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Life in the Fast Lane: How my finances changed moving from the bush to the city


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As I sat writing this piece between the dining table of my share house and the desk at my painting studio, both in different suburbs of Narrm, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of comfort knowing that finally I had the freedom to do what I loved (mainly writing and painting) in places that I felt relaxed and motivated to work in. This had not always been the case.

My story

I grew up a little all-over rural Victoria, born up on Yorta Yorta Country, then lived in Dja Dja Wurrung Country, and eventually moved to Dhudhuroa Country. Wherever we went, my mum, my sister, and I had always lived in relatively small towns, none of them smaller than Tangambalanga, the place where I spent a majority of my childhood and teenage years.

Tangambalanga is a tiny town nestled in the hills of the Kiewa Valley, and sits on the banks of the Kiewa river (Kiewa meaning sweet water in Pallanganmiddang language from that Country). The town itself had roughly 250 residents while I lived there, and needless to say, life was lived at a pretty slow pace. We lived in such a small town because we never had a lot of money, but mum always worked hard and wanted us to grow up in a beautiful spot (even if we didn’t have the most flash house). The lack of shops and really anything to do was something I remember distinctly, so mainly I amused myself with football, playing in the bush and riding my bike, while I dreamed of one day making it to Narrm and starting a life of my own in the big smoke.

The big move

I turned 18 in 2013, and shortly after graduating from year 12, I packed my things into the back of my tired old Mitsubishi Magna (it would break down about a year later) and hit the road to Narrm to move into a share-house in East Melbourne. What followed shortly after was a bit of a whirlwind, which involved rent, bills, groceries, rego and the acquisition of some good old credit card debt.

Growing up, there hadn’t been a lot of talk around money in my house; it was something that was a bit stressful, so therefore it was avoided. And anyway, “money is only as good as what it can do for the ones you love”. Whilst I do still believe this phrase, there needs to be some other foundations in place to make sure you stay out of strife when money gets tight.

This is what happened when I moved from the bush to the city. Initially it started as me spending what little I had saved on my rent, as I had rented a share house with some mates that none of us could really afford, we had taken it because it was available. Then came the bills and groceries, I wasn’t used to the increased cost of living that came with living in a city, and at times was carried away at the immense amount of choices I had for spending.

There were social events, gigs, dinners, and clothes that I wanted to fit in. All of these indulgences piled on top of the mounting living costs was slowly burning a hole in my pocket, one that my part time retail job could not mend.

Eventually it got to the point where my lack of financial management meant that I was struggling to eat three meals a day, and rent time felt like a mini heart attack. The simple fact is, things were getting out of control.

I knew I had to accept defeat at the end of the Uni year and move back to the bush.

It wouldn’t be until the beginning of the following year that I had licked my wounds and found a new share house (now in a cheaper more realistically priced place in the Western suburbs) but this time I was determined not to let the city chew me up and spit me out. I began to manage my money carefully, hanging onto a bit from each pay for those shock electricity bills or for when the Magna needed a service, eventually things began to stabilise.

I kept my expectations realistic on how I could afford to live and knew that one day I would be in a position of relaxation and security, as long as I kept up the small savings and the extra shifts between uni.

I was right.

This article is the author’s personal experience and doesn’t constitute financial advice. If you need help with money, you can call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. 

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