My financial story – confessions of a shopaholic at heart

Melanie Wegener, Money Savvy Mamma

Melanie Wegener

I have a confession to make about my financial story. I haven’t always been good with money. In fact, I’m more of a collector and spender than minimalist and saver. It’s just who I am.

I realise that it’s a bit ironic that I have a page about being money savvy. For many financial bloggers or finfluencers, they are great with money. It’s who they are, it’s what they do.

But when you are struggling to manage your finances, do you want to learn from someone who is earning hundreds of thousands a year and a million in shares? Maybe. They are definitely inspiring. They know their stuff.

It can also be a little intimidating. A little impossible to relate to because how could they even begin to understand the struggles you’re dealing with. The pull to spend money, to buy more, to have more stuff.

We can be our own worst enemy sometimes. We want to do better. We just don’t know how, or don’t know where to start. How to dig ourselves out of the hole that we’ve found ourselves in. How to earn more money so we’re not living week to week, pay to pay. It’s a stressful place to be.

I think it’s important to learn from the best, like Scott Pape, Canna Campbell, Lacey Filipich and Thomas J Stanley. I also think it’s important to learn from those who remind us of ourselves, the Becky Bloomwood’s of the world who can’t help but grab a bargain.

Here’s my financial story. I hope it gives a little insight into Mel, the girl behind money savvy mamma.

I’ve always enjoyed shopping & getting a bargain. I was drawn to the clearance racks and the outlet stores. I’d buy things because they were on sale but not necessarily because I needed them. I was a keen op shopper (thrift stores) and loved sifting through the racks to find a gem. Although I got some great deals, I ended up with too many clothes.

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Not all fitted perfectly or looked that good. I wouldn’t always wear them and they would end up donated again. I found it hard to justify spending lots of money to buy quality items. This was partly because we grew up without much money, but also partly because I wasn’t on a big wage myself.

My first time earning money was babysitting neighbours’ kids. It was good fun and I felt responsible. I got my first part-time job at 15. (Side note, I worked at a bakery for six years before realising I was allergic to flour. True story.) I loved the feeling of receiving a payslip and seeing money go into my bank account. I didn’t do many hours though and was often broke before payday. I still remember my account going into debit and being charged a $39 fee. Oh, how cruel that was.

I was brought up to believe that credit cards were dangerous so I never opened one. I made sure to pay off items in cash, and for that I am grateful. When I was 16, I saw an ad on TV about childhood poverty. I was moved and started sponsoring a child through World Vision. I had a heart for those doing it tough and gave lots away to charity. At one point it was a third of my income.

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I tried hard to save. At 17 I bought my first car for $2700. My late grandparents had put aside $1000 for each grandchild towards a car and for this I was so grateful. It was a 1985 Honda Civic. I saw it on the side of the road, pulled over to scribble down the phone number, and raced home to tell my dad.

He asked me what make it was. I had no idea. What model? Who knows. Auto or manual? I dunno. I did tell him that it was white and I could afford it and could we please give them a call. To my disgust it was a manual so I was no longer interested.

My dad gently encouraged me that he would teach me, so I decided that’s what I’d do. Lots of rabbit hopping around the block and practice in empty shopping centre carparks on a Sunday (showing my age now), and we got there. I was incredibly proud to have bought my own car and went on to keep it for five years.

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Growing up, I saw wealth as a negative thing. I thought investing was for the old & rich. It was something white guys did on Wall Street. By what I saw on the finance segment on the news, it seemed utterly confusing and boring. Buying shares or investment properties wasn’t on my radar. It wasn’t what my family did so I wouldn’t do it either. Keep it simple, save, buy a house, retire.

After school, I went to uni, took a year off to au pair in country England, came back to graduate and got a job. I fell in love with a wonderful man and got married. We’re still in love and very happy.

A few years ago, I saw a friend’s post in a Dave Ramsey discussion group on Facebook. I was intrigued so joined and started reading other posts. I bought Dave’s book ‘Total Money Makeover’ and the concepts made sense.

