Hi all, ContractorUK newbie here, been lurking on and off the last few months. Some great advice from the site and the posters here, wish I had discovered it earlier!!

About me - I'm just finishing off my 4th contract so not exactly 100% new to the world of contracting, but not exactly a seasoned contractor. I did 2 short contracts, both of which were happy experiences that led to small extensions, then during the downturn in 2008, returned to permie work for quite a while to keep money coming in, then started contracting again last year.

I'm about to search for my 5th contract, but before I leap into the next one, thought I'd ask for advice from the more seasoned contractors here regarding my vague plan for myself for the next 5 or 10 years...

When I first started contracting, I was not very disciplined and did not put away enough in the warchest. When the downturn came about I was benched for 6 months. I also had friends and family who cried poor, and again my inadequate personal financial sense made a mess of my savings as I gifted money here and there to people who probably used it for booze instead of paying their bills as they claimed.

It all added up and I got into a bit of personal debt due to my lack of financial common sense and it's taken me the last 2 contracts as well as a huge overhaul of my personal spending habits(and cutting off a few leeches disguised as friends) to pull myself out of the red and back to black, so I have a bit more confidence in my budgeting skills these days.

At present, I have now paid off all personal debt and have a warchest that can carry me through for 6 and a half months(with all taxes accounted for). I also have some savings left in an Australian bank account during a brief stint in the sun a few years ago which thanks the tulip exchange rate for the sterling, can now also cushion me for a further 3 months(I am loathe to touch this account unless absolutely necessary as I fancy another stint in the sun someday should a job opportunity through a mate reappear on the horizon).

I admit my past money troubles have made me a bit paranoid about being back on the bench as well as all the doom & gloom in the news lately. However, the contract I am finishing up now was not in a good environment; am glad to be leaving and turned down the extension as it was affecting my health, but get these urges to get off the bench ASAP and take the next offer that comes, which might be another mistake if I don't think about my situation more carefully.

At present, I am a bit stuck on just one plan: build the warchest up to 18 months living expenses. I feel that I'm not really thinking more in terms of trying to expand the business, developing new skills or having a bigger vision of personal financial goals(don't have a mortgage and will need a roof over my head when old, etc.).

Does anyone here have any useful advice for me at what they went through during this early stage of their contracting years? (apologies for ranting on for so long and thanks in advance!)