiphany came about as the result of being unemployed. And not because I didn’t have money (I had my months’ worth of savings as all Independent Money Chicks should) but because I had time to think and process all the thoughts that arose. I’ll be forever grateful to that four months, it saved me in so many ways.
This journey between understanding my feelings and its relationship to money is far from over, I believe I have more to unpack of which I have no doubt will enhance my financial future even more. It may be hard sometimes, but I will keep questioning why. And you should too, why do you spend the way you do?
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