September 22, 2015

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In my very first post on this site, I talked about how I’m not a wealthy person. I’ve been crawling inch by inch out of student debt, credit card debt and vehicle debt and building a stronger financial future for myself. And every month, when I get sick of eating cheap lunches and wearing old clothes, I look at my spreadsheets and feel a sense of satisfaction that my hard work is paying off. Every month, my net worth goes up just a little bit.

Until this month.


You’ll notice that there are other down months on that chart (the giant one was my wedding, and the quick recovery was wedding gifts -- thanks fam!) but it’s been more than a year since I had a downturn and I was starting to think that I had it all figured out.

Shit happens.

  • My washer and dryer died (as you all know) and we replaced them with shiny new models. I paid for one out of the emergency fund and put the other on the Best Buy credit card at 0% interest. This helped preserve the amount in savings but made a big ding in my total worth because now I’m back in credit card debt again. $1,600.

  • My adorable new kitten has a variety of shelter-related illnesses which each require multiple vet visits, special meds and shots. $320.

  • My car got rear-ended and the jackass who hit me pulled a hit and run, so I get to pay the deductible on the repair. Cost currently unknown but could be as much as $500 out of pocket.

  • Before all of this happened I had scheduled to have our kerosene tank at the apartment filled while the prices were low. At the time that I made that appointment it seemed like a good call but the timing ended up being painful as hell. $500.

Plus the stock market is in the shitter, so I don’t even get to emotionally cushion my shitty personal finance month with the knowledge that my investments are doing well.


Like I said above, usually when I’m feeling discouraged, I can look at my tracking documents and remind myself that it’s all worth it. The scrimping and saving and thinking about every little purchase, it all leads to that chart going up. But on a month like this where so much feels out of my control, I just want to throw up my hands and say fuck it! I’m already screwed for the month so I should just go get a mani-pedi. Maybe I’ll just buy a new coat instead of wearing my old one for another season. Who cares if we go to the movies instead of waiting for it to come out on Netflix? Screw it, let’s eat at a restaurant -- no, let’s go crazy, we’ll even order apps and dessert!


What’s up with that? Psychologically, I mean. Logically, intellectually, I know that because I had several unexpected expenses, it’s doubly important that I focus on savings where I can get them. I should look at that downturn and feel inspired to take on a second job or sell some of my possessions or learn to sew my own clothes or something. Instead it just makes me feel emotional. I just want to sit down and pout because I work so hard all the time and it’s not fair.


And here’s where I have to give myself a punch in the face. Things could be a lot worse. The new washer and dryer are great and I’m not paying any interest on them. The cat is a joy and worth every penny. I wasn’t hurt in the accident. I know that I did a good thing by filling my heating tank while prices were at their summer low. And the stock market just does what it does. Each of these things is actually a mark of privilege. I have the credit / emergency fund to replace my appliances when they break. I have the means to provide another creature with medical care. I have excellent car insurance. I had cash to fill my heating tank. And I’m a regular investor.

The reason I have these privileges and these safeguards is (in part) because of my vigilance. I need to mentally turn this around and tell myself that I did great this month, no matter what that chart says. I didn’t go out and blow my money on consumer goods or avoidable problems. I used the tools I had built for myself just for months like these.

I might still go get that mani-pedi though. Sometimes a girl needs a goddamn break.

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