Twentysomething Dollars (…or lack thereof)

This week, I did an adult thing. I paid off one of my student loans.

Now don’t get too excited. I’ve received only one reaction from the few people I’ve told: “OH MY GOSH LUCKY YOU THAT’S SO GREAT.”

Okay, hold on people. Let’s clarify some things. I’m not debt-free at all, by any means. And that tiny loan I just paid off? I have another just like it, except it’s four times bigger. And now, more than ever, I’m feeling financial stress like no other because my bank account has suddenly plummeted. The dollars were put towards a good cause…my education…but still, it feels like I just threw my money in the shredder.

And now, I’m feeling all these other financial burdens. Twentysomething problems, and money are the majority of them. **Disclaimer before reading: this list may cause severe stress and minor heart palpitations.**

  1. Student loans
  2. Student fees
  3. Textbooks for grad school
  4. Groceries
  5. Rent
  6. Utilities
  7. Cable
  8. Wi-fi
  9. Car payments
  10. Car insurance
  11. Gas
  12. Random car maintenance
  13. Random apartment up-keeping
  14. Phone bill
  15. Gym membership
  16. Clothes
  17. Wine
  18. Going out to eat with friends
  19. Coffee
  20. Books to read for fun
  21. Travel
  22. Going to see new movies
  23. Concerts
  24. Other fun things

Okay, you get the point. Out of that list, the first 14 are mandatory. Basic necessities (unless I go without a car, which is not feasible at this time). I’d even say #15 is a necessity in order to keep up with physical well-being, but that’s debatable. But regardless, out of twentysomething financial burdens, OVER HALF are things that I can’t control. I can’t decide not to pay rent unless I want to be kicked out. I can’t decide to go without food for a week (LOL let’s be real here).

So I found myself in a trap this week. Should I put a financial hold on myself for the rest of the list? Limit myself from all of the other “fun” things that I can control? Maybe I don’t have to buy this new book…maybe I shouldn’t go to the movies…maybe I should stay in instead of meeting my friends…

Well, I just have one word: NO.

I tried that this past week for you all so you wouldn’t have to, and I’m here to report, it’s not worth it. Because those “non-essentials” are what make the essentials worth living for. Sure, I could sit in my apartment and not do anything. Saving money, yes. But what kind of life is that? I could also cut back a bit on certain things. Maybe I don’t need to get Baby Spinach and Spring Greens Mix at Wegmans for $4.99 a pack…(yes, for me, that’s “expensive”), but I want to be healthy and eat the best foods possible. I could have ramen, etc, but to me, it’s worth spending the extra few dollars.

Another tip: a friend on Facebook posted this earlier this week, “When I say ‘I’m broke’ it doesn’t mean I have $0. It just means I have responsibilities to handle first before spending it on dumb shit.”

Well ain’t that the truth! Literally, I have money in my bank account. It’s all fine. I just need to take a deep breath. But if a group of friends are going to see a movie I have no interest in, or if someone asks me to go to a restaurant that I’ve already been to and didn’t enjoy, why bother? Either A) suggest a new plan that is worthy of your hard-earned cash, or B) maybe wait until something better comes along.

And that’s another point…twentysomethings work hard for our money!! And no matter how old you are, the majority of the day is spent working. So why not spend the money on something that you will truly enjoy?

A lesson from my grandmother: Save your money and spend wisely. But a lesson from my dad: The point of working is to have money to spend.

Contradictory lessons? I don’t think so. Work hard to earn money, save some, spend some. It’s all about finding that oh-so-important balance.