There is no rock bottom that a good spreadsheet can’t fix
By Kaity Cook
My money story involves traveling abroad, finding love in a British pub, a surprise twist, and being rescued once again from rock bottom by my best friend – a good old spreadsheet.
My money story
At 26 I was working in my dream job as a banker and earning more money than I knew what to do with. I had purchased my first house at 24 and had just paid off a car that I absolutely loved. I was living the life my 12-year-old Monopoly obsessed self had always dreamt of. However, my relationship with money wasn’t healthy and that was still holding me back. At some point in my childhood, I had picked up the belief that happiness was something you purchased, and something you had to keep on purchasing.
“When I buy a house … I will be happy”
“When I earn a little more money … I will be happy”
“When I buy one more outfit … I will be happy”
The more money I earnt, the more I spent. I was earning an amazing yearly salary, but still accumulating debt.
Changing my money story
So, why would someone in a suffocating amount of debt and a mortgage decide to quit her job and buy a one-way ticket overseas?
The first time was fear. The second time, love.
Right before my 27th birthday, I made a desperate decision to finally change my money story. I saw the only way to accomplish this was to get out of my current routine. So I took a career break, sold my car, packed up my life into a single suitcase, and bought a one-way business class ticket to London.
If I had known I would lose all my money as quickly as I did once I got to London, I would have taken more photos in business class. I was not prepared for the outrageously expensive city of London. I had an entry-level position working for a big company but the pay was low and came in monthly. I was living paycheck to paycheck and I was no longer spending more than I earnt because I just couldn’t.
It was here, in the two most broke years of my life that my relationship with money shifted. I stopped attaching my self worth to the amount I earnt and the items that I purchased. I found new ways to make my money go further, like walking to work instead of catching the bus, and wearing hand-me-down clothes from friends instead of buying new ones.
I was forced to redefine my connection with money, finally seeing it as a tool that allowed me to explore the things that would bring me joy and personal growth. For the first time, I put my time
and money into exploration and experiences. I travelled to Poland, all around England, Greece twice, Amsterdam twice, Scotland three times, Bulgaria and Croatia.
On March 30th, 10 months before my visa expired, I met the love of my life, Tom, in a British pub.
Hitting rock bottom
My relationship with Tom got serious very quickly, so when it came time for me to pack up and leave London forever he decided he would quit his job, pack it all up and leave with me. Our plan was to travel around South East Asia for one year.
We arrived in Bangkok ready for our first real adventure, as soon as the thick Thailand heat hit us, so did the weight of our new reality. We had no income and no job prospects. I was still paying off debt and a mortgage and we only had enough money to last us 6 weeks! What the hell were we thinking?! How were we going to make this work?!
What’s the worst that can happen?
Just as the fear was starting to consume me, this powerful thought snuck in. All the worst-case scenarios had already happened to me before, and I had survived them all. The thought that scared me the most was having to live apart from my new love in separate countries if we couldn’t make this new life work. We had no choice. We had to make this work.
Introducing the life-changing powers of the spreadsheet my friends.
I’ve always found comfort in a good old spreadsheet sesh, but this time I found strength and power in entering my current financial reality into those non-judgmental boxes. From there Tom and I worked hard as a team; breaking down our goal of surviving one year in Asia together into smaller daily steps. Having been a chef for 12 years Tom focused on retraining, learning, and upskilling. He eventually found consistent work online assisting small-business owners in growing their operations. I used my 10 years experience in banking, set up an online consulting business and landed a client straight away.
After many tears, making the difficult decision to sell my house (it no longer aligned with my values), paying down debts, learning to surf, climbing mountains, exploring waterfalls, many sunburns, new friends, and a lot of rejection, we made it to the end of 2019 still living together in Indonesia. It was a magical year! We had spent it traveling Thailand, the Philippines, going back to the UK, living in Bali for (9 months), and visiting the surrounding islands, even visiting family back in Aus a couple of times.
Insert that unexpected life twist
At the beginning of 2020, on our way to explore and live in Nicaragua, I went to the Doctors as I was feeling a little off. Turns out I wasn’t sick, I was actually 4 months pregnant! This was not a part of our plan for 2020. As we were living the digital nomad life so we still didn’t have visas to
live in each other’s countries, we had no home, no idea what we needed for a baby, no furniture, no car, and we were in the middle of a global pandemic.
By now we had a lot of practice in adapting to anything that life throws at us and we had already learned some really valuable and practical tips for moments just like this one. One of them being: spreadsheets are your best friend. Simplify and strategize!
My current money story
We are now back in Australia. Tom has applied for his visa. Our son Alfie is now 10 week old and we live a minimalist lifestyle in a rental house. We are excited to teach our son that money will always come and go but memories and experiences stay with you for life. You can always make more money, but you will never get back your time.
Tom and I now work as a team running a Digital Marketing business called Stone Lead Gen. We help people grow their business’ so they can spend more time exploring all the wondrous things that bring them joy.
My money journey thus far has taught me that you can’t let a scary financial situation cripple you. You can find your way out of debt, out of rock bottom, out of unexpected life obstacles, and still end up thriving. It’s just up to you to decide what thriving looks like.
Don’t let your old money story hold you back.
5 practical tips that I have learned from my personal money story that you can apply to your life now to get you started:
- Build resilience: You have to work hard for what you want in life. That means not quitting when you reach the first, second, or third obstacle. Be open to changing your strategy if necessary whilst working towards that big goal you really want.
- List your skills and your knowledge gaps to see where you are at now and where you want to be. The smallest experience or skill could be your greatest strength.
- Turn your money into time: Work out how much you spend a month on absolutely everything in your life, then break down your savings to work out how far that number could get you with no money coming in. Maybe you have 1 month up your sleeve, or maybe you have a sneaky 12 months you didn’t even realize you had. If you do have time, what will you do with it? If you have not accumulated any time yet what would you be willing to do differently to gain some?
- Be honest and realistic: Be honest with where you are today on your money journey and be realistic with where you want to be. You can’t move forward from where you are now if you feel too ashamed or scared to look at the reality of your current financial situation. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We are all doing the best we can.
- When you are feeling scared or worried always ask yourself: “What’s the worst that can happen?” Write down each possible worst case scenario, then ask yourself: “When I am 80 how will i want to remember this moment?”