Dear Diary: I live at home and I’m still broke — Part I
Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Living at home post undergrad has many rewards.
If you were fortunate to have parents like mine, where rent-free is the name of their game, you might agree that it's like winning the lotto! After a contract I was working on changed due to mutual agreement, I ended a job with the hope of tackling personal and business ventures.
Technically, I wasn't broke because I had no job. I was broke because I was living rent-free and making poor money decisions. So there I was, suddenly back in the four sky-blue walls of the room where I'd spent the majority of my high-school years, trying to convince myself that, with more than $1,000 in my savings account, I could get by for six months and get my finances totally in order from the new gigs and business opportunities that would come my way.
The reality was, I was living in a space no larger than the size of a typical freshman dorm, and I found myself stressing over my new life of penny-pinching and cooking for plus one, twos, and threes.
So yes, I live at home. With my parents. Under one roof. And I was spending more money than necessary. But I learned a lot during my time at home — even though I fell, almost predictably, for many of the pitfalls of 20-somethings. Not “cutting your coat to your own size” was my primary downfall.
Little did I know that living at home can be a nightmare to your finances. But that's what unbridled, unconscious, unnecessary spending on things you think your bank account can handle can do to you. By Month 5, my accounts were crying. Literally. And it's only after all of that, that I came to grips with the fact that I had to do something.
Month 1: #Pridebelike
I immediately cancelled all the automatic weekly deposits to my savings accounts. No cash flow, so no savings. No savings, so spend it!
Back at home in my room, confident as ever, I knew I would be able to support myself and my lifestyle with my cushiony savings account. The $10 lunches three times a week continued.
And it was okay, at first. Then I realized I can cook to save the $30 a week.
In my family, there's no names on food in our refrigerator. That's because of an unwritten rule that whoever cooks must cook for the family of four.
My parents would call for errands that involved gas, money, and time away from the hustle of trying to get a full-time gig or, at the least, a client meeting. Who likes going to the grocery store three times a week? I just knew it was okay because they would reimburse me, right?
Pride wouldn't let me ask for my money back. #Pridebelike “We are at negative $350 at this point!” But never mind. I realized my parents were not the cause of my irresponsible spending.
Months 2 and 3: Emotional Spending
The majority of my #Truelifeimbroke decisions came from emotion. Wanting to have lunch with old friends and venting to my girlfriends over $5 lattes at Starbucks made everything feel better for me. It can be rather satisfying to express your jobless woes to people who are close to you. One friend even suggested I apply for unemployment.
At first, pride wouldn't let me do it. Then I tried it and got denied.
I completely took out spending on clothes and shoes. No more trips to Macy's or Forever 21. With $650 left, what better way to spend it than by treating myself?
I still felt I deserved to enjoy the happiness of my newfound freedom. So what's a girl to do when her birthday is around the corner? Book a 4-star hotel room for two days, that's what! I put $313 toward my birthday peace and tranquility, in a room all by myself.
You can't have a hotel without room service, so food was ordered. And movies. And Internet. And gas. And… Yeah, a total of $370 blew by in 48 hours.
The thing about emotional spending is that instant gratification goes away very quickly. You aren't satisfied with your current situation, so you think spending will make it all better — when, in fact, you've just applied a temporary band-aid to your un-managed finances as if it would help stop the bleed. As I sat and ate my birthday meal and watched romantic comedies, I thought, “Well, at least I'm not at home spending for a family of four.”
Month 4: Spend in the Cause of … Taxes
Living in a suburban setting around swimming pools, private tennis courts and neighbors who vacation in Bora Bora makes your eyes bigger than your wallet. The folks I live around give so much money to charities and causes that are dear to them, and I decided to do the same. On a spiritual high one day, I donated money to a couple Go Fund Me campaigns. My sole intent was to seek my reward come tax season.
That was like hitting myself backwards. It doesn't make sense. When tax season came around, I was excited to let my tax lady know I had donated money. But come to find out, I donated under $1,000, so I wouldn't be getting the return on my investment that I expected.
This reminded me that my intention and priority for my money was out of order. Just as much as I loved giving to those campaigns, I equally enjoy good food and have refined taste for something new. As a self-proclaimed foodie and chef, I love to cook new dishes just as much as I like buying them. The time came for me to have a neighborly barbeque, which meant MONEY! I spent a cool $100 bucks buying barbeque food for a group of 10. I actually thought I was doing good. A hundred bucks isn't that bad. But when you have $280 bucks left in your account… Well, let's just say that every penny counts.
Month 5: #Desperatehousegirl
The time came to have a heart-to-heart moment with myself. I had $180 left in my account, a couple gigs in sight, but still no steady cash flow. As if I hadn't learned a single lesson from the previous months, I took another stab at eating out no questions asked.
My debit card had rewards credited back to me if I spent at local food vendors. Spending $10 at Corner Bakery to get $1.00 back in credit made so much sense! And I did that every week. By this time, living at home and being broke wasn't cute anymore. So I finally froze my spending … at $16.89.
Five months of money mishaps actually taught me a lot. For one, really understanding the value of money is becoming increasingly important to me. Having to penny-pinch taught me how to establish boundaries and set priorities effectively. Even saying NO! to a request that involves money has been emotionally freeing for me. Money woes are real for 20-somethings, and I'd love to hear your experiences … similar or otherwise.
What are some other pitfalls to look out for when trying to manage your finances? How do you tackle your emotional relationship with money?