Moving to Australia was an amazing idea. Figuring out I couldn't afford it was devastating.
My financial history was terrible. A credit score between the low 600s or high 500s. I was constantly angry, fearful, and anxious:
- The anger from piles of credit card bills that were past due
- The fear of receiving an overdraft letter from the bank
- The anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck
If fear, anger, and anxiety weren’t enough, my attitude of “you only live once” was rampant. I didn’t mind partying, shopping or eating at whatever 24-hour diner or taco stand for 'after the party'. All the while my bank account was zero or nearing zero. No one should have to get an overdraft fee for spending $2.50 at Alberto's taco stand.
But the motivation to move to a new country was exciting. It helped me focus on the bigger picture and get my finances back into shape. I had to say goodbye to my old ways and it wasn't easy, but it was hella rewarding.
Here is how I paid off $20,000 in debt and saved $10,000 to move to Australia.
How to Save Money and Move Abroad
I had many doubts about moving to Australia, mainly, financial doubts.
Mistakes from my past were haunting me and going to Australia meant I finally had to face them.
If you read my post about goals, you know honesty with oneself is the only way to reach your goals. Before deciding to move abroad, I had made attempts to pay off debts but always failed. One month I would get all my bills paid, the next I was buying another round at the bar for my friends.
Why couldn’t I get off this path of self-destruction?
I started asking myself some serious questions. When did my recklessness start? Why was I always looking for instant gratification? Why couldn't I spend a Friday night at home?
When did I start wasting money?
It was 2005, I was going to school at CSULB and was a manager at Blockbuster. YES, Blockbuster. Ha! Anyways, it was the weekend in a very posh neighborhood near Long Beach. Tons of fancy cars and expensive houses surrounding this particular location.
It was Sunday morning, and I went to deposit the cash and checks from the night before into the bank's overnight depository. As I started to open the locked box, a masked man put a gun in my face.
In that moment, I could see people watching the situation play out. But the gunman and I became invisible. They went on with their day like nothing was happening. This is called bystander effect.
Till this day, that moment feels beyond surreal. They never found him nor did Blockbuster care about the measly $1000 they lost that day, but it mattered to me.
This event broke me. Worse, my family and friends didn't understand why it impacted me so badly. I felt alone. I felt scared. I started suffering from anxiety attacks.
After a while, I got tired of feeling scared. Enter the YOLO attitude. I shopped like I had a gold amex, partied like Paris Hilton and responsibility became non-existent. Hence receiving a receipt for $576 from a bar.
Why did this moment have such a big impact in my life?
Bystander effect is real, but watching those people do nothing to help me, hurt me. In that moment, something switched in my mind and I believed I wasn't worth saving. Thus, my logic changed, from being responsible to rationalizing going out. I remember thinking, "I could die tomorrow, so why not enjoy myself? Bartender another round of patrón, please!"
It's outrageous, but this was my exact thought process. I wasn’t pragmatic, I bought all the 'happiness' I could get from the credit cards I had.
Instead of paying my credit cards, I bought another round at the bar.
Instead of paying my phone bill, I bought a new pair of shoes.
I don’t know how I made it through five years of this.
Getting Real With Myself and Money
Being robbed was the trigger of my bad financial decisions. But after five years, I realized maybe life was going to be longer than I thought. Ultimately, I was tired of scrounging for pennies and living paycheck to paycheck.
But most importantly, I realized I wasn't worthless. In that moment, my mind restarted and I was finally able to flip that switch back to normal. It was an awakening.
From that point, I was able to make peace with the gunman, the bystanders, and myself.
With that mental clarity, I knew moving to Australia was something I had to accomplish. I started by creating a Financial Action Plan.
The Financial Action Plan To Save Cash and Move overseas
Getting real with finances. I joined mint.com and linked every bank account that I had available.
Every day, multiple times I day, I checked my balances using the app. Which made it easy to counteract any moments of weakness. Ie if I was out shopping with friends, I had the sanity to check my phone and put the clothes back on the rack.
Find money motivation. The Suze Orman Show did exactly that for me. I loved the segment, “Can You Afford It?” Suze would go through someone's financial history and assess if they could afford what they wanted to buy. Kids also called hoping to get approval to buy a new toy. Suze would inform them that yes, they could have the toy, but there was another option. If they put the money into a savings account their money would grow over time with interest 10x the amount of the toy. Every now and then a kid would choose to save his money. If a kid could hold restraint from getting a new toy, I sure as hell could too!
Get clarity with spending habits. Mint has a tool that tells you exactly where your money goes. On average, I spent over $1000 a month on night outs, another $750 on restaurants/eating out, and too much on wasted groceries. This was eye opening.
Make a budget. I balanced my cash between what I needed to live, debts and a small portion to having fun. This budget was strict. I left the credit cards at home and only carried cash to prevent myself from getting too out of hand. I removed excesses like going out to eat, cable, and Netflix. I found joy in simple things like walks, reading, and alone time.
Prioritize debts. I thought a savings was more important than having debts. Wrong. Immediately, I paid off my credit cards starting with the ones that had the highest interest. Once my cards were in check, I started saving.
The Outcome of Making a Budget
Like I said, this journey was not easy. I was addicted to checking my balance on Mint.com, but I also hated saying "no" to to things I wanted to do. I was insanely uncomfortable.
After a while, I was checking mint less and saying yes more often. I grew confidence in what my budget and felt comfortable when I said, "no, i don't need another drink, I'm gonna head home now." Tough as all hell, but It helped me regain confidence and security within myself. I felt like I was in control.
Understanding the trigger of my recklessness made it easier to stick to a plan. I was able to focus and remind myself why it was important to be responsible again.
Because I'm important!!
I was going to have an amazing life; paying off debt, saving money, and moving to Australia was how I was going to prove it to myself.
In 10 months, I paid off $20,000 off and saved $10,000 more!
If you think you can't move to Australia, you can! Figure out what's holding you back from financial freedom. Ask the hard questions, make a plan of action, and start packing your bags!
What's Holding you back from your next big adventure and how will you overcome it?