Julie’s Week 5: Dollar Dollar Bills, Y’all

Getting to the roots of the problem.

Getting to the roots of the problem.

Let’s talk about money.

When I graduated from college in 2002, I landed a salaried job–with benefits–within a month (this is now and kinda was then pretty much unheard of). I was living with my parents, who were so thrilled that their English-major kid found a job that they didn’t charge rent. So, apart from my car payment and cell phone bill, I was free to spend my modest salary on clothes, cocktails, and lunches from the Whole Foods salad bar. I was out on Match.com dates until 2 and got to work by 8 the next morning, was in CardioKick by 5:30 and charging kitten-heel flats in Banana Republic at 7 with a sack of takeout Thai food waiting in the car. In short, I finally had some money, and I thought I was hot shit.

Guess how much money I saved during this magical time? Guess how much I could have saved? When I was in grad school and trying to make it to loan disbursement while overdrawing my bank account and paying bills late, I cursed my stupid decisions. The ivory pantsuit was $200 I could never get back, and it ended up in the donation pile (because it seemed I packed on about 75 pounds with every subsequent degree I earned). I guess it wouldn’t have mattered a lot, now that I see how puny my savings would have been compared to ten years of adulthood below the poverty line while desperately trying to appear professional. By the end of my Ph.D., I had accumulated a terrifying amount of credit card debt (and let’s not even talk about student loans). When I got my first academic job (the one I’m still at), I hoped I could get ahead of my bills, but my disappointingly tiny paychecks (yet another issue in academia) vaporized on contact with my expenses and my debt.

And lest you think I’m in denial: I know that all of this is at least 50% my fault. In addition to food, I exchange my feelings of sadness, anger, and fear for stuff: clothing, makeup, jewelry, shoes, home decor, electronics…the list goes on. I justify this with excuses: I work so hard! I never get to go anywhere. I miss my family. I hate my body/apartment/car/life. It’s been a rough day/week/month. I must look like such a loser compared to XYZ, they have a job and a house and a family and a retirement plan…The worst excuse of all was/is this: It doesn’t matter. This is how I pretend that a slip-up is not actually a slip-up, and that I’ll get it together perfectly tomorrow. Then I wonder why months have passed and I’ve seen no progress.

And then there’s this other thing that happened. On September 21, 2014, my mother died. She was a few months short of retirement and her 66th birthday. It was unexpected and sudden, and horrific and unfair and cruel and surreal. And, without sharing too many private details, I’ll say that in the weeks and months that followed my credit card debt became a thing of the past and I found myself with some substantial assets. And although I would joyfully give up my newfound financial security to have my mom back…it’s not going to happen. So, I try to tell myself that this was mom’s way of helping me, one last time.

I wish this place really existed. Until then, I'll stick with a boring old budget app.

I wish this place really existed. Until then, I’ll stick with a boring old budget app.

That brings me to the present moment. I need a damn budget, now that I actually have enough money to cover my expenses. So, naturally, I’m using the personal finance software You Need A Budget. It helps you create and stick to a budget and gives you access to free online money management classes. At $60, it’s steep, but I got a deal on my copy several months ago. My goal is to have a basic monthly budget planned by the end of Week 5. Also, I’m emptying my Sephora and Ulta and Old Navy online shopping carts, because the reward points ain’t all that.

Julie’s 52 Habits Update

Week 4: Not too shabby with these daily pomodori. I’m doing 20-minute intervals with 5-minute breaks, and I’ve found that the Pomodoro Timer app is highly customizable and can track whether or not I’ve met my goals. Also, what this is helping me to do is prioritize writing. I could have spent the last hour doing more class prep or grading, but I pushed all of that aside to write (even if it is just a blog post—you gotta start somewhere). I’ll be no good to anyone, least of all my students, if I can’t get anything published and lose my job or something.

Week 3: Still holding steady at getting ready immediately upon waking, but haven’t done anything since then. I’ll make it my goal to spend some time planning my ideal bedtime routine this week.

Week 2: I’ve been avoiding the scale as last weekend’s mega-depression drove me to the proverbial feed bag. However, I made some tasty paleo dishes this week, including a respectable chicken tikka and paleo naan, and a wicked good pad Thai with zucchini strands in place of the rice noodles.

Week 1: I’m getting close to making 2 daily distraction-free hours an actual, bona fide habit. When I don’t do it, I feel weird. Yay!


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