The Process: Getting My Money Right
Ever since I turned 30, everyone wants to know how it feels and I tell them, so far, it’s the same as when I turned 29. But even I know 30 is one of those ages people think about long before we get to it. I don’t know exactly where I wanted to be when I turned 30, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t want it to be here, broke, still trying to make ends meet. But I’m a writer, I kind of signed up for this struggle, and I refuse to give up on it because I see too many successful writers who have made a career for themselves, bought houses and cars and supported families off the strength of their craft.
I wrote about this to some extent a couple of weeks ago, acquiring the skills to learn how to make this craft of mine a viable business. So I won’t dwell on it here. But rather, I want to talk about my next process I plan to undergo, it’s starting with a fast I was inspired to do after attending church yesterday, and it will carry on for about the next month.
For the next 30 days, I am not eating anything I don’t cook or make at home or at someone else’s home. I am also not drinking anything but water and juice. If I’m at a bar, it’s ice water. If I buy a bottled water, it’s a huge bottle I can take home with me and have for later. As for food, absolutely no eating at restaurants, not even carry-out or food trucks, and not even Chipotle, which is way harder than any of you non-Chipotle people think it is.
Obviously this is to save money, but this is also to discipline myself into no longer making halfhearted, foolish purposes. Nobody loves to go out to eat more than I do, whether it be at the hottest new spot in the city or that one whole in the wall that is half watch store, half sandwich shop down in Chinatown. I will travel far distances to experience an establishment’s offerings, but for the next month, I am only traveling far distances if I have to go to a specialty shop to get some spices for a meal I’m cooking at home.
This process will also go beyond food. I won’t be purchasing tickets to any events and will only be attending parties where I can get in free of charge. I won’t be buying any new clothes or accessories, something I rarely do, but must tell myself not to do for the next month lest I see a fly hat. The only upgrades I’m spending money on will be haircuts and dry cleaning and washing services. Of course, dating is being put on a serious hiatus as well, which is fine with me. I’ve been active enough as of late, so it’ll be good for me to chill out with the one whom I’m most comfortable, and if she has the urge to get a bite to eat somewhere, she already knows: She can take me and pick up the bill or take a friend and go half with him or her. I’m not about to break this fast for anyone.
Because what I’m all about these days is maintaining some sense of self-control. I don’t have my money right and I’m 30-years-old. This is fine but only because it’s temporary. If I don’t have my stuff together right now, so be it, but 30 is the age where I’m pro-actively trying to get it all in order. The fasting from making purchases and spending money for things I don’t take home with me a is a drastic first step in doing the one thing I have been putting off for far too long and that’s getting my money right.
As the title of the post implies, I’m doing whatever it takes to curb my spending, find a way to budget my income and effectively manage the debt I have. I’m tired of waiting for the big payday to come via some six-figure book deal or some huge cover story. I want to start focusing on the little money I do make and figuring out what’s the best way to manage it. I’m one of those people who swears they’re always broke, which is much more a state of mind than it is a state of wealth. What I’m trying to discover is just how broke I am and what I need to do to fix it. And as one of my mentors who has a healthy freelance career once told me, “Being a better business person makes me a better journalist.”
This is why in addition to the fast, I am sitting down with a friend who is a financial adviser everyday for an hour to go over my entire financial state. I chose the length of time because it is exactly how long I devote to exercise.
I tell people all the time, the biggest benefit that has come out of me exercising and getting in shape was the ah-ha moment. When I first started exercising and eating differently, it was a struggle, until the struggle flipped, and now if I don’t exercise for some reason or I eat something on the day I shouldn’t, my whole body and mental state feels out of wack. It’s a transcendent moment when you realize your mind and body have become used to do something good and the minute you go against it, you don’t feel like yourself.
I’m trying to get there with this whole saving money thing. Saving money for me is not natural, it actually feels counter-productive. I feel like when I have money it’s time to spend it, and most of the time that’s for something useful, but a lot of times it’s also for something frivolous like the same Chipotle order I make up to three times a week sometimes. Chipotle is good and all, but it’s not three-times-a-week good. Or wait, yes it is, but still, so is crack and I know not to do that ever. So what am I saying here?
Just because I like to go out to eat, doesn’t mean I need to do it all the time. I want it to feel like an exception, not a rule, and most importantly I want to feel like I deserve it. With my fitness, I went to such extreme lengths to keep everything in check that I actually lost too much weight. As a result, now and then I’ll eat something I probably shouldn’t, but my metabolism is fine tuned enough to break it down quicker, and I’m not feeling the effects of it as much as I used to. So what I’m hoping to do is when I go out to eat at a restaurant, I don’t feel as bad about it because I know most of the week I have cooked for myself or eaten at home.
I have no idea if this is going to work, but I’m willing to give it a shot. Look out for periodic updates on the blog, similar to what I was doing with the fitness updates. For those who want to join in on the struggle with me, feel free and for those who don’t, buy me a taco. Oh and if you see me with a Dunkin Donuts cup in my hand out in these streets, smack it out of my hand and punch me in the arm. Thanks in advance.