The reality of my financial situation really hit home once I finished college. Graduation not only meant no more essays or exams, but financial independence. But the truth is my life might be more stereotypically “college” now then it was when I was still a student.
For instance, the amount of times I find myself eating peanut butter and jelly is not appropriate for anyone over 10 years old.
However, finding that peanut butter is a little more difficult now. I’m currently teaching English at a primary school in Spain, and despite the small salary, it gives me a wonderful jumping off point to do what I love best: travel. But to travel as much as I like requires a certain level of self-restraint, especially when you don’t earn much. When that’s the case, short-term wants must be sacrificed for long-term goals. However, this basic rule guiding my finances is also the most difficult to follow. Whenever I’m contemplating a purchase, I try to take a step back and make sure I’m not acting on impulse. Sounds easy enough, right?
Wrong. So very wrong. I’m what you might call an “emotional shopper.” Bored? Let’s go shopping! Upset? Nothing a new dress can’t solve. Growing up I spent weekends shopping with my friends, gorging on overpriced jeans and uncomfortable shoes. But sadly, all good things must come to an end.
There have been plenty of months where, after the bills were paid, I've had next to nothing left. I would stare at my bank account in disbelief. I have a budget I (mostly) stick to, and there should be a safety net with some disposable income. Instead there are charges. All those late nights out and the post-college staple of “let’s have lunch and catch up” had decimated my savings. It doesn’t seem like much at the time, but $10 here and $20 there adds up quickly. Too quickly.
Now I’m not advocating a lifestyle devoid of any material pleasures. Sometimes there is nothing better than a nice meal out with friends, or a new shirt for no reason whatsoever. But you can’t let splurges become habits. Taking time to really consider a purchase — if it’s something you need or something you just want — can really make the difference at the end of the month. I can guarantee, from personal experience, that no matter how cute a sweater is, it won’t keep you warm enough when you’re forced to sleep in an airport terminal instead of a hotel on your next travel adventure.