Friday, October 19, 2012

No Money Mo' Problems

I wanted to adress a topic that has been affecting my life during the past few months. First off, I want to mention that I'm a very sensitive person. If something affects me, it will cut right to the core and it will linger. I lament over every mistake I've made, and I take everything to heart. So I hope you don't think I'm being overly dramatic ;)

Ever since my parents divorced when I was fourteen years old (I'm 19 now), it's been tough financially. Luckily, my parents can afford to split the cost of university, and I live with my mom so I don't have to pay for groceries or anything like that. It's been this way since I was about 15 and could work.

That said, I have to pay for my clothes, social life, and personal items (including cosmetics and all that). Note that I don't say this regretfully because I am an adult and I know the major expenses are yet to come. But, especially during the summer, it can get quite hard because with so much free time, everyone wants to hang out all the time and it can get expensive. So. I wanted to share with you all the story of how my bank account hit rock bottom.

I should probably explain my job situation first. Last year, I had three jobs and I worked 5-6 days per week while being a full-time student. It was really, really tough. I became very unhappy and I dreaded waking up in the morning because I was under so much pressure. Given the added fact that I hated one of the three jobs (the one wherein I coincidently worked most often), life was not good. So I quit. And I quit my tutoring job as well, leaving me with one job that consisted of a single Saturday shift.

I guess you can say the Saturday job is seasonal, because during the summer I got zero work hours. Zero. Not because my boss was giving away the hours to other employees, but because many clients were on vacation and there was no need for me to go in. That said, my bank account was at a decent amount because of the money I put in while I worked the other jobs. I'd be okay for the summer.

Then, my mom made plans to spend two weeks of summer vacation in Italy, and from there, it all went downhill. I guess I didn't properly convert Canadian dollars to Euros, because in terms of the money I had in my bank account, it was a "here today, gone tomorrow" kinda situation. And, I bought a lot of stuff. I didn't realize just how much until I got home.

About a week after I got back, I had plans to meet up with some friends to catch up. I missed one of my best friend's birthdays while I was gone, so before meeting up I went to the mall to pick up a giftcard for her (it was the least I could do). I picked up the giftcard and wandered over to the MAC counter because I was intrigued about their new line of MSFs. Without thinking twice about it, I picked up the MSF I wanted and brought it straight to the counter, only to be told that my card was declined... Yup. That happened. In real life. I made something up about not yet depositing my paycheck and ran away as fast as I could. I made my way to the nearest ATM machine to see exactly how much money I had in there. It was less than $30, no doubt...

$15.05. I wanted to cry. How was this even possible? A month ago I had over a thousand dollars saved up. I called my mom right away to try and make sense of everything, but she was completely unsympathetic and said "Well what did you expect? You spend your money like it's nothing." I don't know what I was hoping she'd say, but that's definitely not what I wanted to hear, so I got frustrated, and then she got frustrated, and it ended in tears (on my end, of course).

And then I realized, how am I supposed to go for dinner if I can't pay for it? And then I also realized I owed my friend $75 for my ticket to Wicked. I haven't outright asked my parents for money in such a long time, but I felt like I had no choice. Since my mom wasn't too happy with me, I went to my dad who saw how upset I was and lent me some money. So I ended up being okay for the night. But what about the rest of the summer? What was I going to do, pennyless and jobless?

I think I was scarred from my last job that I ended up hating, so the prospect of going out and finding a job was absolutely dreadful. I couldn't enjoy the rest of my summer hanging out with my friends because it was too expensive, and I couldn't muster up the courage to find a job. Basically, I was looking forward to a summer of being totally broke, doing absolutely nothing, and having my parents nag at me to find a job. Every second day my parents would remind me how much money I owed them.

I tried my best to see as many friends as I could, having get togethers that didn't require spending money. I told my friends about my situation rather jokingly, too: "Can we stay in? Guys, I'm sooo poor right now." And they'd agree, not thinking too much of it. Little did they know, I had close to $0 to my name. Some kept pressuring me to go out with them and while I tried to explain, they just couldn't understand why I wouldn't ask my parents for money. To be fair, they didn't say that out loud, but I could tell that's what they were thinking.

A month into summer, things started weighing on me emotionally. I felt totally helpless in my situation. One night at supper, I broke down to my mom. I remember telling her: "I don't know what's more embarrassing: having to ask you and daddy for money, or telling my friends I can't afford to hang out with them." My mom told me to estimate how much money I'd need for the rest of the summer, and that she'd pay. That was really nice of her, and although I didn't want to feel indebted to anyone, I couldn't refuse, because having no money was getting to be way too much.

I started working Saturdays again, and my bank account is replenishing, slowly but surely. When I reflect on all that happened, I think this whole situation hit me so hard because I was so used to not worrying about money. Going from having some spending money, to having absolutely no cash was totally devastating for me.

Throughout the past few months, I've learned the importance of being as frugal as possible, and not spending in excess. I haven't spent large portions at once (for example, I used to buy expensive concert tickets left and right), and I haven't had a night out (clubbing/drinking) in a while. To satisfy my cosmetics obsession, I've been entering as many giveaways as possible which has actually been hugely successful. I've won three giveaways to-date which is astounding to me because I've never won anything otherwise. It's been good. I'm getting better, and becoming more aware of my spending habits. I don't eat out as much and I try to pick and choose shopping opportunities.

I guess the point of this post is to basically tell my story, and to say that sometimes it's not easy. Your friend could be going through the same situation, so if they tell you that they can't afford an outing, please be considerate. They're not trying to avoid spending time with you. Maybe they genuinely don't have the means. Also, if you're having a financial situation, definitely go to your parents. My mom explained that she doesn't mind giving me money when she can, just to not abuse asking her for it.

It gets me thinking about how money really manipulates my emotions. It seems so foolish that something as materialistic as a piece of currency could have such profound effects. Anger and sadness and helplessness. I wish it weren't the case.

Alrighty, so I hope that didn't bore you all to death! If you managed to get through this whole thing, do let me know in the comments :)

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