I’m currently away getting hitched and honeymooning on a secluded beach somewhere. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these guests posts that I have lined up for you! I’ll be back online and back to reality on Wednesday, June 22, 2011. — Amber
This is a guest post from Kelly AKA Cordelia from the blog, Cordelia Calls It Quits.
I’m a frugality junkie.
I coupon. I rebate. I garage sale. I accept every freebie I’m offered, even if it’s something I’ll probably never use. I make do, I make it myself, I do without whenever possible.
Every dollar to me is a dollar worth fighting for. And I fight. Oh, I fight, baby.
For the most part, I enjoy doing it. It’s become a game for me, bargain hunting and trying to get more for my money than The Man thinks I should. But sometimes I get just plain tired of working so hard all the time. Sometimes I wish I could go out for an impromptu dinner with my husband (maybe in a nice new dress) without being wracked with guilt.
It’s times like this that I remind myself why I’m doing all this in the first place. It’s because I am not living the life I want to live. And I won’t be until I can rehab my relationship with money.
How I Sold My Future for Stuff
Shortly after graduating college, I started getting the credit card prequalification letters. You know the ones. The ones no recently-graduated, unemployed 22-year-old should ever qualify for.
I applied for a couple cards, thinking it might be good to establish a little credit history. (Yes, and also thinking it could be fun to have some “extra money” to play with.) And then I proceed to be very, very stupid with those cards.
There was always something I seemed to “need” that I couldn’t pay for at the time. Furniture for my first apartment, work clothes for my first full-time job—and plenty of things I didn’t really need at all, but that seemed oh-so very necessary at the time. Like that pair of shoes that was far too damn cute to pass up. (They were on sale, even! Seriously, I’d be dumb not to get them.) Or that concert by the band who never, ever came to my area, so when would I ever get the chance to see them again (and buy their overpriced merch, and maybe have dinner and drinks beforehand)?
I knew a lot of my spending was frivolous, but I was working full-time now; I could handle the payments, and didn’t I deserve a little something for all the time I was sacrificing for my job? I mean, everyone has debt; it’s pretty much a given of modern American adulthood. As long as I could keep up with the minimum payments, no harm, no foul. Right?
When you look at money as just something that can be exchanged to buy things, it’s easy enough to spend it (and spend it, and spend it) without much thought. That’s what it’s for, isn’t it?
You really want that big screen TV, and you have the money to buy it (or to make the payments to charge it), so why not get it? You can qualify for a mortgage for that 5 bedroom, 3 bath house, so why wouldn’t you go for it, even if you don’t really need all that space? We work hard for our money, so we feel like we deserve to use it to make ourselves feel better, make our lives easier, indulge ourselves now and then. And our ad-inundated, consumer-obsessed society reinforces this mentality day in and day out.
But there’s a price to pay.
My price was my future.
After college, I accepted a job I wasn’t thrilled with, thinking it would be a placeholder till I could find something better. Then I slowly moved up in the company, all the while practicing my retail therapy to help me deal with the stress and dissatisfaction of said job.
The higher up I got, the bigger my paycheck looked, the more stress I was under, the more therapy I “needed” (and thought I could afford.) Things kept inflating until I found myself at the point I was at 6 months ago: 6 years in with this company and under a mountain of debt so mammoth it looked like I’d never be able to leave. I’d begun to realize I was miserable, that something needed to change–but I had no choice but to stay right where I was. Because my job paid well, and it was the only thing keeping me from going under at the weight of all my debt.
Without realizing it, I had locked myself in to a bleak, dissatisfied future with no visible out. All because I’d wanted some shiny stuff now and was way too good at justifying it.
That was my big kick-in-pants moment. That was when I stopped viewing my money as constant spending fuel and started realizing I could use it to invest in a better life. You’d be amazed how hard it is to buy a Frappuccino on the fly when you see your money as your future.
Money = Happiness
I don’t mean happiness in the mainstream sense of money = fancy cars or designer clothes or the latest technological gadgets. I mean it in terms of money = time. Or, if you want to get existential, money = life.
We’re all aware of this on a basic survival level. Money lets you buy food, put a roof over your head, keep yourself warm in the winter. But I’m talking more than just basic subsistence. I’m talking about having the freedom to live the life you want.
Maybe you hate your job, too. Maybe you want to start a business, or move to Italy, or go back to school. Maybe you just want to spend more time with your kids before they grow up. But you can’t, because you can’t “afford” it.
Well, I’ve come to realize something. You can choose what you can afford. You can make your own priorities. For me, what I can’t afford is several more decades in this job that means nothing to me. I’m willing to give up plenty to avoid that future: immediate comfort, instant gratification, treats and conveniences and immunity from public embarrassment.
There’s a Dave Ramsey quote I’ve adopted as my mantra:
“Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else.”
I’m willing to be the crazy coupon lady. I’m willing to wear my old shoes till the soles start wearing out. I’m willing to eat Ramen for months if that’s what it takes. Because every dollar I save puts me that much closer to a future controlled by me, not by my monthly bills.
That is why I’m doing all of this.
Kelly AKA Cordelia is the author of the website, Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she is fighting to call it quits on living life on autopilot, structuring her world according to everyone else’s expectations, and to the notion of “that’s just the way things are.” She’s on a mission to live deliberately, make intentional choices, and make each day closer to a life she’s inspired to live