I have a terrible time with money. As with every aspect of my life, it’s yet another thing I tend to fluctuate being consistent with. I’m either really strict with myself and save, save, save, or just plain hopeless and refuse to check my bank balance. By the time I graduated University, I was completely skint – overdrawn to the limit. That was the last time I was strict with my finances; I saved, saved, saved and made meticulous spreadsheets showing exactly how much money I had coming in and going out at any given moment. Pretty soon I paid off my overdraft and had saved enough money to move out of my parents’ house.
Nowadays, I tend to be more on the hopeless end of things. Those meticulous spreadsheets are long gone, and I struggle to even hazard a guess as to how much money I have (or don’t have, as the case may be) at any given point during the month. A lot of my 20-something friends who are in a ‘lack-of-money’ scenario might be down to being a shopaholic, being a social nut, or merely having a taste for the finer things in life, but I really can’t say the same for myself.
- I’m not a shopaholic. I get bored of shopping, very quickly. I don’t run around Harvey Nichols buying designer everything – I’ve never bought a designer anything. In fact, on the average day, I’m probably either wearing clothes I’ve had since my late teens, or an outfit from Primark, which cost about £1.50. This doesn’t say much for my sense of style.
- I don’t go out ‘clubbing’ (because it isn’t 1996, and I don’t live in Ibiza) I actually don’t go out at all because I never have any money. The generic argument of being 20-something and poor due to a rampant appetite for fun and socialising completely falls apart when it comes to folk like me. I’m not poor because I go out, I don’t go out because I’m poor. Even my friends are jaded by my financial circumstances – sick of extending invitations my way and hearing the inevitable excuse of ‘I can’t afford it’. Thanks to my anorexic finances, I’m now socially starved as well.
- It’s true, I do love the finer things in life; continental cuisine in expensive restaurants, a nice bottle of wine. But if I’m being honest, the opportunities for me to appreciate the finer things in life are very rare, and on any given day I’ll happily settle for a Big Mac and fries.
There’s one main reason why I’m so poor, which separates me from my friends. And that reason is that I work part-time. Most people my age don’t. I reduced my hours because I was offered a freelance writing job and because I desperately wanted some extra time to finish my novel. One year on and the freelance job has amounted to nothing and my novel is entangled in a continuity nightmare… With spelling errors.
When I first decided to work part-time and follow my (ahem) dreams (ahem) I did actually calculate that I would earn enough money to cover all my rent and bills for the month, without having to suffer too much. Sadly, I hadn’t accounted for other things I would need to pay for such as; birthdays, Christmas, insurance, holidays, weddings, travelling to see family and friends, socialising… the list goes on. Where as everybody has a financial surprise once a month, my limited wage doesn’t leave much room for error. When my friends are feeling a bit out of pocket, they can still be naughty and just go out for a cheap drink. 9 times out of 10 I can’t accommodate it.
There’s a couple of other contributing factors to my dwindling finances. One of them being that I was so pleased with myself for taking such a big risk and putting my job and financial security in jeopardy by going part time, that I decided I wanted to do more impulsive things. Like learn to drive – which I had been putting off for the past 9 years. Most people understand that learning to drive is an expensive thing to do – yet in the throes of being impulsive that didn’t seem to matter. ‘Who cares about having money if you can drive?!’ I told myself. Answer: I do. After I passing my test last week, I worked out that with all the lessons, and theory, and tests the whole driving thing set me back a hefty £2000. And no, before you ask I can’t afford to buy a car.
Then there’s the matter of doing the one thing I had always promised myself I wouldn’t do. I got a credit card.
In fairness, this was all for good reason. I needed a new PC. No, I really did need a new PC. And if I was going to buy a new PC, it may as well be an all singing, all dancing, computational monster. Most of my friends don’t care about computers the way I do. In fact, most of them share a computer with their partner or housemate. But I’m not good with sharing, and I’m especially not good at sharing computers. So I went ahead and bought an expensive computer. The trouble with credit cards is that once you’ve experienced the initial euphoria of “I bought something expensive and I still have all of my pay check left – yay!” you want to experience it again, and soon there are other items of expenditure you ‘can’t really afford this month’ like holidays, train tickets, Christmas presents, birthday presents, wedding gifts etc that all go on the credit card too.
It’s this kind of spending that is psychologically dangerous; I’m constantly reassuring myself that I’m not flitting my money away on stuff I want – I’m spending it on stuff you need. It’s all just a trick. Spending is spending, whichever way you look at it – but at least my well socialised, stylish friends have some fun in the process and end up with lots of stuff they actually *wanted* in the first place. This whole necessity tactic I have going on is much more problematic than just being naughty and indulging in expensive ‘stuff’ every now and again. Because once all the credit card bills and bank statements flood through the letterbox at the end of the month, I stare in disbelief that I’m spent up and have nothing to show for it.
But it can’t just be me. I mean, I overspend but I’m not totally reckless or anything, am I? There are people my age who are far worse than I am with their money. Right?
This was the survey I took via 20sb for the blogging carnival. I think this survey was polite by telling me I’m “not quite there” when what it means to say is “SEVERELY IRRESPONSIBLE”. 19 points. Out of 100. That’s the same kind of score I used to get on my maths tests at school… Hmm, figures.
So, why don’t I got back to my meticulous spreadsheet making and count every penny in and out of my account? It’s a good idea and if I wasn’t so
inherently lazy busy all the time, I would… Okay, okay, what actually puts me off about the penny counting, is the budget being broken by the thing you haven’t accounted for and there is always something. I get fed up of trying to account for everything, and then something breaks, or something needs replacing, or some mad friend from my past has a birthday and I need to buy them a present. And after all the calculations and spreadsheet making I discover I’m still broke. I guess these days my stance on my finances is that I already know I’m poor, that I don’t have enough money to even try and set a realistic budget – so I’ll just muddle though and buy what I can.
Or, more realistically it’s more along the lines of ‘I’ll worry about money when I’m 30-something’.