Everyone has their own truth. Here’s mine: I’m terrified of being broke.
Like many other Millennials I want to travel, but there’s always a little voice in my head that scoffs saying, “Where? Like to the park?” Our bank accounts dwindle as fast as our hopes to get ahead. With the cost of living continuing to rise, we seek supplemental opportunities and work long hours. We live in fear of what bills may come and carefully calculate extra costs.
You’re tired and you’re broke, but you’re not alone.
Growing Up: I grew up in an oddly normal family. My parents (both divorced and happily remarried), made sure I never had to want for anything. Being an only child, I was always their priority. They always made sure I was taken care of first, even if that meant doing without a few things themselves.
We weren’t broke, but we were conscientious. I watched my mother select economical options at the supermarket and my father carefully balance his checkbook every week. Don’t get me wrong here, when there was extra income in our house, it was spent in the most enjoyable ways. We still went on vacations, had cable tv, and ate meals outside of the house.
Instilling the Work Ethic: I have had a job since before I could legally work. As a kid, I would help my mom file paperwork on our family farm and clean the office. When I turned 15, I was the first grandchild in line to work on our family farm driving combine during our harvest season. Hard work is inevitable in a farming family. You cultivate your crop, or you actively choose to let your livelihood die away. Everyone was expected to put in their best effort for the greater cause of helping the farm prosper. I have this to thank for my work ethic.
I was fortunate enough to work all through college, holding down multiple jobs and internships at a time while being a full-time student. I didn’t have a lot of time for extra activities but I made it work, because I knew that the opportunities wouldn’t last forever. Working 60+ hours a week wasn’t easy (or always fun), but the experience was absolutely worth it.
Facing the Real World: Upon graduation, I was overwhelmed with the endless possibilities. “Oh the places you’ll go,” they told me. Unfortunately, much like the character in the Dr. Seuss book, I got lost somewhere along the way. I struggled to find meaning in my day to day work and sought something more within my career. This compelled me to notice the little things and be mindful of the legacy I would leave behind. I was forced to form more meaningful relationships and to build something bigger than myself.
I have been fortunate enough to have a job for most of my work-elligable life, collectively only having a few month hiatus. But alas, why am I still broke?
We could sit here all day and argue about a $4 cup of Starbucks every couple of weeks, the amount of fuel spent driving to spend time with the people I care about, or even the price of dog food. But that’s not the point. The truth is: it is simply expensive to be alive.
Fast Forward: This week I had the unfortunate experience of having to fix my beloved Jeep, a vehicle I have wanted since I was 12. I could have let the issue go for fear of the cost, but I chose to do the responsible thing and my savings account paid the price.
How many times do we pray nothing breaks for fear of what it will cost us? How often do we put things back in the supermarket because we simply cannot afford them? Even full-time employees such as myself struggle with spending the extra $30 to go to a concert we’ve been dreaming of. What has changed and how do we fix this?
Here are a few things I have discovered:
Don’t panic, this is temporary. The harsh truth is that we’re all struggling in our own way. Just remember that things will not be like this forever. We all have to start somewhere. Don’t be discouraged, stay calm and keep working to get where you want.
Stop comparing yourself to others. We all have that one friend on Instagram who lives the life of the fabulous. They’re always taking vacations or eating lavish meals while we’re still paying for coffee in change. Stop comparing your lives, it does you no good. Instagram is not an accurate picture of their lives, it only shows what they want you to see. We don’t know what happens behind closed doors.
Budget to the best of your ability. I have always been fascinated with budgeting, and quite enjoy putting the pieces of my financial puzzle together. Budgeting does not mean giving up everything. Sometimes it’s okay to have that $4 coffee or buying that $30 concert ticket, when you can afford it. Make your bills a priority. I call payday “exchange day”. Every payday I pay my bills first thing in the morning and then budget from there. Make sure your debts are paid and go from there.
Save where you can. Start saving somehow. Remember above when I told you about my Jeep? Without my savings account, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have been able to pay the mechanic’s bill. It is always good to have a bit of “extra” for emergencies. For some, it’s stashing $100 bill somewhere. For others, it’s a savings account. Save what you can as often as possible, even if it’s $20 a week. It will add up quickly.
Be honest with yourself and others. This is perhaps the hardest part. No one wants to admit that they can’t afford things. Nothing is more embarrassing than telling your new #bossbabe friends that their products are out of your budget or cancelling your dinner date because you didn’t have room in the budget this week. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing, but I promise people will understand. You’re not flaky or unsupportive, you’re on a budget. Be okay with being honest.
Good luck! You’ve got this.