mind on my money, money on my mind
2018 was an expensive year for me and in 2019, I’m paying the price.
Some justifiable big-spending includes:
Two rents in the month of May (OUCH)
Being in a wedding out of town
Getting a new job with a much more formal dress code = wardrobe staple purchases
Some inexcusable spending includes:
J Crew Factory sales left and right
“Want to grab dinner tonight?” “Well, I meal prepped and can’t afford it --- but SURE”
“Oh, we’re $17 now” - salads
3 a.m. buying things from bloggers’ Instagram stories (PayPal is my gateway)
A 6 week personal trainer (who do I think I am?)/(got conned into the company discount like whoa)
It was also a big year of changes for me, as I finally became financially independent (a major goal of mine), with my own health insurance and everything. The worst part of my irresponsible spending and approach to personal finance is that I work in financial communications. For the first ~4-6 months in my new job I felt like Isla Fisher in Confessions of a Shopaholic; I was the Girl In The Green Scarf, working with spokespeople and journalists to talk about how we help protect our clients in case of the unimaginable through life insurance, prepare for retirement through various guaranteed income products, and invest through our asset management business to increase wealth. Yet, the minute I left the office it was as if I had no idea what a healthy financial plan even was.
Then I looked at my credit card statement and thought “when did THAT happen?” My salary had increased, so what gives? Turns out I lack discipline and am a recovering FOMO victim.
Since that wake up call, I...
Considered more frugal options. There are so many painless trade-offs out there – instead of pricey brunch, grab a bagel and coffee for $6 and walk around the park. Instead of Starbucks or sidewalk coffee, drink the free coffee at the office, instead of buying seltzer at Morton Williams, drink the free seltzer at the office (there’s a theme here...). The list went on.
Ended my unnecessary online shopping. I had rebuilt my work wardrobe with more than enough options; I think I started getting excited about good deals and having a box waiting for me when I got home. (I love getting mail! But that was not a healthy way to do so! Anyone need a pen pal?)
Started paying attention to prices. Whenever I would run out of detergent, face wash, or another item I consider a staple or ‘necessity,’ I’d just quickly run to Duane Reade or CVS to replace it. Easy, right? … WRONG. I found myself pulling a Katie Gatti (check out her money hacks and successes!), with the same 6 items in an Amazon cart and Jet.com cart to make sure I was paying the lowest price. The result: I ultimately saved $11 and got 1.5% cash back on Ebates. It finally hit me that $3 here and $11 there, over time, could end up saving me hundreds.
Became more intentional with my scheduling. It was really unnecessary to get a bagel & coffee, meet friends for a late lunch AND go out for drinks on one Saturday (and admittedly drinks tend to lead to an Uber and a slice of pizza…), followed by post-church lunch Sunday, maybe a cup of coffee and a Seamless for dinner while I meal prep (counterintuitive, I know.) That could’ve easily been a $200+ weekend that would’ve been avoided had I made myself eggs, used our coffee maker, suggested a walk in the park or free museum trip instead of lunch.
I’ve been better about saying no, getting creative with options and, honestly, filling my time with something that prevents me from spending money. (Ex: training for my 5-miler took up a big chunk of time on weeknights/weekends #slowrunner; getting the most value out of my barre membership; meal prepping realistically, volunteering on Saturday mornings.) The overbooked weeknights/weekends were not only exhausting physically, but they were scarily draining financially.
Started investing. It’s not much - about $150 a month in ETFs - but it’s a start, and it will only grow over time. I use Ellevest right now, but am looking at bigger-picture options as part of my 2019 goals.
Took time to actually understand and manage my money. That’s really what it came down to. I only checked my bank and credit statements when necessary, and typically felt anxious/trapped in the process. Seeing daily expenses and considering long-term impact of my spending choices has really helped me grasp the value of my time/money.
While I can’t say I’ve got it all figured out, I’m on the right track (aka, on a track of somesort.) I’m trying to build my savings and develop more frugal habits. Nerdwallet, the Broke Millennial, Money Diaries and asking my sister a million questions about how to properly structure a budget, what kind of long-term savings accounts are best, etc. have helped a lot. I’m attempting the Broke Millennial’s No-Spend Challenge for February, so… stay tuned.
It’s not easy to admit you need to re-evaluate your lifestyle, but it is really freeing to see the opportunities that present themselves with the properly allocated resources (ex: really excited for where my $1100 airplane ticket is taking me this summer.) And it makes me appreciate and understand the value of the dollar that much more.
Does anyone have budgeting apps/trackers/tips that can help a recovering careless spender life me? I’m all ears!!