Personal Finance Groundhog Day
“I make myself rich by making my wants few.” — Henry David Thoreau
I’m in my early-to-mid twenties. I’m still learning about this whole “being a responsible and independent adult” thing. It’s not always as fun and adventurous as I imagined it, when I was moving out of my parent’s place.
I shut off the alarm on my phone, after pressing the snooze button about five times. It always gets harder to wake up by the end of the month.
I slowly move towards the kitchen and open the fridge, just to close it after blindly staring at some raw ingredients for a couple of seconds. I don’t feel like cooking, so I’ll settle for a store sandwich. Even though I know it’ll only take me a couple of minutes to make one by myself. Mine would probably taste better too.
After throwing some clothes on myself, I hurry outside — being late again won’t do me any favors with that promotion I asked for a couple of weeks ago.
I asked for a promotion, because for some time now I seem to be short on cash by the end of the month. I pay my bills and rent on time, and put a couple hundred dollars aside in my saving account — you know, being responsible and stuff. I don’t really track how I spend the rest of my salary though.
Somehow at the end of each month I’m struggling with money, struggling to make it till the next paycheck. Maybe that’s why the amount in my savings account barely grew in the past half a year.
I keep thinking about that while ordering a large cup of coffee-to-go, at the shop on the corner of my street. While I’m choosing a sandwich that’d look a bit fresher than others, my eyes notice a big, cute and freshly baked muffin. You know, one of those that look more like a work of art, rather than dessert. One of those, that cost 5 bucks a piece. Money is a bit tight, but I’ve been feeling a bit blue lately, so why not treat myself? It’s just 5 dollars. Right?
I walk into the office with my coffee, sandwich and fancy muffin. What was I thinking about before? Oh, right about my promotion.
I really need it. It’s the same thing every month, as soon as the calendar creeps over the date of “twenty-something”. I can’t really understand why it keeps happening. It’s not like I buy a lot of fancy stuff. It has to be about not making enough money, right? Let’s hope that promotion will be here soon.
I eat my stale sandwich at lunch, while looking through stuff on my phone. That’s when a sale on t-shirts catches my attention. They have this really nice T-shirt with that ironic phrase across it, in a really cute font. It’s 15 dollars. It’s kinda stupid, but it used to cost 45 though and I have been feeling a little bit depressed because of this whole money thing. I deserve a little something to cheer me up, don’t I?
After finishing ordering the shirt, I get back to work. Wow, haven’t done a whole lot today, have I? It’s probably because my mind has been preoccupied by these money issues. I sure hope I get this promotion at the end of month. I’ve been working pretty hard on the past projects, just to get it.
While I’m getting ready to go home, my colleagues ask me about going to the bar next to our office, for happy hours. I thought about going home and finishing some of the work I didn’t finish during the day, but…maybe this will help me, get my mind off this financial stuff that’s bothering me? I won’t spend too much on a couple of drinks, right?
I pressed snooze one too many times, so I’m really late this time. I run out of the house, but I still find time to buy that coffee, sandwich and muffin. Yes, another one of those work-of-the-art, 5 bucks muffins. I’m having a hard time lately, so I deserve a damn muffin.
When I enter the office, someone tells me the boss said to go to his office as soon as I enter the building.
I get a scolding. About being late, about my productivity dropping through the floor, about doing who-knows-what during work hours. He says, it seems like I don’t really need a promotion if I can afford buying these fancy muffins every day. And I sure as hell ain’t getting one, if I keep going like this.
In a couple of days, I’ll receive my paycheck. No promotion, of course. My first thought is to splurge on some nice stuff on the weekend, to treat myself after this rough week.
And then it hits me like a ton of bricks.
I shouldn’t treat myself with some stuff I don’t really need.
I should treat myself by not pressing that snooze button, so many times.
I should treat myself by making my coffee and sandwich at home. Maybe even learn how to bake muffins.
I should treat myself by skipping on that t-shirt. It’s stupid and it will probably become even cheaper in a month or two.
I should treat myself by skipping happy hour to finish my work.
You know what will happen next? I won’t be blue, sad or depressed because of my financial situation. Because I avoided those unnecessary spendings, fairly easily too, so I don’t have a financial situation to worry about. I’ll be able to work without being preoccupied by something else. I won’t get in trouble with my boss. I’ll get this promotion. And the next one. And the one after it.
Do you know who I am?
I’m you, I’m the guy typing this text and I’m every other early-to-mid twenties young adult. A lot of us have been through this scenario, not the exact one, but something roughly similar.
Jean-Paul Sartre compared people to dice. And we are dice, throwing ourselves at the wild game which life is. Sometimes this game seems too hard and we indulge ourselves in small stuff that makes us happy for a while. What we often fail to realize, is the fact that these small purchases pile up. That the small stuff we impulsively buy and enjoy for a little while, pushes away the big stuff we might have enjoyed for a lifetime. And at the end of the month we end up scratching our head, looking at our bank statement, trying to figure out how did we waste so much money.
We create a difficult situation for ourselves, when we could’ve easily avoided it. Personal finance isn’t as hard as some people make it out to be. It’s a little more discipline, a little more tracking and a little less impulsiveness. And maybe a helping hand with some advice.
The real lesson here, is that sometimes you have to endure a little discomfort now, so you don’t have to endure a lot of discomfort later.
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