Late Night Musings After a Trip to the Bank Instead of Yoga

“While I don’t believe that money guarantees happiness, I know it helps. Because money can buy you the freedom to live life 100% on your own terms.”
– Brian Tracy

I’m loathe to confess this, ducklings, but it’s the truth: I’m a walking cliche.  Money concerns have stressed me out over the past year and a half, and it’s probably made me a bit less good humored.  Winding down my first Real Live Grownup job is contributing somewhat to that stress.  I know it’s the right time to leave, J. has a signed contract to start a new position in mere months, we’re not going to starve and we’ve planned pretty wisely for it, but the truth is I’m a bit freaked out.

Getting our student loans for J.’s graduate degree and then immediately turning around and paying it to a school was a whiplash inducing experience: I’d never personally handled that much money in my life and in a matter of weeks it came and went.  Our usual expenses became much more tightly managed with those loan payments every month.  We’ve streamlined and budgeted and still almost every penny is spoken for each paycheck.  It’s a satisfactory but not very reassuring state.

Here’s the thing – we’re good with money.  Really!  I put 10% of each paycheck into savings without exception, I pay into my 401k and have made smart choices in managing it, we take care of our property for reselling when it becomes necessary, and we’re not extravagant.  J. and I both operate under the frugality now, security later mentality; we believe in delayed gratification.  But money and its management have gotten a lot more complex over the last few years and frankly I now understand why my parents (who were not wealthy but were very comfortable when I was growing up) were always talking about it and making financial adjustments and budgets.  It doesn’t matter how good you are with it, I think money is terrifying, especially when you don’t make much.

And I don’t.  Part of the reason I feel it’s the right time for me to try and move on is because I don’t think I’m paid enough – which feels weird to write.  I spent the first couple years of my job just thankful to have it, but I’ve watched duties and responsibilities add up without review of what those jobs are actually worth and it’s been frustrating.  The university doesn’t do merit based wage increases and the opportunities for raises are almost nonexistent.  My boss actually told me at my last annual review a month or so ago that if I were staying they probably would have had HR come in and complete an inquiry to see if my salary should be raised.   Which is nice to hear, but would have been nicer a year ago when my duties were upped significantly after Hennessy quit.  I know that I’ll probably start whatever job I take next at a much lower rate than what I currently have (which, I promise, is saying something), but I’ll be willing if I have the option of merit based raises, especially since I expect to start at a bottom rung wherever I get a foot in the door and am willing to work hard to move up.

I graduated just before the financial meltdown, I got a job literally just as Lehman Brothers collapsed and when faced with the pretty terrifying prospect of joining my friends and associates in parents’ basements or collecting unemployment, I chose safety and stayed where I was.  Probably longer than I should have, if I’m honest.  Nowadays I’m ready for a bit more risk.

A few financial boons have eased the nervousness somewhat as we plan our escape and next stage.  Dad found an old bond in my name that I can collect on (after completing the task of tracking down who holds it now since the companies and ownership have transferred quite a bit, especially since the Recession hit).  That baby is going straight towards loans and savings!  J. picks up odd jobs where he can and assisted writing an article for a business magazine which brought in some extra income.  We’re not starving – if I’m objective and rational we are a long ways off from it.

But.  If the last four years have taught me anything, watching my grandparents’ retirement vanish practically overnight with the financial collapse, feeling my financial obligations grown disproportionately to my income, working on the MP and seeing how hard hit some professions in particular have been by the new financial reality…it’s that I know exactly how quickly monetary security can go away.  I think I’ve become just a little more paranoid.

Weigh in, minions, and be honest!  Have financial concerns taken on a different hue to you because of external forces?  What have the past couple of years looked like for the Minion Coterie?  Do money and financial planning cause you stress, even when you’re good at it?  Am I unnecessarily paranoid – or is this worry common?  Talk to me, I’m really interested in a broad perspective here.

PS – As a further effort to cut expenses I just made my last want-based purchase for the entirety of 2013.  Hold me to it, minions, if I breathe a word about shopping in anything but hypothetical terms before Christmas, strike me down!

19 thoughts on “Late Night Musings After a Trip to the Bank Instead of Yoga”

  1. It doesn’t matter how good you are with it, I think money is terrifying, especially when you don’t make much.

    Ha, this is so true. I consider myself pretty good with money, but I still used to randomly burst into tears near the end of the month when I started my first job (although I’ve just done the math and my salary over the past six years has only barely kept up with inflation, DEPRESSING).

    I’ve got much better at suppressing the panic, but there is definitely about a week before payday where I just don’t look at my bank account.

    One of the things feeling insecure about money has bizarrely made me do is feel a lot better about spending it on good experiences. Like, “hey, I might lose everything next year so we might as well go to France this year!” I still put money into savings every month, and I used to focus a lot on being frugal, but now I’m a lot more relaxed about spending money on having a nice time. Because who knows where we’ll be tomorrow.

    OPTIMISM!

    1. Gah, that week before payday. I know it well.

      I agree about spending money on experiences wholeheartedly. When we’re back in London in a few months, that’s what we’re going to be doing with our (sparse) extra cash, but just two to three months of semi-employment between now and then is giving me that week-before-payday feeling to the nth power!

  2. Paul and I save like crazy. Even as the dollars add up in our savings we still act and spend like we are poor college students and still talk and fret like we have no money. But I’m sure our savings will come in handy someday when our car breaks down, our house burns up, and we lose our jobs all simultaneously!

  3. While money truly does scare me, I have to say, I can rock a budget with the best of em! 7 months of unemployment will do that to you. I know within about a dollar exactly how much my groceries will be before I take them to the cash register, I have no problem putting half the items back if they’re gonna put me over my allotted budget, and I’m a master at coming up with creative, free, usually fun (or at least strange – ha) things to do.

