Okay, I do not really have money. I can't quit my job or buy a new house or anything like that. And I have not started my Debt Snowball, not really, which means I still owe money, which means I am technically "broke."
But. Never in my life have I ever really had any discretionary money to spend. Like most Americans, when I have more, I up my lifestyle, and then I owe more. The few times I have "gotten ahead", I wasn't really ahead of anything. I might have a chunk of cash in hand, but it always needed to go to catch up on things. Or to live on, because I didn't really have enough to live comfortably, day to day. I would have a nice time of living comfortably and enjoying life, and then it would run out and be gone, with nothing to show for it.
If I had money unspent in the bank, I had this low level guilt or anxiety. I should not be holding on to it. It had to go pay this bill or that debt. OR, there were things I needed badly and had been putting off, like going to the dentist or fixing my car, and I felt this relief that I could finally take care of these things. Basic things. Not buying a new big TV. Not going on a family vacation to Disney. Not getting an iPad. Things like replacing my tires, or finishing a root canal so I could eat crunchy foods.
So here I am, I have finished saving my Baby Emergency Fund. Over half came from putting aside a large part of my tax refund, not from saving my paycheck, which could be seen as a failure on my part. I just can't squeeze $500-1000 out of my paycheck at this point, not in a month or two. But still, referring back to "the other times I have had a chunk of cash" above, my tax refund falls in there, and it would be spent like those times. This time? I saved it and I spent money on my business idea. That was it. And I was more than ok with that. I didn't buy clothes or shoes or craft supplies or go on a trip or anything else. Ok, yes I went out to dinner, let's be reasonable.
And then, the Journey of the Sinking Funds has continued. I found out I could set them up at my own bank. I haven't, because it requires a trip to my bank, 45 minutes away. They are only open business hours (when I work) or Saturday mornings. Since I had another appointment elsewhere Saturday, that meant I had to get up at my regular time (on a Saturday! hate hate hate hate). I did this last Saturday, I set up 9 savings accounts at my bank, and I temporarily used the Baby Emergency Fund to seed them. (That money has now been moved back where it belongs.) Now the sinking funds themselves are in the right accounts, to the tune of almost $500.
This week was my one year anniversary at my job. Guess what, that comes with a cash bonus! It's not a lot, but as the man said, "Hey, ten bucks is ten bucks." Then there was my payment from my client too.
All of this to say, I looked at my bank balance today, which being the same bank, includes the total of ALL these accounts. I just about fell off my chair. It's not enough to retire in luxury. But it is enough to...
- replace my car with a similar value car, should it break down or be stolen
- buy that big flat screen TV I've been wanting since last summer
- buy a new Mac, an iPad, a Kindle Fire, an iPhone4, a whatever
- move into a new place, with security deposit and rent payment
- pay my car insurance deductible, should I have an incident
- book and pay for a trip to Bali
- fix problems with my teeth I've been having for a few years (I've fixed other problems already)
- replace the air conditioning in my car
- buy a new winter coat, and I mean NEW
- buy a digital DSLR camera *sigh*
- pay all my expenses for about 2 months, should I lose my job
And not with a CREDIT CARD. Not with STUDENT LOAN money. Not with money my parents gave me or received as gifts. With MY money. Money I worked to earn. Money I put aside. Money I have saved.
Yes part of it is my paycheck, but I paid all my bills for this month already. All I need for the rest of the month, really, is basic living money.
Ever since I reached adulthood, I have been using credit cards as my "just in case" fund. Keeping a credit card with a high limit and a low balance was my safety net. Except.... when I needed to use them (and you always will) I was borrowing money to take care of it. When the emergency was over, guess what? I still had that extra burden to carry and pay off.
It feels different now. Knowing if, God forbid, someone get really ill and I had to book a flight quickly to go see them, or to go to a funeral, I would be able to do so. Not borrow the money to do it either. Just do it. If my car suddenly stopped working and gave up the ghost, I could just deal with it and move on. Not panic. Not wonder what I would do. Not rely upon my parents or other family to help me.
And it's my money. Did I say that enough? Mine. Mine. My bills are being paid, on time. I have a plan and I am following it. I did not start my Debt Snowball last month, because the hosting services and scanner were more expensive than I planned. The first small debt is being paid off this weekend. I won't need to touch my savings accounts to do so, either.
Before I got this job I spent 3 years either unemployed, part time employed, or working as a contractor with no security at all. I have gone thru times where I was seriously hurting for money. Hurting like, can't buy food, can't buy gas, can't get through the month hurting. I grew up poor so I survived but it was hard. It was scary, very scary, to live on the edge of life like that. To have literally, nothing. The huge positive of that was a forced break from the addiction of consumerism. I now know what is a want and what is a need because when you have only $250 cash for a whole month, your required bills are $280, and your car just broke down and left you stranded in the cold in a Home Depot parking lot, you learn what is a need and what is a want. You learn how to live on nothing, when you have nothing.
When I got my job I spent several months just catching up on things. I actually bought some clothes and some shoes. Then my student loans kicked in and I realized I could live on what I make, but not get ahead. And I needed some traction.
Now, I have it. If you are considering FPU, I tell you, it is worth it. It was worth it for me.
I want to remember this. I want to remember, when I am tempted to buy something I want but don't need right now. No gadget, no toy, no trip, no event is worth more than the peace I have right now.
This post is so much better than the one I had planned, the one where I guiltily confessed that I spent $190.00 on my hair last weekend. OMG, yes! I am not insane. I have a sinking fund for my hair. But my stylist switched salons, and it never occured to me to ask her, Say, do the same services cost the same here, or are they more? And then also, when you say to a stylist, Can we do something different? that's always going to translate: more expensive. I have great hair now. But, yikes, is all I'm saying. I am sure Dave would not understand that. The man doesn't have any hair, after all.
Photo: "map bank balance." From FreePic.com. LINK