If anyone here was walking down Madison Avenue this morning and happened to see a girl in her mid-twenties sporting a black midi dress, huge tote on one shoulder, canvas bag on another (with chargers and papers falling out), a box of Dunkin Donut Munchkins in her left hand (co-workers engagement) and phone in the right – that would be me. If you also saw this girl crying and wiping her tears and humidity sweat on her fore arm …. than that was definitely me.
Let’s backtrack about 45-minutes to how I found myself here. I had just left the dentist and learned that I need some procedures done. By ‘some’ – I’m talking four, two hour appointments over the next few months. After this initial annoyance, came the money conversation. It started with whispers from the receptionist to my doctor about my insurance coverage. Followed with a lecture my payment options, insurance coverage, co-pays, out-of-pocket costs, the whole nine yards.
I left in a mild state of shock. It was definitely my first: “I can’t provide for myself, HOLY SHIT” moment since I’ve become an adult.
Now, before I continue, I want to state how lucky I am. I have a full time job and can fund a roof over my head, have a family that encourages me, and I still have money to treat myself. I know that living beyond my means will leave me completely stressed out and uneasy. I used to have horrible financial habits (hello impulse shopping), but now I shop with a purpose.
Even with that, this was my first experience where I need money and need it now. It’s crazy how things that seem insignificant one moment and can turn into the biggest stressor the next. Think: getting sick, breaking a bone, car accidents, broken appliance, and the list goes on.
I went for a long, leisurely lap before heading to work. After one-and-a-half laps, I knew the negative self-talk wasn’t making anything better.
I was blaming myself, and calling myself a failure by affirming that I’ve invested too much in my mental health and not savings enough. To move forward and find a real solution to this problem, I knew I had to reverse the negative self-talk ASAP.
The next question I asked myself was an important one – WHAT ARE THE FACTS?
- FACT: I am my most important source of wealth
- FACT: To keep this machine running successfully, I need to invest in myself (different for everyone): seeing a therapist semi-frequently, eating healthy high-quality food, staying connected with friends, donating to good causes, and traveling.
- FACT: I haven’t focused on the smaller purchases that add up quickly, I tend to guess: coffee, hot bar, birthday gifts, treating others, subway MetroCards, Happy Hours, Diet Coke, gun packs & drugstore makeup.
And what answers/solutions did I come up with? The overarching answer: START SMALL. .
- Examine the small purchases. What does it cost me, in terms of time, productivity?
- How many hours do I have to go to afford my 3X a week Starbucks habit? Grande Pike = $3 X 3= $9/week, $36/month, $432/year
- Look inwards. Look back at my recovery journey over the last two years. What investments really helped me? Can I scale back on the frequency at all without it interrupting my progress?
- Weigh the risks & make small sacrifices. How much will I lose from only going out to dinner with a friend once per weekend, instead of three times? Are there other things we can do instead?
- Make a promise to myself that I won’t be trapped in a bad situation without resources to fall back on
- Be disciplined about my spending and saving