Working towards financial freedom

My views towards money have shifted pretty dramatically in the last few years.  From the ages of seventeen to twenty-seven I was in a relationship with a man who was in a secure and well-paid profession.  As our relationship was serious, I never gave a lot of thought to my own finances.  I wasn’t too stressed out about saving for the future.  And when that relationship ended, I was faced with the very scary prospect of having to finance myself through my future.  I realised that if I wanted to own my own house one day, or have a retirement plan or be in a position where I wasn’t living hand-to-mouth each week I needed to do something.

 

DSCF7394I made the mistake of confusing having a boyfriend with having long-term financial security.  Please don’t think that I got into the relationship for the money.  Or that I didn’t work hard to pay my own way.  It’s just that whenever I’d considered financial planning for the future, I didn’t put a lot of thought into it because I imagined that my future would include another person who was financially stable.  And it was a rude awakening when I realised that wasn’t going to happen.

 

Once the dust had settled on my break-up, I had to think very carefully about the kind of life I wanted to have.  When I got to thinking about my future, there were a lot of things I wanted: a house, overseas travel, a secure retirement, which weren’t going to happen unless I made some changes and took matters into my own hands.

 

Now I feel that I’m on the road to financial freedom.  I’m nowhere near that coveted place yet, but I’m travelling the right path.  Today I wanted to discuss some of the things that I’m doing to move towards financial freedom because I think it’s a really important topic that not enough people consider carefully.  I understand that I’m in a privileged position and that not everyone is able to take the same steps that I am.  But I wanted to share my own experiences to give you some ideas and encourage you to think about your own financial future.  So here are the things that I do to help improve my finances…

 

Work full time

When I moved out on my own I had a choice: I could continue to work part-time and have just enough to pay my expenses or I could look for a full-time job and earn enough to begin saving some money.  This wasn’t an easy decision for me.  As you may know, I have depression and was very worried about the toll that full-time work would take on my health.  But I decided to give it a shot when an opportunity for a full-time job presented itself.  It was a hard transition, but I adjusted and ultimately I’m very pleased that I did it.  I now earn enough that I can live comfortably and still put aside some savings each week.

 

Live well within your limits.

When I first started my full-time job, I went a bit crazy with my pay cheques.  I started taking myself out for meals several times a week, splurging on clothes and household items that I’d been coveting and buying gifts for family and friends.  It was a lot of fun and I think I earned a bit of play-time.  But after a month or so of this I noticed that my bank balance was at a standstill.

 

If you want to put away money for a rainy day, you need to live within or below your means.  Find ways to save money and don’t go crazy with luxury spending.  You don’t have to live like a miser, but you also can’t live on a champagne budget and expect to save cash.

 

Have a savings plan

It’s not enough to simply decide to save, you need to decide where your savings are going to go.  Last year I opened up a dedicated savings account.  It’s a high-interest account and I get a reward every few months if I don’t make a withdrawal.  I don’t have a card attached to this account so if I want to withdraw from it I have to physically go into the bank.  I aim to put at least a little from each pay into this account.  I have a list of specific big-ticket items that I’m saving for, such as an overseas trip and a house or apartment.  It really helps to have a dedicated account for your serious-grown-up savings that’s tricky to access so that you won’t be tempted to dip into it for discretionary spending.

 

Put money away for retirement.

Superannuation is unsexy but important.  If you want the best possible deal on your super, you need to shop around a bit. Try to find a fund that works well for your lifestyle and financial profile.  If you can, try to make a voluntary contribution to your superannuation every now and then.  In Australia, if you meet a certain income threshold, the government will match any post-tax super contributions you make.  There are also some super funds which will give you a bonus if you make voluntary contributions.  So it definitely pays to put some cash into your fund from your own pocket wherever possible.

 

 

Make payments off your debts

Debt is one of the biggest obstacles to financial freedom.  I have never let myself have a credit card, so I am thankfully free from credit card debt.  But I do have a fairly significant HECS debt from my time at university.  So I make a point of making voluntary payments off this debt when I can.  Once your debts are repaid, you’ll have less liability hanging over your head.  And then you can just focus on saving.

