Michelle Buchanan radiates enthusiasm as she provides tips on how to stay positive and cope with financial adversity. She’s not just paying lip service – she’s speaking from experience.
After her marriage ended, Michelle became the main provider for her daughter and son. A radical shift in money management ensued.
Despite feeling shell-shocked, Michelle says she made a conscious decision to ‘combine practicality with inspiration’ to minimise the financial stress that so often goes hand in hand with relationship break-ups.
‘When my husband and I split up, I learnt to tighten my spending and change my entire lifestyle. Making sure I could care for my children was a great motivation,’ she says.
Michelle has been well known for her regular appearances on TVNZ’s Good Morning show as its resident numerologist, and she is also Woman’s Day’s ‘spiritual counsellor’.
Despite her media profile, she points out that her income isn’t glamorous. Since the separation she has lived week to week. While this may sound depressing and difficult, Michelle has consciously chosen a positive mindset.
‘I practise what I preach and have chosen to adopt an attitude of abundance. I believe I have the ability to create more wealth and security in my life.’
Michelle’s approach is not just philosophical; it’s pragmatic. ‘You have to follow up by doing the work. You need financial discipline. To stay motivated, you need to have a financial goal in your mind and visualise every day what it is you’re aiming for. What I aim for is not to have the best car or a big fancy house; it’s to have enough money in the bank that I can take care of myself and my children, forever.’
In the medium term, Michelle’s dream is to have an overseas family holiday. Until then she’s happy to prioritise what is most important – her children.
‘I know that if I save whatever’s left then it will grow into something bigger one day. If I work hard and scrimp and save I might have less in the short term, but one day we’re going to have a lot more.’
All purchases go on her credit card, but she is disciplined enough not to take it for granted. The solo mum is strict about paying the card off every month to avoid having to pay high interest, but she also uses the Fly Buys points earned from her credit card purchases to buy practical household items. Recently she bought an iron in this way.
Michelle learnt her financial skills from her parents. They taught her to work hard to get results, that she deserved a treat occasionally and that she should practise financial prudence. Key to that is distinguishing between needs and wants.
‘I am definitely a “pay now, play later” person. I am responsible for my children, have full custody and put our necessities first.
‘When you’ve got kids there’s so much money to fork out: the school trips; they get invited to a party, that’s another $30. It’s winter, and they’re too big for the clothes they wore last season. Luckily for me I’m not addicted to shopping and I’m not interested in fashion – to me it’s a waste of money and time. I don’t have many temptations.’
Michelle holds out for big sales and buys presents en masse for birthdays that are months away. She buys food staples on special in bulk, and clothes when on sale.
Other savings strategies include buying items out of season, like winter sheets in the spring sales and Christmas items in the post-Christmas sales. She also keeps her clothes, car and whiteware in excellent condition to ensure their longevity and avoid paying for replacements.
Handing her financial knowledge on to the next generation is an imperative. Michelle teaches her children that buying items for short-term satisfaction is not the path to long-term happiness. It’s a hard concept for children to swallow, so she puts it in a more palatable format.
‘I explain that if you buy a $1.50 chocolate bar and gobble it up in five minutes, all you have left is the empty wrapper. But if you had put that money towards a Lego set, you can play with it for the next five years.’
Despite the upheaval of divorce and its financial fallout, Michelle has maintained a resolute positivity. ‘On the one hand it’s having a dream, the passion and the drive, but on the other it’s backing it up with discipline, goals and prioritising – all the boring stuff that isn’t as exciting as the dream itself. You need to put both sides together to get the complete whole.’
Irrespective of what life throws at her, Michelle finds positives in the unpredictable and tries to make the most of every moment – and her money.