Budapest, Hungary. October, 2009. It is a cold, rainy night. I go to the ATM to withdraw some foreign currency so that I can buy food and eat. The dreaded message appears: Insufficient Funds. No money = no food. Credit card maxed out. Defeated, I slumped down to the ground.
Now, for the good news – I got through it. Take it from someone who has been knocked down by life his fair share of times: the sun will always rise again. There is always a solution, another way out, even when the situation seems impossible. You are always free to choose your own response, no matter how many people have betrayed you.
Let us backtrack for a moment: while studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary for the semester, the company from my job over the previous summer went out of business. I was not paid thousands of dollars that I was owed, and I never heard from my manager again. At the time, I was young and naïve and did not sign any kind of contract, so I was incapable of taking the bankrupt business to court. Right before I flew out to Budapest, I was promised the funds, but shortly thereafter the company went belly-up. For various reasons, I had no outside help and was stuck in Budapest left to fend for myself.
How did I get through it? I fought, I scrapped, and came up with any job that I possibly could. I tutored people in mathematics, one of my best subjects. I worked overnight shifts at hostels so that I could eat in the morning. In a nutshell, I solved my own problem. Since then, I have forgiven my manager who left me to fend for myself. He allowed me to learn self-reliance. Remember the wise words of Isabelle Holland: “As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy rent-free space in your mind.”
What does this have to do with your finances? Everything. I want you to know that I understand what you are going through, and from this mutual agreement we can move forward. All you have to do is follow two simple steps. They will be the two simplest yet most important steps you have ever taken in your life.
First and foremost, wipe the slate clean. Forget about the money that other people owe you. Learn your lesson, forgive, and move on. This is extremely difficult, yet will be the most cathartic exercise you have ever completed in your entire life. I have been lied to and betrayed, promised one thing and then given another. I have been cheated and used financially. But I have chosen to wipe the slate clean. You must do the same otherwise you will hold yourself back. Don’t forget. Don’t make the same mistake again. But definitely forgive.
Second, create a budget for yourself. The concept of a “budget” is often viewed as restricting. I am here to tell you the exact opposite. A budget is actually quite empowering. Successful people know that only when you are disciplined can you be truly free. The whims of appetite, compulsions, and emotions, symptoms of an undisciplined mind, will control you if you are not careful. There is no better feeling in the world than that of being in control of your life and finances, conscious of every purchase, careful with every penny. This does not mean to be cheap; it simply means to be both careful and smart. I shared my difficult experience with you because I wanted to show you that it is possible to live on far less than you previously thought possible. By saving and investing the rest of your money, you will be well on your way to financial independence.
About the Author:
Jeff Davis is currently living and working in Baltimore, Maryland. He is studying at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School to receive his Masters of Finance. He speaks about the advantages of small colleges. He has lived in Budapest, Hungary for an entire year and traveled all over the world. He also enjoys seeing his family in Newtown, Connecticut.