 

What do you do to work towards financial freedom?  Are your future finances something you’ve given much thought to?

 

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Practicing yoga on a budget.

I’ve harped on about my love of yoga often in this space.  It’s my favourite way to move my body and I love encouraging other people to give it a try.  I’ve already written about how yoga has helped me with my depression and how it can be used to encourage body confidence.  Another reason that I adore yoga is that it needn’t be an expensive practice.  You don’t need to shell out loads of cash for equipment or gym memberships to revel in the benefits of a yoga practice.

To begin or grow your yoga practice, there are very few things that you need.  And most of them can be found very cheaply or for free if you know where to look.

Yoga basics. Cat optional.

 

Yoga mat

Yoga mats have become really popular,  but the truth is that you don’t strictly need one.  I practiced for months before I bought a mat.  The reason I got the mat in the first place is that I wanted to practice outdoors and a mat gave me a clean, stable surface to work on.  If you’re practicing indoors you probably don’t even need a mat.  However, if you find that the floor is too rough, hard or slippery you can use a towel or even a folded blanket to stretch out on.

 

Clothes for yoga

Although a yoga offers a great excuse to stock up on stretchy pants and racer-back tanks, these fancy duds won’t improve your practice.  All you really need are some comfortable clothes that you can move easily in.  I’m sure you’ve got a pair of leggings or shorts and a tee shirt kicking about in your wardrobe that will do the trick.

 

Blocks

A lot of classes use blocks to help students to ease into different poses.  The blocks are a great way to give you a bit more space and support when learning new poses.  If you can’t quite reach the floor, you just pop a block under your hand to bring the ground up to you.  Blocks can also be used to support knees in lunge poses, to sit on to give your hips more space to open and many other uses.  If you don’t have a block, a couple of thick books will do just as well.  Dictionaries are ideal.

 

Bolsters

Bolsters are used for restorative yoga to offer support and comfort in resting poses.  I made my own bolsters for about $5 using and old pair of pajama pants.  I just cut the legs off the pants, sewed both ends together and stuffed them.  If you aren’t handy with a needle and thread, a folded-up blanket or towel can be used in place of a bolster.

 

Straps

If you’re working on improving your flexibility, a strap can be really helpful.  Just loop it over your feet and hold onto the ends and work your hands slowly down the strap, trying to reach a bit further each day.  Your wardrobe is probably stocked with items that can be used instead of a strap: ties, belts and scarves all work well.  Choose something that doesn’t have a lot of stretch to it and which won’t tear under pressure.

 

Instruction

Joining a gym or attending regular yoga classes can be very pricey.  But you can cultivate a home practice using the awesomeness that is Youtube.  There are literally thousands of free yoga classes on Youtube which you can access in your very own home.  My favourite channels are Yoga with Adriene, Psychetruth and Leigha Butler.  Both Yoga with Adriene and Psychtruth have a range of videos targeted at different levels, whereas Leigha Butler’s channel is a bit more advanced.  But have a browse and experiment with different videos until you’ve found some that you like.

 

So you see, you don’t have to be flush with cash to get into some asanas and pranayama.  Just use what you have and develop a practice that suits your lifestyle.

 

Pssst!  You might also like to read my tips for improving your yoga practice.

 

Building a work wardrobe

When I began my first full-time job, I faced a fashion dilemma.  This was the first time I’d worked in a place that didn’t have a uniform, and I would be free to choose my own clothes for work every morning.  What joy!

My excitement was quickly dampened when I spent the initial hours of each morning fretting over what to put on my body.  I would stand in front of my open drawers scrutinizing each item and struggling to put together an outfit.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough suitable clothes, the problem was that I had TOO MUCH CHOICE.  I was overwhelmed by the options.

I decided that the best way to tackle this would be to create a “work wardrobe”.  I went through my current wardrobe with an eagle eye and pulled a selection of items that were work-appropriate.  I then bought a few basic-but-classic items to mix in with them.  My work wardrobe solved my daily “what to wear” dilemma and left me with enough extra time each morning to have another cup of tea before heading out the door.

