Monday, September 28, 2009
All right, I'm just going to come out and say it. I hate living on a budget. I know, I know, why the hell did I name my blog after such a personal abomination? Well, because for right now (in my late 20s, at least) I'm on one, and even more so after quitting my job.
Most of the time I completely forget I'm on a budget because I have and/or buy whatever I want. But there are other times -- like, um, Saturday morning when J and I sat down and looked over our spending for this last month -- when you realize you've been a little too breezy in some fiscal areas of your life. Take groceries. We usually spend about $250 to $300 a month in our combined Costco/Trader Joe's journeys. This month? So far we've spent over $400 ... and I'm already out of diet root beer. Ugh. We both balked when we realized this overall total, especially since we've been eating out constantly (Baja Fresh, you are ruining my life) and we spent another combined $100 at CVS and Rite Aid.
"What do we even buy at the drug store?" J asked, completely bewildered.
"Um, candy and beer," I responded.
"You mean to tell me we spent one hundred dollars on Swedish fish and Miller High Life?" asked J, even more surprised because we aren't big beer drinkers ... and he thought he was in some way cheating the system by buying one of the cheaper, albeit "champagne of", beers.
"Yup," I answered ... a faraway look of disbelief in my eyes.
So, after we scrutinized our recent finances, we've decided we need to clamp down on our spending ... as in, not spend at all (okay, I admit allotting $80 a month to our "Target needs" is still spending, but to me it's like not spending at all). This is how it's going to be, at least from now until we move in 8 months. After all, J's Bar fees are ridic and moving expenses will add up.
Being the masochist I am, I forced J to come shopping with me at the mall that very same day and used him as my financial barometer. The typical convo that ensued:
Me: "Ooooh this is cUUUUuuuute ...." (I hold up a dress/necklace/sweater/pair of shoes/peacock-feather headband in J's stolid face.)
J: "Yeah, but do you really need it? It's a short-sleeved dress and the temps are dropping, you wouldn't be able to wear it for another six months."
Me: "I know, but it's SO cute!..."
J: (Sighs). "Do what you want, but do you not want to be able to move back to California because you spent all our money on dresses and headbands and 'cute' pink doggie-poop-bag holders that you don't even need?"
(Twisted look of frustration pervades my face, and I angrily stuff said dress back into rack/fling said headband back onto shelf/leave said pink doggie-poop-bag holder next to cash register.)
Then I festered in self-pity and pouted in the car ride home until J -- again, my genius voice of reason -- says "You know, it's a trade-off. Would you rather be doing what you did before and shopping all the time, or working on your book and not spending much money?"
Sigh. How can I argue with this?
Looking at it like that, hell no. I would not want to do what I was doing before, no matter how much I got paid, and I am SO HAPPY that I instead get to do what satisfies and inspires me. It turns out true freedom is never free (as our budget so deftly points out).
"If you want to be an artist, you're going to have to live like one," J said.
Leave it to J to boil it down to an absolutely excellent, valid, puts-things-into-perspective point. He's right. I've never had to live the life of an artist, so I didn't know what to expect. And even though I loathe living on a budget, I'll do so because while it may seem that I'm irate now, I was even more exasperated before with my other career and all the money I had. Go figure.
Of course our limited spending also means limited spending on our "outings", like going to the movies and incessantly eating out at restaurants. But J had an excellent idea Sunday morning -- why don't we read to each other? "It's free," he pointed out. As if that was the major draw with his idea.
"Oh my god," I thought. "So Victorian, so romantic, so Bridget-Jones-and-Daniel-Cleaver-reading-Keats-in-their-rowboats." (Note: In real life J is, was and always has been Mark Darcy.) I was definitely in. I love reading and analyzing lit, and J is the perfect person to do it with. So that afternoon we took a Starbuck's gift card we had lying around, ordered a couple coffees and read Heart of Darkness to each other at a table near a window. Didn't cost a thing, and I loved every minute of it. We decided it's going to be "our thing", and I've already gotten out my old Hemingway short stories to read aloud next. I guess being on a budget right now isn't as bad as I originally thought?...