Years ago I remember Fiona from Simple Savings saying to me 'Teaching people to save money is easy! It's making them WANT to save money that's the hard part'. She was, and still is absolutely right. After all, we hear people say they need to save money all the time - often with a light hearted giggle - but how often do we actually make a concerted effort to do it?
The problem with saving money is that unless your circumstances are dire enough that you have no choice, the thought of it is actually really boring and unappealing. It's all a bit grown up, a bit too serious for a lot of us. And let's face it, a lot of money saving experts don't help because they make it sound too posh and well, experty for the average person. I like to consider myself a reasonably intelligent chicky but over the years I'm embarrassed to admit I have a collected a worryingly large collection of 'serious' money saving books, all of which sit gathering dust on my shelf and none of them have ever been read beyond the first few pages. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they're all actually brilliant and really helpful! It's just that I can't stick my nose into any of them for more than five minutes without me thinking 'I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about', 'Woah, this is wayyyy over my head' or quite simply 'Jeez this is boring!'
If I had one wish (once I get myself out of Operation Hellhole of course) it would be to become the Dav Pilkey of money saving. Who's Dav Pilkey? He's the legendary author of the super popular 'Captain Underpants' series of kids' books. It may not exactly be Pulitzer Prize style literature but nonetheless he is a very clever bloke. He got an entire generation of youngsters to embrace reading and power through his books voraciously by tapping into what makes kids all over the world laugh - poos, bums, farts and calling his characters daft names such as Professor Poopypants and The Bionic Booger Boy. Apologies if I'm making you cringe, I appreciate toilet humour isn't everyone's bag but the thing is, IT GOT THEM READING. What did it matter if it wasn't Black Beauty or Anne of Green Gables? The important thing was that it pushed their buttons so that they read.
And that's the thing when it comes to making people want to save money - you just need to find someone who pushes your buttons. You can have 10 people all saying the same thing but it's HOW they say it that's the important thing, otherwise they might as well be talking to a wall. I actually had a brilliant light bulb moment the other day which didn't come from a financial expert at all, yet resonated with me so much it almost had me doing a happy dance. It came from Elizabeth Gilbert, the mega famous author of 'Eat, Pray, Love' and talked about being kind to her future self. By this she meant doing something in advance that in the future she could thank herself for having the foresight to make her life easier. If you happen to have your Facebook window open, check out the whole post here and you'll see what I mean.
Anyways, all of a sudden I got it. Elizabeth Gilbert, unbeknown to her had triumphed where all the dusty books on my shelf and the serious experts on TV had failed. True and valid as it was, I didn't want to be told 'Save money for your retirement, save money for your funeral, save money for your children's education'. That's at least fifty million years away, who seriously wants to think about that now?! But looking after my future self? Yeah, I get that! I want to do that! I want to do stuff for my future self now so that when I get there, I can give my past self a high five and say 'Thanks for that!'
It's a shame Elizabeth Gilbert wasn't around years ago or who knows, Operation Hellhole may not even exist! As it is, not looking after my future self earlier is certainly making things more challenging now. This is me with my eldest son, Liam. He's 18 and is going off to university at the opposite end of the country in less than three weeks. I'm one of those annoyingly laid back parents who let their kids do and be whatever they want and have never pushed them into further education so I couldn't be prouder of him for choosing to undertake another three years of study! However I'm prouder still because from the moment he arrives my big fella is going to have a lot of pressure on his young shoulders. How come? From not realising earlier how important it is to look after my future self and selflets. From the moment Liam signed up for his course we were very careful to make sure we dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's. Student loan - tick. Student allowance - tick. Get a job - will do. We thought we had it sussed; pay a bond and then use the student allowance plus to pay for his accommodation each week like other people we knew. Sweet!
So we got the fright of our lives the other day when attached to his letter of acceptance was a bill for $5,775 deposit. Due to be paid in less than a week, with another payment of the same amount due in July. All of a sudden it became crystal clear why a hell of a lot of people leave school and get a job instead of going to uni. Having just finished our week of living on $6.35 I did the only thing I could do and that was burst out laughing. Followed by a lengthy bout of hyperventilation and finishing with a flood of tears. 'I guess that's it then - you can't go!' I told him. I can't even describe how I felt. Just like that, my boy's dreams were over, all because of years of ignorance and lack of foresight on my part. Bloody hell, this was serious. What the hell was he going to do now?
I slept on it - badly - and came up with an answer in the morning. There was only one thing we could do and that was ask for help. We didn't want to do it - we REALLY didn't want to do it but if Liam wanted it badly enough he was going to have to. He did and thank the Lord it was given, the deposit was paid and this wonderful young man still gets to pursue his dream career. But from the moment he arrives at his new home he will be under considerable pressure. Every week the money he receives from his student allowance will immediately go towards paying off that loan and already he is looking for a job so he can start work as soon as he gets down there. I wouldn't want to be him bless him, it's going to be tough! The only good thing is that he has a mother who knows thousands of ways to save money on pretty much everything but one thing is for sure, from now on my future self is going to be receiving regular payments! In two years my youngest son will also be leaving home and this time I am going to be ready.
So there you go, consider me living proof that you DO need to listen to the experts when it comes to the big things in life. A lot of them might have a horribly boring way of putting it, but if that's the case, keep hunting until you find the right one for you. Or I guess you could just 'like' Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook but I think that was a bit of a fluke! One money expert who is definitely not boring is Rob Stock, money editor of the Sunday Star Times. If you haven't seen his article about yours truly yet you can find it here. I'm chuffed to bits with it!