Despite being a double-income household, Anastasia somehow had very little money left over every month and couldn’t understand where it all went.
But, with the help of three money lessons, she managed to turn her finances around and saved more than $160,000 in less than three years.
“I was just thinking, there's no way we can keep this going. We're just working and working, but there's nothing to show for it,” Anastasia said.
So, she enrolled in Mastering Money, an online financial education course, run by SkilledSmart, helping adults learn how to save, invest, and manage their money.
In less than eight months, Anastasia had organised her finances in a way that helped her feel in control of her budget. Finally, her family was doing more than just ‘breaking even’ and had saved more than $5,000. Fast-forward another 16 months and her family had pulled together an additional $160,000 in savings. Another year on, she and her husband bought a family home after 17 years of renting.
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Today, at 51 years old, Anastasia finally feels confident about her finances.
“I feel more knowledgeable, more calm and collected. It's made a big difference. Especially the peace of mind that … I've got this. Even if I don’t know everything, I know I can get answers,” she said.
Anastasia shares three money tips that she learned on her journey of financial transformation:
1. Start small and stay curious to overcome the fear of finance
Finances were something Anastasia previously didn’t want to look at.
“It was like wading through muddy waters. Things were hiding in the dark that I didn't really want to look at. I thought it would be too difficult to understand. People make it seem really convoluted and scary and dark and mysterious, but it's not.”
Having things broken down into small actionable steps and taking one of them at a time helped her make incremental progress, soothing her fears and building her confidence. Now, she encourages others to start small and approach their finances with a curious mindset.
“I started to become interested and curious. Through that curiosity and exploration, I started to discover that it’s not that difficult. I can actually understand it. Then, when I started applying it, I could see the changes happening. Then you start to think ‘Well, if I can do this, then the next step shouldn’t be too hard’.”
2. Align your spending with your goals and values
Anastasia was astonished at how much her life changed as a byproduct of the financial changes she was making.
“I had no idea it would impact so many other areas of my life. It's made such a huge difference to the way we shop, the way we live, the way we eat, just the possibilities are endless.”
In particular, Anastasia noticed a big shift in her family relationships and health. The family started spending more time together cooking meals at home instead of eating out, which not only made space for more family time but translated to improved health outcomes as well.
“Before, we did takeaways and really weren't a cohesive family unit. That has now changed to weekly plans done on a Sunday. We know how much it's going to cost us because it's already worked out and the stress level has just reduced so much.
"As a family, we now come together at meal times. My son is a lot more involved in cooking now. My relationship with my husband is a lot better. It's made us connect as a family unit.”
3. Take ownership of your own finances
Anastasia learned the hard way that there’s no substitute for understanding and taking control of your own finances. Years ago, she engaged a financial professional but had a bad experience. She puts this down to lacking the knowledge to understand and question the advice properly.
“There was a lot of confusion. We went along with things that we didn’t really understand, trusting that the professionals knew what they were doing. We weren’t really skilled at asking the right questions.
"We agreed to invest in a share program. We were told we’d get more out of it at the end but, after a couple of years, we made a loss, getting back less than what we put in.
“So, now, it’s important to me to understand what’s going on. I want to know why you are recommending something, what it will do for me, what the implications are.”
Anastasia’s newfound financial knowledge and confidence came in handy when buying a home.
“I was like a different person. I was the one moving things along, looking for properties, talking to agents and banks. So, my skill level has increased considerably.”
Now, Anastasia hopes her story will inspire others to take control of their finances.
“You have to have a little courage to take that first step. Things will start to change, even if it’s only a small difference at first. But, over time, that momentum builds up and it’s life-changing.”
SkilledSmart is a financial education platform helping adults learn to save, invest and manage their money. On their website, you can download a free e-book on “5 Money Mistakes Costing You Thousands”, and learn more about the Mastering Money program.