Written by: Phindile Le Bris Sithole-Spong
I still remember how proud I felt the first time I got my first pay check. I was working at a local second hand book store as a cashier whilst on my gap year. Whilst the pay check was very little. It did give me the freedom I needed to do the things that I wanted to do that year like go out with friends. Top up my cellphone with data and airtime. And even do some shopping. Sometimes however, after a busy weekend, I dreaded going to work. And my little pay check didn’t feel like enough motivation despite the little luxuries it afforded me.
Growing up with a single mother who believed in a good work ethic however, meant that even though I wanted to. I did not leave my job and expect my mother to pay for everything. Even when I saw girls I went to school with and felt embarrassed by my minimum wage job. This attitude and lesson helped to prepare me for my next few jobs in University where I helped pay off my university living expenses and fees working at the university library and the apple store on weekends. I remember how tough it was in University to sometimes get to my weekend job that was almost 4O minutes away by taxi. But I kept going. Again not because I was forced to but because of the independence it gave me.
Whilst my friends had to ask their parents for money. I made most of my spending money myself and felt good when I was out with friends on weekends able to buy what I wanted. As I’ve grown older these little jobs helped set me up for success in some ways as they taught me about perseverance, doing something as a means to an end. But also about making and spending my own money.
Today I am 31 years old, have two jobs, and own two homes with my husband on different continents. As we both work, we have made it a priority to own our homes instead of renting (at least not for long). Which has meant neither one of us owns a car (I owned a scooter for many years instead). And when our goals call for it, we find work to pay off our homes and live comfortably. We both still have to work hard even on days we don’t want to and the responsibilities pile up. But one thing that is a big motivator is remembering what we are working for. At this stage in our lives it is to travel, afford our homes and take care of our daughter. And when all is said and done, so that we can go out for the occasional meal out. Or do something fun for ourselves.
Luckily we are both home bodies and don’t really spend much going out a lo. Which means that instead we make our homes our refuge. Our places to have fun, work, raise our family and see friends. But let me tell you getting to this point in financial freedom is not always easy.
As I write this both my 8 month old and I are sick. We are moving to our new home in two days. And the last thing I want to do is work. But I also have to remind myself why I am doing it. And also see the bigger picture. Some days its worth it, other days it feels like pulling teeth. But if there is one thing I have learnt in my 31 years it is that money does not grow on trees. And all the things we want in life are a hard days work away. So if you want financial freedom, remember that it is not always glamorous. Nor is it something that you will always love (even if you like your job or work).
There’s a saying I try remind myself often that goes “we do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do”. It is the motto that got me through some hard months working in jobs I hated. Jobs that ultimately led me to where I am now. Working in not one, but two areas I love (most of the time). I also try to remind myself how lucky I am to even have a job in the first place when so many do not.