A few years ago, I started spending time with a coworker outside of work. She was cool, fun to hang out with, and we had a lot in common. Except income.
She worked in a separate department and made significantly more money than I did. Hanging out with her and her friends usually involved dining at fancy restaurants, drinking at fancy bars, and talking about whether we'd go to Greece or St. Bart's -- I hadn't been to either.
Today, we're no longer friends. It's not because we had some falling out or personality clash -- we just came from two totally different worlds. After turning down a slew of invites, not being able to vacation with her, and generally saying 'no' to friendly financial pressure, we grew apart.
The other day, I ordered a small pizza for lunch. The delivery guy showed up, sweating from the summer sun, and told me my total was $10. I had a twenty-dollar bill on me. As I handed it over to the exhausted, out-of-breath pizza guy, I felt bad asking for change. So, against my better judgment, I gave him the entire twenty. A 100 percent tip.
You're thinking it, and I'll be the first person to say it—that was stupid.
Sure, I wanted to be nice—it's nice to be nice. But I had also just voluntarily paid double for something. And I'm in no financial position to pay double for things.
After years of living well below my means, I'm finally a few weeks away from reaching a personal savings goal and rolling over my 401k. I'll hold for applause.
Yes, I'm almost in a secure place financially. But this has left some people close to me offering their input on what I should do with my income, now that I'm a grown up and all.
The suggestions are interesting. I've been told I should open my own business, something I've never had a desire to do. I've been told I should completely change careers, something I've already done once, recently. I've been told I should invest in real estate, and, well, let me put it this way. Yes, I'm close to being financially comfortable. That doesn't make me Donald Trump.
I used to have a savings problem. But not in the way that one might think.
For years, when payday would come, I would budget a ridiculously large percentage of my paycheck for savings. I left myself very little for bills and practically nothing for shopping, eating, entertainment — the things I vaguely dubbed "nonessentials." I was determined not to live beyond this budget.
Well, I sorely underestimated my love of "nonessentials." And it cost me, because I would inevitably overspend, even as little as $10. Which doesn't sound so bad, except that, after saving all of my money, I had nothing left in my checking account and would thus incur overdraft fees. At one point, a $2 purchase spiraled into $300 dollars of overdraft fees. Continue reading...