I spent enough money in the last two months than what I had spent the entire year otherwise. That is not financial independence, that is financial irresponsibility. If there is one thing I know about myself, it’s that I am impulsive. That impulsiveness amplifies my expenses and while “It’s like a reflex to me” sounds cool when Bruce Wayne says it, it’s ridiculous when a young man who has just set his foot into the world quotes it, despite how amazing it sounds. This isn’t self-deprecation. Perhaps, it is self-deprecation. I just figured I’ll put whatever bothers me straight up into words.
My life, as I knew it, changed back in 2015. However, it wouldn’t be until almost a year later that things would start impacting me in every sense of the word. There are so many aspects of it that I’ll split this post into two parts. The first will deal with what happened, what went wrong and what I’m doing to fix it. The second part will delve deeper into the more significant questions that come to your mind when you wake up, and you’re not concerned about money for the next couple of years. Perhaps, this post will serve as a reminder in the future. It will depend on the future, however, that what kind of reminder it becomes. C’est la vie.
Just A Little More
When you grow up in a lower-middle-class family, you develop a good sense of your needs and wants. I was still pretty bad at it until one day my elder brother knocked some reason into me. This was back in ninth or tenth grade, as far as I remember. Before that, I’d ask my parents outright for things that were difficult for us to afford at the time and I don’t blame anyone. My interests and thoughts have mostly been extravagant. A little too much for my good, it seems.
Naturally, when my stickers got selected in the Steam Workshop, my family was stoked but also, slightly alarmed. A boy who likes to dabble in things that are way expensive and out of reach for him gets handed a nice sum of money. It’s obvious how a family might feel.
However, initially, I was wholly responsible with all of it. To the point that I remember my brother praising me somewhat for handling it better than all of them thought I would. I was keeping a delicate balance between the needs and wants, and they had clear distinctions.
Until the lines started becoming blurry. My UberPools suddenly became UberGos, if not Premiers. An occasional cup of Starbucks became something I do every day. Social and casual drinking became something I do somewhat regularly. Events, concerts, and trips increased. Trips became extravagant and plenty. The “life-liver” spirit somehow awakened to its absolute prime.
It Starts With A Simple Excuse
You tell yourself, it’s just a one-time thing. It isn’t. “UberPool and UberGo are going at similar rates these days”, I’d argue when my friends and I discussed taking a cab or the metro. While they decided on a mode of transport, I’d be deciding on which Uber I was taking. Until the distances increased and the ten bucks worth of difference between the two categories became hundred and sometimes even more. Before I knew it, I had stopped considering the metro or even UberPool as a viable form of transport. A little crowd and I’d just jump right out of the metro station as Mario jumps out of a tube.
Cabs weren’t it though. I could see I was going wrong hence I started decluttering and living minimally. However, the idea of reducing something that does not give you value can become counter-intuitive if you save money on A and spend more than what you saved on B because B gives you value. That is how I started justifying my expenses, passively twisting a beautiful ideology whenever the topic came up, and it did come up because I have a responsible elder brother and I have responsible friends. The virtue that I am yet to master entirely, but I know I will. This is probably the first step.
It’s a difficult thing to do, managing finances and growing up. Especially, if (fortunately) you never got to experience the broke student cliche throughout your time as a college student. You tend to forget what the lack of things feels like. When all of my friends would be cutting on their expenses because the month was ending, I’d be out there enjoying a perfectly brewed cup of Cocoa Cappucino or a pint of some beer and eating out almost every day.
In fact, because of me being so unhinged about it, they started spending more. Ultimately, most of us were burning through our budgets as we burned through our days toward the end of the month and the next and the one that followed, monitoring expenses regularly but never paying attention to where we were supposed to cut down. It was a mundane exercise, not active budget control.
“My Lifestyle Didn’t Change”, He Said
It’s funny how my lifestyle upgraded exponentially while I kept telling myself I was still under control. One, I wasn’t and two, it was false reassurance mostly. I’d create hypothetical scenarios which usually favoured my case passively, justify my case with the scenarios and just keep going. Telling myself yet again, “Oh, you’re fine. You just spent like five thousand over your budget this month”. I won’t go into how much that scaled over the course of one year. I guess that is evidence enough for anyone to raise an eyebrow, especially if they know me.
While I spent money, I also knew I was continually donating it somewhere as well. However, even though my expenses scaled upwards, the charities remained the same as the gap became wide enough, and with another set of reassurance that I was also using the money for good, I continued yet again.
“This is but a small part of a rather large picture you’ve already painted, and you know it”, said my brother to me the other day. He was right. In fact, the saddest part is that you know you’re slipping, but you keep telling yourself you’re not and it’s just a slight overstep until a series of slight oversteps take you an extra mile in the wrong direction.
It Goes Further Than The Expenses
While the ideological part of this will be another post, I still think it is important to reiterate that money is only as good as the person you are and that it can just make you as happy as you already have the potential to be. When I was a child, I was an adamant believer of how money was the answer to most of my problems in life, and I’m not uber rich now, not by a long shot, but it’s enough for me to realise how I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There’s a thing called Happiness Index, and it’s relation to money. The idea is that it rises with an increase in money until all your basic needs and wants are met. Once that happens, it plateaus. It becomes a straight parallel line. After your needs and wants are met, you’re just clueless as to how this affects your life. It doesn’t. So, you find ways to use it somehow. Some people are somewhat altruistic; they give it away. Others are slightly pessimistic; they save for adversity. Some are opportunistic, they invest and try to make more of it. There are others too, but it boils down to what Jim Carrey once said about money and success,
I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.
Save Your Cents To Save Your Dollars
Saving here isn’t in the pessimistic sense of the word. Instead, it is in the logical sense of the word. The fact that my life turned around for good opened enough ways for me to be able to do things I’ve always wanted to do. To ensure it stays that way, a reality check was necessary.
So, that is what I plan to do. I plan to get back in my shoes and start paying attention again. Attention towards what I need or want because, at this point, I don’t trust myself enough. So, I plan to work with my family on this one. I’m just a twenty-one-year-old guy who is impulsive and clueless.