In 2018, Kel Galavan decided to change direction. After 16 years working within the pharmaceutical sector, it was time for a new path. She was working endless hours and struggling to spend time with her family.
The tipping point came when a week passed without her seeing her two children awake. “I was gone so early in the morning and working evenings and weekends as well,” she says. “It was just the nature of the job I was in.”
What she needed more than anything was time. There would be plenty of opportunity to work and earn money, but she could never turn back the clock to see her children grow up. “When you’re sitting in a rocking chair, 80 years old and looking back on your life – what do you want to not have regrets about? I needed that time with the kids,” she says.
It can be hard to walk away from a career you’re passionate about, a steady income, corporate car and a bonus. “I said to my husband – what if I took a year out? I just thought, I’m going to give it a go. I handed in my notice and walked away,” Kel explains.
Time for change
With the household income suddenly cut in half, Kel decided that she was going to make the remaining income work as hard as it could. That’s where the idea of a ‘no spend year’ came about. She decided to dramatically reduce expenses and all discretionary spending for a year and document her experience throughout.
Kel already had a strong interest in money management and budgeting, stemming from the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. With a property in negative equity and household income feeling more volatile, she decided to learn more about personal finance through books and podcasts. “I thought… wow, we are so vulnerable. That was when I got really interested in getting the basics of personal finance right – the rainy-day fund, no spend days, all these things.”
The no spend year was a commitment to budgeting and minimalism on a whole new level. Over the course of the year, the family switched to an electric car, cut their weekly grocery bill in half, skipped eating in restaurants or getting takeaways.
To hold herself accountable, she started a website and began documenting her journey on Instagram. Back in 2018, Instagram wasn’t a platform associated with personal finance, but very quickly Kel found an interested audience and her following began to grow.
She shared tips and approaches to minimalism, reducing discretionary spend, household budgeting and discussed the challenges and rewards of her new approach to personal finance. Together with another Irish Instagram user, Kel started the #IrishDebtFreeCommunity, a hashtag which has attracted over four thousand posts. Following the success of her content, Kel teamed up with Irish publisher Orpen Press and wrote a book on her experience. Mindful Money, more money, more freedom, more happiness was released in January this year.
As a result of the no spend year, Kel saved over €27k and discovered a new career path. “I thought, I have all this knowledge about budgeting, I could help people get their food under control and I could help people with stress, but I’ve always loved the financial advice part of it – but I could never do it, as I didn’t have the background in it or the qualification. So, I took the leap and did a course with IOB.”
A new path
Having received many requests from followers for financial advice, Kel is launching a new money mentorship business. She is passionate about improving financial literacy and helping people to better manage their money.
She completed the Professional Diploma in Financial Advice with IOB this year. “One of the reasons I wanted to do the QFA is so I can blend offering advice and guidance on things like household budgeting with the next steps, so they’re not afraid of getting documentation together for a mortgage or cover for a serious illness,” she explains.
Kel is building something new and of her own design. She is keen to ensure that members of the public can access information and guidance on money management, while also growing her consultancy offerings.
It’s rewarding work, especially when she hears from a follower that she has helped along the way. “I’ve gotten some of the most beautiful emails and messages from people who have been able to go to part-time to spend time with family and still have their independence with a job. They’ve been able to pay off loans, credit card debt or fix the car without leaning on more debt. That kind of stuff is huge and makes a big difference in a person life, money is stressful enough as it is without having to worry about additional debt.”
Kel believes there is still a big barrier in Ireland around admitting you’re not good with money. Her personal approach to sharing her experience and advice has helped to make personal finance more accessible to her followers.
She believes a personal approach helps to dispel people’s fears around money. “Money is one of the most complex things because we attach so much emotion to it. We go to work and give all our time and expertise to get this pay cheque. I will happily spend the rest of my life teaching the lesson that money is a tool to get you somewhere…If I have people who want to learn about money – I will happily do this forever.”
Interested in becoming a QFA?
The Professional Diploma in Financial Advice is a must for all those pursuing a career in retail and business banking. Learn more about the programme and see how you can attain the recognised professional designation QFA.