    Of course, living on a grad school budget and only a part-time job (the only one I could find!) on my part means that we’re still living pretty much paycheck to paycheck.

    We’re praying Terry finds a good job in the next few months that makes it so we can actually watch the tiny amount in our bank account grow, instead of grow then disappear. We’ve talked a lot about it and we’re both very involved with our finances. We’re lucky to feel the same way about most budget-related issues. We both want to keep living frugally after graduation so we can do cool things like pay off our loans and save for a house. And take awesome trips all over the place! (right??)

    I like Kerry’s comment about spending while you can – we definitely have that same mentality sometimes – I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, haha. But so long as everything’s getting paid, I love the idea of spending my money on experiences.

    Cross your fingers for us that we get a good job! 🙂

    And as far as your summer goes while you’re between jobs – honestly, I just say enjoy it! You’ve earned it! J has a good job coming up and a guaranteed salary is a nice comfort, for sure. This may be the last time you guys get a chance to relax together for weeks on end. The summer before we moved here, we had the same thing – my job ended, Terry had just finished school, and neither of us were doing anything. It was glorious – mostly because we knew it would be ending soon so we took advantage of every moment.. Seriously so much fun. We would just sleep in and take bike rides and grocery shop together and play the guitar and read and watch movies. *sigh* it’s making me jealous of the summer you can have. 🙂

    1. Caitlin! You are deliberately ruining my panic, stop it! 😉

      I’m actually really excited about the summer as well. It’s sounding…restful. But of course we have those sneaky loans that will require payment while we’re bringing in mere peanuts. Fingers crossed for you a Terry.

      1. Loans, shmoans. Ha. Just kidding. I feel your pain. And in case you didn’t know, you can usually defer your loans for a while when you’re unemployed. Might be something you want to look into. I’ve usually found it to be too much of a hassle to bother with, but if that makes you feel better it might be worth checking out.

        And then you can spend your time swimming and sunning at the local pool, while eating fresh-picked vegetables from your garden and listening to beautiful music whilst having lively debates with friends and family. So beautiful . . . 😉

  4. It stresses me IMMENSELY and I know that we’re extremely frugal and good at it. And, I don’t think it will get any easier the more we make. I’m grateful for the chance to have been poor so we had to learn to make good spending habits, but point, blank, period–money blows.

  5. (I read your blog regularly, but don’t normally comment). I feel your pain. We have always been extremely frugal. This turned out to be a great thing, but not in the way I expected–the “we’re officially real life adults and have a small house and some savings and the kids take music/soccer/art and we go out once in a while without feeling bad about it” way. Heck, maybe even the “we travel sometimes” way if we were lucky. Almost. A child that costs his weight in gold (and is worth every penny) followed by a job loss and a string of surprisingly bad luck from health problems to cars breaking down, and I am grateful to say that those good habits, and blessings, I’m sure, at least paid off in the “we are not starving” way. D. is heading back to school up there and I will be looking for the best job I can when we get there. Watching money only go out at the moment scares the heck out of me, but even if I feel like a crybaby on the rare occasion on the inside, I refuse to not make it. In fact, I insist that I will make it, will finds parts of life to enjoy, and will, somehow, be awesome doing it too.

    I think it is great that you have prepared for the future so well. Enjoy life and your success and accomplishment-you’ve earned it-and know that, if you ever hit a major speed bump, you have way too much attitude to go quietly anyway.

    1. So glad you chimed in!

      You’ve hit the nail on the head as to why money terrifies me – it’s supposed to insulate us against the slings and arrows…but sometimes there are a LOT of slings and arrows to contend with. I’m so glad you guys have been able to weather the challenges, it’s a testament to your savvy and amazing strength. Congrats to D. for more schooling. Hoping for good things for you guys! Let me know how things go!

  6. Money stresses me out to no end either–I just hate the feeling of worrying about it, but I feel like I have to! And things got so much harder once I got married. Not because Jason isn’t frugal but just because there are 2 people making financial decisions and I have to consult with someone else every time I want to make a financial decision. It’s like, I know Jason won’t care if I buy that $30 pair of shoes as long as it fits in the budget, but I still feel guilty because my $30 pair of shoes means that we can’t spend $30 on something else that will benefit both of us. And do I *really* need them? And all that stuff runs through my head. I’m going back to school in the fall and it’s totally freaking me out because we’re going to have to live at half our income for at least eight months until Jason graduates and how are we going to do that?? But it’ll be fine. We’ll get by and make sacrifices. Just keep having to tell myself that all the time!

    1. Marriage does make it harder! Each party is responsible for more than just their own success and safety, being responsible for a group is inherently more tricky. And having to take another person into account, even in really good partnerships, I think ups the stress level. I know how you feel about slashing your income as well, during J.’s senior year he had a really good paying internship that almost doubled our income (sarcastic sidenote – seriously? I was the one with the degree!), but when he went off to grad school in London that extra cash vanished just as our expenses got more complicated. You’re right, it’s not fun, but it’s doable.

      I saw you were going back to school, congratulations on that, you’re going to do such great things! (Make sure to write lots about it so I can blogstalk you!)

  7. I am so much less stressed about money these days than I used to be, which is kind of ridiculous as we face the prospect of going back to school AGAIN, but I feel like I have spent so much of my life worrying about money and it’s never done me any good that I just want to enjoy life a little more and stop being the person who has their day ruined by the grocery budget being overspent by 50 cents.

    1. I think that’s a wonderful attitude, I hope to reach that point here in a few months but it seems like we’ve got a bit of stress time left first. A lot of my friends and acquaintances are going back to school these days it seems! Where are you guys thinking, the same area or elsewhere?

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