Truth be told, I spent the last two weekends avoiding writing this post. Last weekend I could argue that what Seattlite in their right mind could write on Super Bowl weekend, but this weekend I carved out large chunk of time, and still put it off to the very end. The reason why is because it's going to be a semi-candid post about money, and life... and stress.
Part of the reason I chose to enroll in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition is because I want to try and build something more for myself. I would like to find a new level of financial independence that will alleviate much of the stress and anxiety I feel around my current economic situation.
Before July, I was living with a roommate, and found that I had monetary means to save what I wanted to save, as well as go out and have as much fun as I'd like. Now that I'm living on my own, and there is not that extra person to pay half of the bills, and rent is much more expensive, I have found myself in a new situation. I can choose to go out and have fun, or I can choose to save. But there is actually very little room in between.
Before I moved out of my last apartment, I created a spreadsheet, using Google Drive. First I listed all of my bills (rent, internet, phone, minimum credit card payments, Seattle City Light, and etc.) in one column, their amounts in a second column, and lastly their due dates in a third column. I took the total amount I owe for bills each month, and subtracted that from my the take-home amount of my paycheck. What I had left, I had to figure out how much would go into food, fun, and savings.
I then further broke the spreadsheet down into my two pay periods. I'm paid on the 10th and the 25th, so I made a section for my expenses from 10th to the 24th, and 25th to the 9th. With each paycheck I automatically subtract my bills from each period, so I know what I have to left over to spend on food, fun, and savings. It's a relatively simple method that I'm sure most people use.
I will be very upfront to say that my annual take-home is around $40k. In my current situation I'm able to save about $280 a month when I'm being completely responsible, and that includes paying more than the minimum amount on my credit card debt.
In the roughly 7 - 8 months that I've lived on my own, I've found that I've tried to keep funding my old fun-level, which has ultimately meant that I've had a handful of break even months, because I didn't save anything, or even went a little over. When I look back at those months I get a little depressed.
It's really hard for me not to compare myself to the Joneses, when many of my friends are making significantly more money, and seem so much further ahead than I am. Lately, it feels like such a battle to not feel bad about where I'm at.
Enter the stress and anxiety. Many of my friends are married, or in committed relationships with significant others, with which they live. They are saving money, buying houses, and having kids, all while also being able to afford vacations, and other disposable expenditures. When I think about all of that, I start to stress out about why I'm not saving more money; why I'm not able to afford traveling vacations; and why I'm not in a committed relationship. As a side note, I've found that dating on a budget is much harder than I'd like it to be. When I think about all of that stuff too much, It all starts to way very heavy on me.
One of the major reasons I had originally decided to create this spreadsheet was to help eliminate the stress, by knowing exactly where my money is going, and see exactly how I'm spending it. I suppose if there is any consolation to my bad months (where I didn't save anything), at least I saw it coming, and I made those decisions full well knowing the consequences.
Between December and January, they were both bad months for saving, and I've come to realize that if I want to accomplish my fiscal goals, then going forward I'll have to be more responsible. I'm going to have to make the decision to have less money-spending fun. I'm going to have to be a little more strict about what I choose to spend my money on, and find more free things to do, that also keep me social, and connected to friends.
I have a feeling that I'm not the only one that money creates stress for. What I've discovered for myself, is that when I actively take control of my finances; and responsibility for how I spend my money, I can alleviate a lot of that stress. I might not be where I want to be financially, but if I keep on taking the small steps, at least I'll be moving forward, and in the direction I want to be moving. I won't necessarily get where I'm going quickly, but if I keep plugging away at it, I have hope that I'll get there eventually.