He’s got a lot to answer for with the way he speaks to people and and the way he treats his staff. He’s lost some fans in recent times. However I am grateful for how some of his ideas helped to switch my thinking about finances.

I asked my hubby to read it. He was interested in some of the concepts. We read The Barefoot Investor. together and began making changes with our money. We had always been intentional to avoid debt and only buy a house that we could afford, rather than what the bank would lend us.

We had paid off our uni debts and hubby’s car loan as soon as we could and had no other debt except the mortgage. The idea of shares was a foreign one to us so we started listening to podcasts like Captain Fi, We Talk Cents, The Joyful Frugalista & Sugar Mamma’s FirePlay to learn more.

We saved up an emergency fund in our mortgage offset account. This could be accessed if needed, but otherwise helped pay less interest. We set up sinking funds to save up for various things such as holidays, Christmas, renovations, furniture, appliances and shares. We met with a lawyer to create a will. We ensured that we had income protection and death & total disability insurance, and increased how much we were covered for.

I began decluttering and minimising what I had. I was so inspired by The Minimal Mom , Sugar Mamma , Messy Minimalism, Minimalish and Minimalist Moms to get rid of excess. I sold thousands of dollars of stuff, including $1300 on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree to surprise hubby with AFL Grand Final tickets. It was amazing the difference that owning less had in my life and on my mental health. Less clutter meant more calm. I finally had space to be creative in other ways.

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I started only buying things that I needed and loved. When something entered our house, I made an effort to sell or donate an item out. We opened seperate savings accounts and automated an amount each pay into them. This enabled us to spend how we like and not have to justify why we wanted to buy something. It’s been a good move.

In 2020, I started an Instagram account to document my financial journey. I thought I was doing okay with money and thought I had some tips to share with people. That’s when I discovered the #debtfreecommunity and the #FIREcommunity. I suddenly realised how little I knew and felt intimidated. I almost deleted my account several times because I felt I had nothing to give.

I was encouraged by a number of women, especially mothers, to keep posting. They liked that I was relatable and didn’t pretend to know it all. They liked having someone who earned a normal income, who was taking time off work to raise children and had to make it work with less money. They liked following someone who was new to the idea of shares and was figuring it out along the way.

Now that I know better, I keep striving to do better. I started dabbling in some side hustles. It was in the middle of the pandemic so things had slowed down, making room for more opportunities to earn money online. I took a baby step and started investing this extra cash.

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It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. In fact, it was surprisingly easy. Even fun. It was like shopping for shares! I set up automated investing from our income.

I have a long way to go and lots more to learn. I follow some amazing people on Instagram and continue to learn via Podcasts and YouTube. I’m proud of my financial journey so far.

I’ve learnt that there is always more to learn. I’ve learnt that just because you grew up without money doesn’t mean you can’t change your future. I’ve learnt that investing isn’t hard or scary or for old men. I’ve learnt that if you don’t put aside money for savings or investing as soon as it comes in, you’ll probably spend it. I’ve learnt that you can do much more on social media than mindless scrolling.

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I’ve learnt that there’s an amazing community on here that has inspired and taught me so much, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

Know that I’m nothing special.

Know that I’m far from perfect.

Know that I’m not the world’s best saver.

Know that I just have a heart to do the best for our family in our season.

I’m realising more and more that money and minimalism and motherhood are so closely intertwined. When you start reducing what you have, you can save more money, and this reduces the overwhelm as a parent.

You won’t find just money stuff on here, mainly because I’m not trained and it’s not my only passion. My page is a mixture of all three, along with my desire to get outside every day, continue to get fit and exercise and take steps to prioritise my friendships and marriage. I’m a happier woman, wife and mum when I take care of myself.

I’m thankful for this wonderful community of people for giving me a small platform to share my thoughts, ideas and learnings. I do appreciate you all.

I’d love to hear about your financial story – what has been your experience? 

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