Being broke sucks. After the Christmas season and its associated commercialism has ended, I am forced to take stock of my financial state in preparation for filing my taxes. This year, as a result of a higher-than-average monthly expense accounting, I’ve been forced to make a strict budget. Having a girlfriend is great, for sure, but it makes me significantly more inclined to spend money on things I otherwise wouldn’t such as trips to other cities to meet new people or a bouquet of cooking utensils my significant other wants but doesn’t have. Which is a great gift idea, by the way. Flowers aren’t the only thing you can wrap in tissue paper and present to your significant other on special occasions.
I’ve stuck to a budget before and I keep pretty good track of my finances, so this is nothing new. It is an added layer of stress and anxiety, though, to have to update and track every single number to the cent rather than going with my “soft budget” that I’ve been using since I changed jobs. My student debt (and the credit card debt I occasionally accrue because I’ve got no answer to sudden expenses that aren’t covered by insurance) gets me wound up when I start thinking about how much I still owe after having paid as much as I have, so I try to avoid thinking about my finances in any kind of exact terms when I can. Even though I know my debt total has gone down since last year, it is still easier for me to think about last year’s inaccurate number than about what today’s accurate number would be. I know it isn’t a very good idea to ignore financial situations like this, but I’ve got my finances set up so I only need to review the hard numbers of my debt once a year, when I do my taxes. When I do, I spend some time looking into solutions to better my financial footing like refinancing options and consolidation, so it isn’t like I’m ignoring my problems entirely.
My dreams for the future, in financial terms, are pretty simple. I just want to be able to live modestly without needing to worry about money like I do now. I want to have enough set aside to absorb sudden expenses without needing to rely on credit cards. I want to be able afford a nice place to live and to have enough space to welcome people into my home semi-frequently. I like to host my friends and our gatherings, and I love to feed people, so being able to afford that on a regular basis would be amazing. If I’m really aiming for the stars, I’d like to be able to put any potential progeny through college (assuming the current system is still in place) and have some money left over every year to travel somewhere new.
Ideally, I’d be able to live this lifestyle as a result of being a writer. I know it is possible, even if it does seem unlikely most days. One of my biggest barriers to writing consistently is how upset I can get when I spend a weekend writing and then have to go back to work on Monday morning. I’d be so happy writing full-time. I’d be willing to sacrifice a certain amount of my financial dreams to achieve that, but not much. Writing is fun, but I can still do that even if I’m working a day job to provide myself with financial stability.
Budgeting, though stressful, can make your financial life a lot easier. I may not enjoy thinking about it, but having concrete terms for my spending makes it easier to see the impact a change in my spending habits can have on my bank account. While paying off my car loan by the end of the summer seemed like a bit of a pipe dream when I thought of it last month, my budgeting has told me that it is possible as long as I toss my whole tax return in as well. As much as I’d like a new mattress, I’m pretty sure that I’ll sleep better with all that extra money in my budget. For paying off other loans, of course. The best loan repayment plans depend on that snowball effect.
Though I might just let it hang out for a little bit, make a few friends in my bank account, and then get blow it all on something to replace my 4.5-year-old, $300 queen mattress that has a giant sag down the middle. Springs, I tell ya… Not so springy anymore.