Growing up, I thought my family didn't have money. Though we lived in a nice enough house and neighborhood, my parents were frugal and never spent like my friends' families. Aside from the occasional luxuries, the message from my parents to me was that money was to be saved.
Yet somehow money came easily to me and I never worried about money. In university, I was lucky to get a good job and the money was much more than my friends were making at the time. It made me re-evaluate my education (which was expensive) and while my classmates were stressed out about exams, I took a rather "relaxed" attitude toward my studies.
Yet I stayed in college and didn't think much about the money side of getting a real job when I graduated. I took a job in the city and found my first apartment with friends and started living like an independent "adult". Or so I thought.
Within months, I got into £8000 of credit card debt spending and living the life that I thought all my friends were also living as young singles in the city. (It wasn't until later that I found out many of them were being subsidized by their parents.) When my parents found out about the debt, they were furious and I felt ashamed. They wanted to pay off the debt right away, but I refused their help. Instead, I was intent on paying off the debt myself month by month.
It took me nearly a year to pay off the debt on the first of every month from my paycheck. I stopped going out to restaurants with friends, I didn't buy any new clothes or go to the cinema. I walked everywhere and the only travel I did was for work. Those months felt really tough at the time, yet I still remember how great it felt to write the last check to the credit company!
During that time, I researched a lot about how to manage money. One of the lessons I learned from the experience was to track my spending and the importance of putting money into a "rainy day" fund for true emergencies. More importantly, I understood what it felt like to be under the yoke of debt. How every day I felt I was working as a debt slave. I vowed never to be in such a situation again.
To me, financial freedom and control means much than life's material luxuries.