Living Paycheck to Paycheck is Often a State of Mind

I started my adult search for a career straight out of college in Ireland,  I didn’t get the jobs I applied for initially.  I was a trained analyst/programmer and female which 20+ years ago was unusual as there weren’t many a) programmers around and b) female ones were a novelty.   I went for a few interviews but essentially I was shortlisted to final 2 but the programming world wasn’t quite ready for me.

I decided to up-sticks and return to London where I was born as I was intending to use what I’d worked hard for ‘I had skills’, if anyone would give me a chance. I stayed with my Uncle for a few months until I drove them mad. I applied for lots of jobs advertised in the papers and I registered with some recruitment agencies where I ended up in all kinds of interviews ‘not many for analyst/programmers’, I don’t think they knew what one was.  The agencies often sent me for secretarial jobs and then they were shocked when I didn’t have the speeds??   I applied for cleaning, assistant pa, retail jobs you name it, I applied for it.  As I had barely any cash at this stage and my Uncle and his Wife wanted their space (who could blame them I was a nightmare).    So I took what I could get and became an assistant in a photographic company in Croydon in London.

My starting wage was 8000 a year and my rent was £250 excl. bills.   I was paid monthly and would spend £100 out of my salary initially on clothes  (that soon stopped) and then I had to pay utilities, train fares and learn about life ….. needless to say in the first few months I was living month to month.  In the third month I set up a direct debit out of my account for £130 a month and I never changed it for the first 12 months I worked.  I pulled my belt in, had a set food menu for my first 10 months (fishfingers mash and peas with onion sauce every wednesday), brought lunch from home and didn’t go out that much.  My intention was to keep going to interviews and eventually I would find a better job, my life would change but in the meantime it was a start and I was learning about photography and working with some interesting people.

I was brought up to pay in cash and save for what I couldn’t afford, to take a second job, to find deals, to economise, find alternatives, sweat your assets, buy in bulk when it made sense.  To always have money for a rainy day and enough cash in the bank to get a flight back to Ireland for a funeral (I know but it’s important).  I put myself through college and lived off of £5 a week incl. transport, food, washing, going out and the occasional trip home (usually thumbed).  I knew how to manage on very little, to get the best savings rates, to shop around and I think this is what has always stood to me. I moved on from the job in Croydon, I worked as an analyst/programmer for the government but I didn’t like it as I was too isolated, I liked working with bigger teams of people.  I worked as a Freelance PC analysts, I managed a Medical Computer Helpdesk, I had a photographic market stall (that Croydon job gave me some skills), I worked as an analyst, a project then program then crisis manager in an Investment Bank in London from which I catapulted myself a few years back. I have been writing music, taking photos, giving others advice and making ends meet without a monthly pay check.  I have come full circle and I am loving life, I budget, I look for deals, I love nice things but I can do without them and now I have enough nice things that I don’t need many more and I am debt free. That £150 a week continued throughout my working life increasing as I stepped up.   I find myself now in my mid 40s deciding what I want to do with the rest of my life and luckily for me my mindful approach to work and spending and life is paying for my time out.  I am hoping that the next 40+ years will be the best chapter 😉

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