Part 1: My Story
For as far as I can remember, I always had nice things. If someone had a bicycle, I would have one that’s triple the price and quality. I never ran out of new clothes, and Hari Raya was always like I won the lottery. It’s not intimidating for me to be having RM100 or RM200 in my pocket when I was young.
I didn’t ask for this things, my mom just likes to buy stuff. She’s a spender, an over-buyer. I could just ask for money and I’ll receive.
My parents divorced when I was 6, maybe, I can’t really remember when. When you have so much stuff around you, you just busy yourself with it. I didn’t really understand the divorce, nor did I have any feelings whenever they have arguments. I can’t remember what they fight about, but I think it has something to do with money and the fact that my mom won’t listen to my dad. And also she wasn’t playing a role as a mother – she would leave me somewhere and go hang out with her friends.
I was never fazed by money. Because of the abundance of money that I had, I never gave a thought about my future. I was an optimist in my teens. I believed everything will be smooth-sailing, I had a positive, stubborn, no bullshit attitude. I think that was when I started going downhill.
In university, I received a lot of compliments from my friends and lecturers. Like, I didn’t have to study or put much effort in my assignments and I would still get As. My assignments will still be showcased in class.
That was when I couldn’t get myself together. I got big-headed, I thought I was better than the lecturers, I thought I could ace the classes. So I started skipping classes, started playing around. I was failing classes and had to repeat the subjects, which meant I had to pay more tuition fees.
Around this time, my mom was also struggling. She was going through a second divorce, and she wasn’t taking it well. Mainly because it was the lack of money. But the less money she had, more she spent. She lied, she borrowed, she finished my sister’s savings (that my grandpa had set aside for her, and also sold her apartment), she refused to pay the maid her salary – it was nasty. I didn’t like her attitude at this time. She was pissy, overly emotional about everything.
My student loan wasn’t enough to cover my tuition fees, and my mom certainly can’t pay, so I did friend’s assignments and did freelance jobs. But the more I did it, the more I realised I don’t have to go to classes, I’m already getting paid. So why should I waste my money when I could be earning?
But there was that nagging feeling and fear that I’ll get in trouble if I didn’t graduate. And my family has been asking when will I finish my studies and I keep telling them, “in 2 years” – but the time never came.
I finally got a job, and disappeared from university life. But I never valued or learnt how to organise money. I had a ton of freelance web developing jobs – I made about RM20,000. (It hurts so much to think about the money I had wasted). I keep telling myself that I want to save the money, but I always somehow ended spending it.
I live from salary to salary. I spent a lot of money on eating out, hanging out with friends, commute to work and rent (I don’t know why I chose to live so far away).
A friend once said to me, “What happened to you? You used always have money.” It made me wonder, but I couldn’t answer. Where did that abundance of wealth go?
I got married, my mom paid for my reception, my husband took a loan for his. Unfortunately for me, he wasn’t financially literate either. If anything, he’s worse. Needless to say, we didn’t have any savings. Even with our combined income, we have barely left by the end of the month. What’s more puzzling was that we didn’t have much to pay – we didn’t have kids yet, we’re staying with my in laws, we’re driving a small car. We never totally ran out of money, and somehow it didn’t bother us.
When pregnant with my second child, I decided to quit my job to run my own business and to be with my kids. Looking back, I probably didn’t think it through financially. That would be my second mistake. During this time I had to rely on the dividends from my ASB. I bought a laptop with my credit card so that I can do my freelance web dev job.
My mom gave us RM50,000 for down payment to upgrade to a new car, because we were expecting another baby. My mom transferred it to my husband’s account. I can’t remember what we did with it, but I knew RM10,000 went to my husband’s friend who was opening his food truck business. (He still owes us RM2,000 by the way). That’s mistake #3.
I realised I gave too much power to my husband to make financial decisions when he didn’t know what he was doing. Over the years, there has been a number of times that I was influenced by him financially, and they were clearly the wrong things to do. But I didn’t put my foot down then, which resulted in a lot of stress on my part because I had to pick up the pieces.
My mother help us out a lot, she is our source of abundance. I am extremely grateful for her help, although it’s starting to make me feel awkward – because I can’t get my shit together. And it’s even more awkward because the money comes from my stepfather, so in reality, my stepfather is supporting us.
My husband then quit his job, which puts me in more stress because I am now the breadwinner of the family, with 3 kids. And one more on the way.
I managed to save, RM4000. But I had to use it up to help my dad pay for his car and his house. So I have zero savings now. I’ve cancelled my children’s insurance, I’ve downsized a lot of things.
If previously I was living salary to salary, this time my salary only lasted the first 2 weeks. 95% of my salary goes to paying commitments and debts. It has been more than a year of me doing this alone, and it is exhausting.
I bought materials for my business with my credit card. But I couldn’t get my business growing as fast as I wanted because of my debts. I took up freelancing on top of a full-time job, which left me with very little time to work on my business. Plus, my products are all made by me, which takes more time.
I’m so ready to get out this mess.
Part 2: Moments to Reframe
From all these experiences, I realised that I had been naive and possibly ignorant. I let my “future” me deal with the problem. I would think, “Oh, I’m going to be able to pay it in the future”, when I really can’t.
Reframe #1: However, I do have a lot of abundance in my life, it’s just that they’re not in the form that I want it – which money. I’m too caught up with / focused on the debt that I have and the weighing feeling it gives me and it stresses me out.
While it’s true that I’m still in debt and I need to work my ass off, there are plenty of things that I don’t need to worry about.
I don’t need to worry about:
- Food. My mom buys food or cooks for us. Or Mak comes over with TONS of delicious food. (Speaking of which, she’s coming over today with food, God bless her soul.)
- Groceries. We have tons of vouchers or again, my mom buys them for us.
- Preschool. My mom paid the kids’ school for the whole year – so we can focus on getting our work done.
- Rent & bills. We’re staying with my mom, so we don’t have to pay squat. We just have to help around the house.
- My husband. Although he is part of the problem, I think the situation we are in right now humbled him a bit, and he does help out with the kids and chores to give way for me to work and time to rest.
- My healthy reproductive system. As much as it’s troubling me now, I know I will be grateful that I have a lot of children. A lot of couples are struggling to conceive, and here I am, effortlessly having kids. They all mean something, I just need to let it be.
Reframe #2: Having children was important for me to start being responsible. It was a necessary for me to have them in order for me to realise the importance of financial security. If I didn’t have my children, my lifestyle would be the same. I feel my husband is late to the game, but with this 4th baby on the way, I think he’s starting to feel the pressure. Which is good.
Part 3: Heroine’s Journey Version
I don’t have a heroine story yet, because I’m just starting on this journey to be more in touch with money.
Throughout my journey, I think I’ve gained credible reputation as a web developer among my friends that I can charge a higher price, and they expect it from me. I’ve met new people along the way, come up with good ideas for new business or projects.
I’m feeling confident that my business, Figment will grow starting this Raya. I’m so sure that things will pick up – my husband will start bringing in money to the family and help me with our commitments. There are more jobs coming in at a steady pace, with clients that we’d love to work with. Our cashflow coming in will be more consistent.
We will finally be able to spend money on things that we love – our family. Hold parties and gatherings for them and help THEM out with their debts.
It’s going to be good, I feel it.