I had been smart enough to save up for the flights and everything that I knew interviews would require. But I hadn't planned for the mix ups and adjustments I was going to have to make, and by the end of it all, I was about $1200 in the red. Not a huge amount, but when you're also making a pittance...yeah.
I hated it. I hated knowing all my disposable income was spoken for, I hated having to figure out exactly how much I needed to throw onto my credit card, and most of all I hated paying Visa so much of my money in interest. And in the midst of everything else that was terrible, I started to grasp for something, anything that I could do to make things better. Could I get un-dumped? No, and I think do-overs are generally a bad idea anyway. Could I change people's views about my career choices? Nope, not until they just dealt with it. Could I fix the terrible things that had happened to my friends? No, that would take time and healing I had no control over. I realized that this, this money thing, was the one stressor in my life I could immediately work on fixing. So I did.
I made a spreadsheet to track all of my expenses. All of them. If I spent a penny, it was on that sheet (and I did, once. I needed a one-cent stamp). I tracked the day I spent it, what I spent it on, and how I paid for it. Just by paying attention, I started being motivated to Not Buy. Did I want it enough to put it on the sheet? If not, I didn't get it. As a result of this, I started bringing my lunch to work more often. I love food, but what I love most is the social aspect of food. My ideal night out with friends involves a great meal over a few hours of conversation. But sitting at work alone? I may as well save that delicious sushi lunch for when I have the company to merit it.
This made me consider how I wanted to be using my money, in the greater scheme of things. I wasn't willing to give up everything I spent money on, but I did want to learn to spend it in the ways that made me happiest. I discovered that when it came down to it, I would rather spend my money on experiences than things. Birthday dinners out? Absolutely. Attend an art show? What night is it? Go away on an international vacation? Let me sign the dotted line PASS ME THE PAPER SO I CAN SIGN THE DOTTED LINE. Latest model of cellphone? Um, pass. Figuring that out has saved me a lot of money, and also allowed me to go out and do more of what I truly love.
I also decided that I would do everything in my power to avoid getting into my situation again. I started to replenish my emergency savings. I started a savings account for traveling. I thought of my long-term security, and made a plan to start saving for retirement (though this was put on the back-burner until the visa was paid off and the emergency account was funded).
So this was my position at the end of April, when I finally picked myself up and decided to do something:
Visa card: $644.01
Emergency Fund: $395.50
Retirement Goal: $5000.00 (balance $0.00)
Travel Goal: $1000.00 (balance $0.00)
And I would guess about $200.00 in my checking account. All in all, I was down about $50.00 not exactly ideal.
Almost 6 months later, thank goodness things have changed! (more about that next time)