If you’re facing a similar sartorial debacle, don’t worry.  Today I’m going to share my tips for putting together a work wardrobe that is practical and stylish.

Work wardrobe

 

First of all, remember that less is more.  You want to create a capsule wardrobe of carefully-chosen pieces.  You want enough to create a full week’s worth of outfits and not much more.  If you add too many items to your working wardrobe, you’ll be overwhelmed by choice.

 

My own working wardrobe contains a skirt, a pair of trousers, two dresses, three blouses and one jumper.  Everything matches everything else, so I can mix-and-match outfits from this selection.

 

To start with, choose simple block colours that team well together.  Look for crisp lines and simple pieces.  If you can’t resist a beautiful print, select a well-made blouse or jumper that can be worn with a plain skirt or trousers.  Dresses are also a great way to experiment with prints, because you don’t have to worry about matching them with anything; they’re an outfit all on their own.

 

Make sure that you select pieces that suit your body and that you feel comfortable in.  You’re going to spend a large portion of your week in these things, so make sure you feel great in them.

 

You don’t have to spend a fortune on your work wardrobe.  Look for items in your existing collection that will work.  I would recommend spending a bit more cash on some nice trousers or a simple skirt and then adding a few trendy blouses for each season.  Your basics will last longer and look more polished if you spring for good-quality versions.

 

Although it might seem boring to wear the same things every week, there’s an awesome way to dress up your work wardrobe.  Accessories will be your saving grace.  Never underestimate the power of an amazing pair of shoes, a gorgeous brooch or a unique scarf.  Use your finishing touches to change the look of your work wardrobe and bring a touch of personality to your outfits.

 

Don’t forget that you can still experiment with your hair and makeup to change your look.  I had loads of fun sporting victory rolls and red lippie with my basic work wear.

 

Resist the urge to add new items to your work wardrobe.  If items become worn-out, then replace them as necessary.  You might also like to add a few seasonal pieces, such as lighter-weight blouses for summer or pretty cardigans in winter.  Be selective about what you add to your work wardrobe, because if you make too many additions you will be swamped with options and you’ll eliminate the purpose of creating a capsule wardrobe.

 

I’ve found that having a work wardrobe made getting ready in the morning so much easier.  It saved loads of time and I knew that each day I walked out the door looking polished and put-together.

 

Do you have a work wardrobe?  What do you like to wear to work?

New years resolutions update: June and July.

It only just occurred to me that I haven’t updated you on how I’m going with my new year’s resolutions for a while.  So here’s a recap of what I’ve accomplished in the last two months.

My resolution for June was to eat at a teppanyaki restaurant.  I’ve never tried teppanyaki but I adore Japanese food and it just looks like a really fun way to dine.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit a teppanyaki restaurant in June.  I visited Melbourne in June right after my birthday and I considered going then, but it turned out to be a bit too pricey for me at the time. I would still like to make a date to try teppanyaki before the year is up.

However, I did take Luke (my new gentleman friend) to try Japanese food for the first time and it was a great success.  He was very adventurous and tried lots of different dishes and seemed to enjoy most of them.  He was particularly smitten with the wafu steak, and I had a go at cooking it at home one night.  My attempt was pretty delicious, but not nearly as good as what we had at the restaurant.

My July resolution was to buy nothing new for the whole month.

I fell down a bit when I visited Comic Con at the beginning of the month.  I just couldn’t resist snapping up this Dr Who print from Stewart McKenny.  But this was the only thing I purchased the whole time I was at the convention, which was very restrained of me.

Other than my gorgeous Doctor print, I was very well behaved with my spending for the rest of July.  I managed to keep my purse tightly closed and didn’t buy anything new.  I even managed to resist taking home a few treasures from the second hand shop when I went browsing with Mum.

So I managed to fulfull half of my resolutions for June and July, and there’s always time to catch up later in the year.

How are you going with your new year’s resolutions?

Daily outfit 14/2/2014

Happy Valentines Day!  It’s time for another Fancy Friday post.  Fancy Friday is an idea thought up by Dolly of Substance and Style to encourage people to bust out their glad rags to celebrate the end of each week.

