by Guest Author
I was raised to value shelter, food and clothing. Everything else was just candy. The problem, though, is that if you’re constantly denying yourself candy, every once in a while you find yourself going on a candy bender. Then you have to pay for that bender by being even stricter with yourself than you were before…which means that your next bender will be even bigger. It’s a vicious cycle that eventually landed me flat broke in the spare bedroom of an alcoholic roommate’s apartment. Yuck.
The problem wasn’t that I didn’t have the means to work my way out. The problem was that I wasn’t sure exactly what I should be working toward. I could lead a super cheap life right where I was, even if I hated it there.
That’s when I realized that my priority scale wasn’t working. So I had a sit down and I thought: in my ideal world, what would my life look like? Here’s what I came up with:
- An apartment of my own in a neighborhood I love
- Healthy food to eat
- Clothing that fits properly
- Reliable entertainment
- Not feeling guilty because I decide to go out for a slice of pizza instead of buying something frozen on the cheap and cooking it myself
- No more debt
- A healthy emergency fund and healthy savings account — maybe even some investments. Nothing huge but maybe an account or two with solid CD interest rates
I’m not there yet, but I’m making progress. Here’s how I did it:
I saved every penny I could. I did this by creating a budget in which I itemized every little thing I thought I would actually buy/pay on a bill and inflated its price by 10%. I added it all up. That’s how much I worked to bring in each month.
I looked at the neighborhood I loved and figured out how much it would cost to rent a small one bedroom apartment there. I listed the highest price I found in my budget as my monthly rent price even though I hadn’t moved yet.
Each time I paid a bill/bought a thing/paid rent, I’d put the difference between what I’d budgeted and what I actually paid into my savings account. Between the small monthly bill “overages” and the large rent surplus, I was able to save several hundreds of dollars a month.
After six months, I had saved up enough to cover the cost of a basic move: first month’s rent, deposits, U-Haul van, setting up utilities. I had also managed to build up a steady six month history of solid on-time bill paying, which was good for my credit history and showed I was serious about improving my financial situation to potential landlords.
I managed to find an apartment for less monthly rent than I had budgeted and still in my favorite neighborhood in town. And that’s where I live now.
One life goal accomplished! Now to work on the rest.
This is where the want vs. need is coming in handy. I’ve allowed myself to splurge a little on things that I love, like a decent cable package and some streaming media accounts. I’ve created a space in my budget for dinners out with friends.
And you know what? I’ve found that by making space for that–and doing the extra work required to earn that–I’m less tempted toward binging on things that I don’t need but that I buy because I’m so sick of being so frugal.
So really–what’s important to you?
This post was written by Jane Brown. Do you have a debt story that you would like to share? We are always looking for personal debt related stories to share with readers. Contact us if you have something that you’d like to share