There was a point last month where I had money. Not a lot, not enough to buy a house or a car or really even an expensive pair of shoes, but I had, in my tiny little corner of the bank, a small stockpile of money that made me happy, because it was mine, and I had earned it and saved responsibly and wisely and now, the fruit of my labors rested comfortably in its little cocoon of safety, and all was right with the world.
Then, predictably, one “shit, I need a dress for a wedding” and one minor car- related disaster later, I am once again relatively broke-ass.
I hate that.
Being broke sucks. I hate the feeling of being nervous about the ability to pay bills (whether on time or not) and the constant thought of “what if something ELSE happens” nagging at me when I’m trying to sleep.
At the same time, it is a blessing.
Not having money is interesting. I’m not about to start living on the street– but things like “oh, crap, dinner” become interesting. (Please note: I also am not starving to death. Read on). I love cooking, so when money is tight, dinner is way more fun for me– instead of defaulting to “let’s eat out”, I get to go through my beloved process of finding recipes and creating something from scratch. Plus, it’s healthier. Usually.
I also get more “me” time, strangely enough. Since I work a specified number of hours a week, I know how much time I have to do other things during the day. More often than I care to admit, my “outside of work” time is filled with the aforementioned eating out or, more guiltily, – shopping.
Shopping is my dirty habit. I’m sort of a clothes whore, which doesn’t really make sense given my standard uniform of “tank top, jeans and a cardigan”, but the never-ending possibilities of my local thrift stores combined with my love of crafts and DIY projects means that I spend a lot of time bargain hunting for possibilities and projects.
Being broke means that I have to shift my priorities– still on creative things, but things that don’t nessessarily cost money. Writing, art, reading, music– things I often neglect when I’m particularly busy become the simple pleasures of my evening hours.
I also walked to work today since my car was in the shop. It’s not a terrible walk– longish but manageable, and I realized that I enjoyed it. I don’t see it happening on particularly crappy days, but I could see myself walking or biking to work more often– and saving a little money on gas wouldn’t be a terrible thing, either.
Reminding myself that it’s OKAY that I’m broke– that things happen, that life goes on and in 20 years when I’m rich and famous I’ll look back on this and laugh—NOT feeling like a complete failure is difficult, especially because I feel like it’s all my fault. If I were more responsible/smarter/more careful with money, I wouldn’t have this problem.
I’m hoping to find a full-time job pretty soon, and it’s an exciting prospect– having a big kid job with big kid money– but if (when) that happens, the same rules will still apply. What I think I’ve figured out through my many, many periods of being broke is that there are always going to be car emergencies/weddings/doctor’s visits and a million little things that I’ll have to spend money on. I can improve my spending habits and try and be more cognizant of “no, I don’t need another grey sweater”, but the biggest thing is not hating myself. The number in my bank account does not define my worth.