Apparently November is Financial Literacy Month–which I totally didn’t know until YouTuber Nerdy and Quirky talked about it in one of her vlogs. Not only was it a funny (and relatable) video, but it was great inspiration for a really apt topic to write about this week, as I looked back on my own finances.
They aren’t exactly…healthy.
As I’ve continued to level up adulting, I’m hit some pretty big milestones this year. Got promoted to full-time and broke into making just a sliver more than $30K a year. Started a retirement plan. Took over all the remaining bills my parents still paid for me, except for healthcare. Downloaded Mint, a budget tracking app, and actually started to stay on top of my finances and create a budget.
Yet I’m still always terrified to spend money.
I’m not sure where it’s stemmed from, that heightened anxiety when it comes to money. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a position where I’ve felt I’ve had enough money. Not in the sense of, I want to be filthy rich, but more like, enough money to actually be stable and not feel guilty any time I buy something that either isn’t allocated in my budget or isn’t a bill. Even with achieving all those milestones listed above, I still panic when my bank account dips into the lower side. I still struggle to even spend any money, aside of what I’m forced to spend to make ends meet.
So, considering that Christmas is barely over a month away, I’m sure you can imagine how heightened my stress gets, trying to add in a Christmas budget to my normal, frugal never-buy-anything budget. When you also take into consideration that one of my absolute favorite things to do is buy those I love presents, especially for Christmas, well, it just makes everything a tad bit more complicated.
Last week, I got a slightly funny, but also eye-opening, wake up call, when I started doing some Christmas shopping online. I had enough saved up that I could get everyone I was shopping for the bare minimum of what I wanted to to get them, without completely ruining my bank account and making my stress levels go through the roof. All of it was online, so I decided to just knock it out in one sitting–mostly because, after buying things for only one person, I already felt like I wanted to puke, even though I knew the money was there and I had nothing to worry about.
I got roughly halfway through before my card started getting declined.
Of course, I started panicking. It didn’t help that, by that time in the evening, the banks were closed, so I had to wait until the next day to see why my card wasn’t working anymore. It didn’t take a lot, however, for me to figure out that my card had probably been frozen by the bank, for two reasons: 1) it looked phishy, getting a bunch of things from a lot of different websites in one sitting and 2) looking at my normal spending habits, even buying one thing online was off, because I never spent anything. At all.
Some, of course, would call this some really damn good self-control. And I do have that, I think. I’m pretty good at shutting my brain off from buying that sweater that looks really cute or choosing to go to the library to get the latest bestseller instead of a bookstore. Yet, I couldn’t help but think about my reaction to buying Christmas presents this year, the whole card fiasco aside. While I was buying things, I just wanted to go throw up. I was sweating so badly that my shirt was drenched.
All because I was spending money.
Money that I had already budgeted to spend. Money that I was financially okay to spend.
Yet, in my mind, because it’s such a rarity, I couldn’t handle it. What if I did my math wrong? What if I misjudged when I should make my purchases and I didn’t have enough money in the bank for when bills were due next week? What if a paycheck came late and I was suddenly screwed? Yet, I did do my math right. I was totally okay, money wise. My bills were going to still get paid. I was going to be fine.
And that, my friends, is where I’m financially unhealthy.
I’m frugal to a fault.
Buying Christmas presents shouldn’t result in me struggling to eat my dinner because I’m still so nauseous or make me wish I had my deodorant with me to fight against my sudden sweat bucket status. Getting a new pair of tennis shoes I really need shouldn’t make me feel like I need to cut what I buy at the grocery store in half. Spending money that isn’t set aside for my bills shouldn’t induce a feeling of complete guilt or immobilizing fear.
I’m not saying that I suddenly need to start spending left and right or jump completely to the opposite end of the spectrum and spent without regard. That’s not healthy. But inducing lower-level panic attacks any time I do spend money isn’t healthy, either. Like a lot of things in my life, I need to find a better balance. I need to recognize that I’m doing okay, financially. Sure, this time next year, when I’m paying for my own healthcare or if any of my current bills increase, I’ll be screwed completely and utterly, but at the moment? I’m doing okay, even if everything is a bit tight. So if I want to go get dinner with someone, every once in a while, I can. If I want to get a new pair of jeans, that’s not going to kill me. If I want to spend the money I saved up for Christmas, I should do it without panicking that I’m making a mistake and about to ruin myself financially.
I need to give myself a little more credit and give myself room to breathe a little easier. Money is never an easy thing to manage, but I’m not doing too shabby. So why don’t you trust yourself a bit, mhm?