Tell me you got the pun. You got the pun, right? Oh wait, maybe it's helpful if I tell you this is a post about finance. Ok, now do you get it?
I'll wait for a second while you look again.
Now that that's taken care of (humor is an important facet of blog writing, I want to make sure I do it right!), we can move on to the main event. That thing everyone loves talking about. That thing on peoples' minds 24 hours a day. That thing that controls your every waking movement.
No, I'm not talking about sex, or food, or even love. I'm talking about money.
Hear me out! When I say it controls your waking movement, that doesn't mean everyone is secretly a money-grubbing tightfisted Scrooge who only does things for cold hard cash.
But, if you really get down to it, money does affect pretty much everything you do -- from the groceries you buy, to the activities you do in your free time, to whether you even have any free time outside of working to pay the bills.
I was incredibly fortunate to have grown up in a financially stable family where my needs were tended to on a daily basis. I never wanted for books or music or school clothes or new highlighters during finals. I started each term with a crisp notebook and celebrated each birthday at a nice restaurant with my family.
I had a completely blissful, completely blessed, childhood (hashtag blessed, y'all.)
However, as a young adult (if 90 is the new 70, then is 30 the new 20? I'm confused), I now have to talk myself out of getting whatever I want simply because I can:
"I worked hard all week, I should get a breakfast burrito this morning!"
"I attended a hearing without passing out or throwing up from nerves, I deserve an iced coffee from the Starbucks downstairs."
"I paid all of my bills and credit card minimums on time, I should buy those loafers I've been eying."
I feel like I deserve these tiny rewards for doing normal, everyday things. If I can afford to pay for them in the moment, then I shouldn't deprive myself of these "small" indulgences, right? Who is it hurting?
Turns out, it's hurting me. Who knew! I'm almost thirty, I'm moving in to my first apartment by myself in a week, and I am constantly retooling my budget on LearnVest (shout out to their financial management tools) to figure out how I'm going to be able to eat and buy toilet paper and buy new shampoo when it runs out and sometimes have friends over for dinner. And maybe occasionally pay my bills and take Lyfts around the city.
So, I need a reboot. A juice cleanse for my wallet, if you will!
I (re)introduce to you: The Spending Fast.
What is that, you ask? I'll tell you: in lamens terms, I'm trying not to spend money on anything besides bills and groceries. Anna Newell Jones did hers for a year? My goal is two months. We've all got to start somewhere.
I've tried to do this several times before (the first being in this post right here) and, I have to admit, it's not always successful. There are slip ups, and backslides, and times when I didn't stick to what I'd set out to do. Nobody's perfect! But I do think it helps refocus my spending urges on things that I really need (like silverware for my apartment) instead of things I just want (more mascara, more coffee, more shoes, more movies, more pretty pens... more more more.)
To keep it simple, I've followed Anna's lead from And Then We Saved and made a list:
(Note: You all are in luck! If you click the image above, you'll go to a copy of the list. You can make your own copy in your Google Drive, or download the sheet to edit on your own computer, or simply bookmark it to point and laugh later as you eat your medium-rare steak dinner at House of Prime Rib without me. Whatever you'd like, it's there for your use.)Obviously not every situation is going to be covered on this list, but checking it once in a while helps me keep in mind the things I need versus the things I simply want.
You guys, real talk: do you know what the benefit of this is, besides just saving money here and there? It truly makes you appreciate the little things. When you're not as preoccupied with buying things, with gaining material pieces, with consuming, constantly consuming, you're forced to focus on the things that truly matter in life.
I know, it's cheesy. I can't believe I've taken this route myself. But that bright blue sky on your walk to work is less noticeable when you're marching straight towards that coffee shop for your morning fix. The flavors and smells of lemon, garlic, shallots, olive oil, and salt blend together beautifully when you slow down and take the time to notice their mixture while cooking a simple meal for yourself instead of getting takeout from the pho restaurant down the block. An afternoon in the park can be just as enjoyable with friends and a bottle of homemade iced tea as it would be with an expensive Bi-Rite picnic (though technically those would be "groceries"...)
I could go on and on, but you get my point. There is something to be said about slowing down, making conscious choices, and seeing all of life's joys for what they are, on their own merits.
For the sake of complete disclosure, I should admit that I started this Spending Fast on September 1st, and the very first day, I took cash from my wallet and bought a gigantic blended chai drink from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Like I said, nobody's perfect, and there are slip ups.
But this weekend? I ate only groceries. This morning? I came to work wearing a suit in 85 degree weather craving an iced drink, and I withheld. And I survived! My day went off without a hitch, my evening was sufficiently satisfying, and the world went on turning in the appropriate direction.
It's all about those small victories, those times when denying myself a miniscule "reward" added up to a larger bank account...and the realization that my life is not any less rich in happiness for doing so.