Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It’s Rough Being an Adult

Today I sit here completely stressed after my monthly bill-paying session. I do this every month, and every month I promise myself I’ll find a way to make some more money, so I won’t be stressed, but I never do. I always come to the same conclusion that I’ll be even more unhappy if I have to spend two nights a week going to a part-time job, which I would.

When I was still in high school, living with my parents, I couldn’t wait to get out from under them and be on my own, but living with them did have its advantages – most of them monetary. The only things I paid for were my car (which was like $800), gas, clothes, and entertainment. I generally think of this time as “the best time in my life,” a time when things were simpler, I was happier, and I didn’t feel the need to spend so much money to have fun. Looking back on it though, I was miserable then for a completely different reason: I had little control over my life.

I’ve worked since I was 13, yet I’ve never learned to save more than several thousand dollars at a time (and right now I can’t even manage to do that). I’ve been through cycles of going into debt and getting out of it, and I thought I was out from under it for the last time. I think there are several things that I can take from both these times in my life to make my financial life today better than it has been then or now.

First, I need to realize that I’m never really happier when I’m spending money than when I’m not. The things I really enjoy doing are mostly free, like skating, running at the lake with my dog, and going to the gym. Sure, I like to go out with friends, but that doesn’t mean I have to spend $60 on drinks – there’s no reason I can’t have the same time I would otherwise have for only $20.

Second, I do enjoy being on my own. I’m not at a point where I could ever “go back,” so I must realize that there are expenses associated with living the lifestyle I do. But, there are ways to cut back. I need to plan my grocery-store spending a bit better, so I don’t waste money buying items I wind up trashing because I never used that have rotted. I need to live within my means and take those credit cards out of my wallet once and for all. I won’t cut them up, because I will need them for travel and to buy items I buy over the internet, but I should limit my use of them to those two circumstances.

Lastly, I need to do an inventory of my spending more frequently than once a month. I need to look at my register weekly, (yes, I write EVERYTHING down on stickies in my wallet that are stuck to each other and folded accordion style!) so I don’t accidentally overspend.

It sucks being an adult sometimes, but I guess it’s true that freedom comes with a price – now I just need to find some freedom that’s on sale…

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