Features: Why Impulsive Spending Means Financial Mess

Like any diligent personal finance reader, my resolutions at the end of 2016 were largely based around beginning to properly save a portion of my income, and working out ways to put the money I earned to good use. In the seven months since I’d graduated, I hadn’t saved a single penny of my pay packet. Despite having a good starting salary for my area, and the cheapest rent I would probably ever pay, at a paltry £295 pc/m, I found that I couldn’t stop myself from draining my checking account on the daily.

Living alone in a small city while my friends were off traversing the globe, (or stuck in their hometowns for the duration of the summer), I decided to take a break, and book a vacation to Toronto with my sister. Not far, you may gather, but as I currently live in south Wales, getting to Canada would require a flight to Dublin, followed by a transatlantic journey. The week-long holiday was relaxing and quite affordable when you consider the fact we stayed in an apartment downtown, and managed to make most of our own meals from grocery shopping while we were there. However, our impulsive decision to visit the city, taking trips round museums, and sunning it on the Toronto Islands-could easily have been replicated in somewhere European, far closer to home.

I get to travel for work and at the end of spring, I am intending to visit California. This business trip in particular had an incredibly quick turn-around, so a few of us have decided to make the most of the journey and tag on a holiday after our work is over. Without planning how much money I would need to save for the trip, and with two days notice from our finance team who were booking the flights, I decided that I would be mad to turn down a free return to San Francisco. While this decision has technically saved me thousands of pounds, I still have to figure out where I am going to find the funds for accommodation and spends for a week in a gorgeous but hardly cheap city.

The good news is that I managed to save £1,000 by the first of January. Through shaving off chunks of my pay packet into my newly opened savings account, with the addition of an unexpected Christmas bonus, birthday money, and a few cheque-filled Xmas cards, I started 2017 in a comfortable position. The bad news is that two weeks later, having spied a poster for the Spanish music festival Primavera, I’d booked flights, bought tickets, and made plans to stay in Barcelona with that money instead. In an attempt to curb my impulsive spending, I had set up a savings account and worked hard at ploughing my income into the safe space it provided. The only problem was that I could still see that four-figure number and it burned in my back pocket. At the mention of Solange, Frank Ocean and Skepta in the same arena, I shoved my own money into the sea.

Now I have two months to acquire the cash for the California trip. I am also beginning to look at new properties to rent come July, and the thought of a deposit, letting agency fees and the fact I need to survive San Francisco for a week has got me all in a sweat. I realize that this is a financial mess of my own making, and while I can still pay for my rent, food, and utilities, I really need to curb my unnecessary spending, pronto.

When you immediately transition from being a campus-bound student who lived in one pair of jeans and cheap Steve Jobs tops for a year, to being in charge of your own disposable income, it can take time to learn how to manage your money. I am grateful that I have spent my wages on travel and ‘experience’ instead of expensive shoes and cheap clothing, but I do wish I had been a bit smarter and a little less whimsical. I am going to have to side hustle like hell for the foreseeable, and I really do only have myself to blame.

Words by India Alicia
Tweet @indiaaliciat

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