Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How I became a money pit without even knowing it

My reaction exactly, Tom Hanks!

Finance is one of my least favorite subjects in the world - to talk about, write about, read out, or think about. Basically, I could go the rest of my adult life never uttering or hearing another utter a syllable that relates in any way to money. But unfortunately, when I say "finance" here, I'm also referring to my own finances. I've known that this ignorance-is-bliss approach to my cash stash makes a true recipe for personal ruin, if not macro-level, national disasters (Financial meltdown of '08). So after some nudging, in the form of unexpected bills, I've forced myself to take a cold hard look at the reality. And its not pretty, friends.

Alright, I'm exaggerating a little. Its not that bad. I'm not going to be belting out "Hard Knock Life" on street corners for pennies anytime soon. I will, however, be belting out "Hard Knock Life" on street corners for fun, so get ready Seattle! But.. its definitely time that I begin to really assess my spending habits, and re-think my relationship to money.

I am, after all, an adult. Gulp.

You might think that this last sentence conceals a deeply embedded fear of growing up, that my disregard to spending marks a subconscious desire to remain forever young. But its really much more complicated than that. When offered money by family members, I typically turn it down. I've preferred to be financially independent for as long as I've had the means (aka, a job). In that sense, I've actually welcomed the financial responsibilities accumulating after college. Yet these responsibilities of mine were only sort of there, in the same way that you'll tell people you're doing one thing and believe you're doing that same thing. But your actions - and in this case, transactions show otherwise. There was a discrepancy between the responsibilities I claimed to want, and the way I was holding myself accountable for them. Essentially, I made a financial agreement with myself that was far too broad, lenient, and carried out sans intention. In the past month, my friends heard me repeatedly aspire to save more and spend less; yet an hour after my fifth grand proclomation that month, I'd be lounging comfortably in a booth sipping a G&T with my gals! Or, I would come up with a "budget", probably something written on a napkin at lunch and then tossed into my purse where it would sit for days. And though those numbers would remain in my consciousness faintly, they weren't present enough for me to refrain from that fateful shopping trip to Whole Foods. 

Wait, now I'm actually feeling nostalgic at the memory of the past few months, because - and I have to be honest - I lived like a modern day, middle class, urban princess! And you know what? It was incredible! The past couple months of my life have been one huge celebration of everything: my friends' accomplishments, my friends' birthdays, my friendships, my accomplishments, my non-accomplishments, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays...you get the picture, right? If I do a mental re-cap, I was actually living the kind of life I'd always imagined I'd be living at 23. A life that was full of adventure and challenges (trapeze and mountain climbing), great food and drink (both home-cooked and eaten-out), culture (live music, art, theatre). And I got to share it all with some of the best friends in existence. 

I realize that changes are necessary and I'm fully prepared to make them. I'm looking forward to meeting a realistic and smart budget, thanks to this neato site (it even texts you the second you go over your alloted spending). I'm looking forward to saving. I have lived incredibly over the past few months, and its time to start paying for it. Yes, literally and figuratively. And while it was ugly for a few days to take a good hard look at things, it was necessary. I'm learning. I'll find new ways to have my fun that won't require swiping the plastic. And I'm not going to wallow about my new strict budget, or bemoan the loss of my beloved nightcaps at Flowers. 

Because I am an adult now, and I guess that's just what adults are supposed to do. Hey, look, I didn't even gulp that time! 


Kristina said...

I support you! I need to step up with this stuff, too, especially with heading off to an unknown world in the near future. Today, for the first time, I found out some unknown company has been charging me $15 a month since LAST August due to some scan or other. Yeesh. Way to get a grip on reality, lady!

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