At work, I shyly told one of my sweet co-workers (who is also a graduate, living with a partner here in San Antonio) that I had started a personal finance blog for people our age. She remarked how awesome she thought that was and that she should start reading it. We commiserated on the pitfalls of being young without money. And we talked about how depressing it is to not have money to do things we really want– like shop, or see movies, or eat out, etc– and that life can become a monotonous routine of:
Get up. Go to work. Go home. Go to bed. Repeat.
And that is really depressing.
After I nervously published my first post, I got an overwhelming (and unexpected) positive response! So many of my friends are struggling with finance, even after years of post-graduation under their skinny, brown leather belts. The comments I read on my Facebook made me equal parts excited and terrified. Excited because I am now even more inspired to master personal finance–not just for myself now, but to help others. Terrified because, well, what if I can’t help?
Fast forward to later that same night. One of my sweet roomies and I were commiserating about being young without money. About being depressed (and not in an exaggerated term. I’m talking post-graduate depression. First world problem? Definitely. But a problem none-the-less.) because the things we wanted to do: take art classes, go to yoga classes, buy new wardrobes– seem impossible simply because of the lack of funds. We knew that things we had to do came first: pay rent, buy groceries, pay utilities, buy gas. Not to mention unexpected, unfun stuff. Like fixing a car part, taking your puppy to the vet, etc, etc. And it felt like we were just getting up, going to work, going to bed to pay for those practical things. Falling into the soulless, monotonous routine that in college we’d lambast and swear we’d never fall in to.
Then I woke up today. Payday. Yes.
And was immediately depressed. One of my two paychecks will go to pay rent; and then I will only have $53.13 left of it.
WHY, GOD, WHY?! How am I supposed to live? How am I supposed to eat? How am I supposed to pay for the things people want me to pay for to continue to have those things?! I’ll have to use ALL of my other paycheck to pay for those things! I’ll have pocket change left! I’ll never get to do any of the things I actually want to do because I’m always just a little bit behind!
After showering in self-pity and literally showering, I got dressed for work and had enough time to spare to eat a tangerine. I decided to eat it while sitting on my beautiful front porch, watching the sunlight shower my neighborhood.
Something that my co-worker said yesterday resurfaced as I peeled the mini-orange. “I always plan to have fun before I plan for my future.” And my response to her was: “Why not try to do both at the same time, as best you can?”
My great-grandpa used to say to me when I was very little: “Work and then play. After you’ve done your chores for the day, you can spend the rest of the time playing and not have to worry about anything.” A lesson instilled young and still installed today.
So the old generation was telling me: work hard, then you can play. And my generation was telling me: take advantage of today; don’t worry about your 60s. Being a person of moderation, I wanted both. I want to have fun in my 20s and I want to be secure in my 60s.
How do I make that happen?
Budgeting. Prioritizing. Saving. I reminded myself of The Plan. I am resolute. I will control my money, so money doesn’t control me. I finished my tangerine and realized that I had enjoyed a beautiful morning. For free. Well, I mean, the tangerine cost a little money. The porch is included in rent. And the water bill was paid. And my shampoo and soaps were bought with my money. And I had to turn on the light–electricity bill. Meaning, I was sitting on my porch, that I pay rent for, eating a tangerine I owned, wearing clothes I bought, I was cleaned with my water, shampoo and electric-dryer dried towel. (Beyonce’s Independent plays in my head as I write this. “I BOUGHT IT”.) Even if right now it feels like I’m not doing some of the things I want because I can’t pay to access them, I’m still supporting myself.
Life is good. My tangerine was delicious. It was a gorgeous sunrise. I remembered something important that I hadn’t applied this morning: perspective.
I left for work smiling because I know how I’m going to achieve having fun in my 20s without breaking the bank and how to do the same when I’m 62. I’ll tell you my Plan on Monday, after I enjoy a fun-filled (and fee-free) weekend.