Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Flat Broke and Running Around in My Undies

I recently started living in an apartment all by myself. 

I love it. 

My apartment has become this extension of me.  Each room is an arm, a leg, or a toe of this great body that is me.  I can decorate how I want without needing to take a roommate’s sense of style into account.  I can do the dishes without more dirty dishes magically re-materializing on the counter five minutes later.

Plus, walking around in my underwear all the time is pretty fucking awesome… as long as I remember to close the blinds… but I digress *ahem*

As much as I absolutely freakin love living alone, there is something that kind of sucks about it – I’m broke all the damn time! 

When I first made the decision to live on my own I knew money was going to be tight.  Here’s something about me you might know – I really like money.  As long as I’ve been working I’ve worked a lot so that I would always have the financial ability to do what I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. 

So when I made this huge life decision to live in an apartment on my own, I immediately went out and started looking for a second job.  Being gifted with the ability to bullshit the pants off any interviewer (I’m basically the Barney Stinson of job applicants) I was hired for the first job I applied for – a salesperson at a jewelry store.   My responsibilities were to sell jewelry in the evenings and on weekends.  I would make slightly above minimum wage plus commission - all in all not bad for a second job.

But I didn’t take it.

I already have a full-time 9-5 job that I love and have been at for almost six years.  Monday-Friday I pour my heart and soul into this job and I couldn't be happier.  When I was told the hours I’d be working at the jewelry store, I realized that my life would become filled with nothing but work.  I started to panic. When would I get to have fun? When would I get to write? When would I get to paint? When would I get to dance around my new apartment in my underwear listening to Aqua and Ace of Base?

That’s when I sat down with my notepad and looked at my budget.  After taking a few deep breaths and accepting the harsh reality I figured out that I could do the apartment on my own without taking on a second job.  All I would have to do is rein in my spending and make some sacrifices.  By the time all was said and done I realized that I would have just $100 a week for The Three F’s - food, fuel and fun.  Even now, it’s a scary idea, but the idea of still having free time to pursue my passions and relax is more important to me than making tons of money and never having the time to enjoy it.

So far, I’m two months in and I’m doing ok.  I do lament having the ability to go out and buy a new outfit on a whim or being able to afford concert tickets on a moment’s notice.  But by having less money to spend I’ve gotten to spend so much time working on my passions that I’m feeling more spiritually fulfilled than I have in a long time.

Writing has taken a leap into the front of my life now that I have the energy, time and lack of distractions to really get it done.  This focus on writing was one of the biggest deciding factors when I chose not to take a second job.  I’ve been yearning to grow as a writer for the last several years but keep finding distractions.  Now I find myself writing as much, if not more than I did when I was in high school and first got the writing bug.

Plus, I’m finally learning how to spend and save like an adult.  I’m honing my cooking skills instead of going out to eat all the time.  In return, I’m eating healthier, exercising more and I’m feeling better about myself.  I’m also learning the freedom a person can feel by having less stuff.  (Just because they make an avocado peeler doesn’t mean I need an avocado peeler if a knife will work just as well.)

But it’s not all self-help and personal growth.  I’m still having a fuck-ton of fun.  I’m finally replaying all of the video games I haven’t touched in years, so I’m helping to save the world from aliens all the time – and who doesn’t like to save the world from aliens?  Before going out for the night I invite friends over for cocktails and conversation.  So I’m spending less on a night out and having just as much (if not more) fun.  I’m heading out on the river with a healthy lunch packed so I don’t have to spend three times the money on greasy bar food.

I know the transition is still going to be hard and I still slip up occasionally by buying something I don’t really need, but I’m trying. 

The best part? In the past I’ve let my finances control my life.  I used to feel like I was standing in the middle of a river.  Occasionally the water would be waist-high and the current would be calm.  But more often than not, the water would be chin-high and the current would be so strong it would sweep the sand right out from under me so that I was always fighting to find a foothold and keep my head above the water.  Now that I’m controlling my finances, the water is calm and I get to enjoy it with a beer in one hand – or hell, maybe one in each hand.

So I encourage you all, if you’re facing a financial challenge – put yourself to the test.  You’ll learn more about yourself and the things you actually need. 

Jump in, the water’s just fine.

Hugs n kisses,
Annie Jay