This is an outfit that I wore to visit my grandparents earlier in the week.  It was HOT that day.  I know I keep going on and on about the heat, but it was scorching.  I wanted to wear something light and cool but with plenty of colour.  So I went for some second-hand goodies.

I am wearing:

– Blue camisole (thrifted)

– Yellow wrap skirt (second-hand) from The Dookie Emporium.

– Brown Zu sandals (thrifted)

– Heavy gold-tone bangle (thrifted)

– Brown resin ring (thrifted)

– Tortoiseshell sunglasses from Jay Jays.

Wearing this skirt was a bit of a gamble.  It’s a synthetic fabric and I wasn’t sure how cool it would be on a hot day.  Luckily it was really comfortable and lovely to wear in the heat. I just love the print and colour of this skirt.  I don’t usually wear yellow, because it tends to make me look really washed out.  However, I find that if I keep the yellow shades away from my face it looks just fine.

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This blue camisole is one of my favourite op-shop finds.  I love the deep, midnight-blue shade and the lace detail.  It is also really satiny and cool against the skin.  It matches the blue tones in the print of the skirt perfectly too, which I love. The best part about this cami?  It cost fifty cents.  No joke.

 

It just goes to show that you don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars to get a cute, colourful outfit.  When I tally up the cost of this outfit, it goes like this:

Skirt: $15

Camisole: fifty cents

Shoes: $5

– Sunglasses: $15

– Bangle: $6

-Ring: $1

Total = $42.50.

An entire outfit for less than $50.  You can’t complain about that.

 

What are you wearing this Friday?

1000 posts, and a huge thank you!

Would you believe that yesterday I posted my 1000th post on this blog?  I couldn’t believe it when I saw the numbers tick over.  It’s been four years since I began blogging, and I am so grateful for all the friends I’ve made, all the opportunities that have opened up to me and all the gorgeous people who read my blog every day.  When I started this blog, I had never dreamed that I would still be writing four years from now.  I absolutely adore writing for you, reading all your comments and getting in touch with you.

DSCF8523I want to say a massive Thank You!  to all of you. To everyone who reads this blog, whether on a daily basis, or whether you just pop over every now and again.  I am so grateful to each and every one of you.

I also wanted to thank all the fantastic people who purchased items from my etsy store in the lead-up to my move.  Thanks to you, I had enough money to buy myself a new fridge when I moved into my new flat, which is huge.  Every person who bought something from my store helped me out and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

As a small token of my appreciation, I’m having a sale on my e-books.  You can use the code MOVINGRIGHTALONG to get $2 off the price of each of my books.  That means that each one is just $3!

I currently have four e-books to choose from:

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Nessbow’s Guide to Second Hand Shopping

 

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Nessbow’s Guide to Developing your Personal Style

 

DSCF8169Nessbow’s guide to surviving college

 

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Living Frugally without sacrificing your style

 

All four books are available for instant download via my etsy store.  They’re packed with practical real-world advice that you won’t find here on my blog.

 

Thanks once again for all your support.  Here’s to another thousand posts!

 

Freebies! For you!

Welcome to the weekend.  Since it’s been a very long and trying week, I thought that I’d treat you to a little something.  We all like free things, right?  Well, I’ve got something for you that won’t cost a cent.

DSCF6056If you head over to my e-books page, you can download a sample chapter from each of my four e-books.  For free.  Seriously.

And if you like what you read and you’ve got a spare $5, you might like to consider buying one of my e-books.  They’re all packed with exclusive content that you won’t find on my blog.  Each book is available for immediate PDF download to your computer.  They’ve all been re-edited with fresh content and a clickable table of contents, so it’s easier to navigate through the book.  How’s that for an awesome deal?

The four e-books I”ve currently got for sale are:

– Nessbow’s Guide to Second Hand Shopping.

– Living Frugally without sacrificing your style

– Nessbow’s guide to developing your personal style.

– Nessbow’s guide to surviving college.

Each of the e-books are available through the e-book page on this blog or via etsy.

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Have a great weekend!