Paycheque to Paycheque

This blueberry cheesecake is decent… The cappuccino is also not bad.. The bill was around $10 which is actually nothing today. But I distinctly remember a time when me and my wife (soon to be, at that time) came to this exact coffee place with some of my savings to have a cup of coffee and taste the high life (which I thought this is).

This is the story of those times. Very near past; from the days I only had dad’s bike to go to work — to the days where I finally got a car but had to go to work by the bus because I couldn’t afford fuel.

Lesson 1: Hopes and the disappointment

I always wanted to be an Engineer.

My dad tells me this story about a time when I was 5–6 years old. We had a small bike which we drove on from Gonnoruwa, dad’s home town, to an apartment in Ambalanthota where we lived. It was a 3 hours ride and the little boy was in a deep thought. “Dad… What do Engineers do?”— “They make bridges and structures son”“Oh God… Not sure I’ll be able to make them”

Until age 20, it was all vague to remember if I still had that target. What I do remember is that I was very pleased that I passed O/L exams good enough to do Mathematics for A/L which could lead me to my dream. I remember the next 7 years fulfilling my dream. The hows are for another day but I finally graduated from the most prestige university of Sri Lanka as a Software Engineer.

The hopes are so high. Are you kidding me? With $550 a month in Sri Lanka where the average salary is around $200, what can’t you do? You can live like a king and have the highest life you can imagine. I married my wife the first month I got the job (Even before my first paycheque!) We rented a new house for 1/4 of my salary. We shopped at super markets, even for local vegetables.

Within no time…. The huge disappointment. My salary was just nearly enough for the monthly expenses. Our high life was turning out to be a quiet ordinary life. What I didn’t thought of was that our income was actually near average for a 2 member family. Add our foolish expenses on top of that, it’s no surprise that we couldn’t afford even good clothes.

Lesson 2: Status quo

My job was a Software Engineer at one of the finest software companies in Sri Lanka. The culture was very different there, comparing with other software companies. The company had a huge car park where almost all 800 engineers could park. All girls wore makeup and perfume to work. Everyone wore shoes.

I know this doesn’t sound particularly any bad. But do you know how software engineers in other companies went to work in Sri Lanka? They wore ragged T-Shirts, rubber slippers and backpacks. Large amount of people took the public transport and lived near the University for the cheap food from Canteen. Ok now what do you think? You know what I thought?

I thought, this is how Software Engineers Should work. This is not an ordinary job. I have a high paying high class high status job and it’s only logical that I live like that. I can’t go by my old bike through the fancy car park. I need a car to match my status.

So I talked with my wife and applied for a loan. Within few weeks, we had a car. Doesn’t matter if it was a good car or if it’s worth for the money. What it finally boils down to is that if I could afford it.

The answer is a big fat NO. I couldn’t afford to service it, maintain it or even fuel it. With around 1/2 of my salary slashed every month for the loan, I only had around 1/4 for all other expenses.

So what did we do to fix the problem we got in? We got our credit cards out. We cut down few costs but not even close to match the income. Within no time, we were in huge credit card debt. Around 5 months of my salary worth of debt to be precise.

It says that if you want to get out of the hole, you have to put down the shovel. We were young, dumb and we had a bulldozer to dig with.

Lesson 3: Realisation

28th July, 2017, was not an ordinary day. I woke up to a wonderful celebration thrown out by my wife with cakes and balloons. It was my 26th birthday.

After all the cake cutting and kisses, I was sitting at the chair in our kitchen and was thinking of the 26 years of my life so far.

I looked back at my life to see what I have achieved. I was spending a mediocre life with huge amount of debt. I had a car which was falling apart because I couldn’t maintain it. I was critiqued by my supervisor at the company because my performance was bad (and rightfully so). I was fed up about our finances and was constantly having fights with my wife.

It was a mess.

But one thing was different in this day. The difference is that I looked past all these problems and thought ***“There must be a solution. There has to be”***.

My wife still remembers how I talked with her about how we’re not living our full potential, how we should change that, and how we should take matters into our own hands. Right then is when I became an entrepreneur. But the exact measurements of the solution is not the point here. It doesn’t matter.

Only one thing matters if you’re in huge life problems.

You have to start finding solutions. And guess what, Chances of you finding one is light years ahead comparing to the guy who keeps complaining all day.

If I can give you only one advice today, it would be this..

Start taking shots. Eventually, you’ll get a bullseye.

“you miss 100% of the chances that you don’t take”

Walter Gretzky

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