I'm a college-educated professional person who never has any extra money. In part, it's because my English degree hasn't resulted in a lot of high-falutin' jobs that bring in the big bucks. But it's also because I sort of suck at money. That is, I spend it like I have it. I shake my moneymaker way after the money's been made. And spent.
My 2008 purchase of a teensy white cottage is one of the only grownup things I ever did, and I love it here. When the economy tanked, I lost not one but two jobs, and keeping my house was touch and go for awhile. I was even toying with moving back in with my mom.
But eventually, I got a good job that I love, and met a man that I loved more, and like a couple of idiots, we decided to rent a large old house and move in together. My cottage would've been ideal had he been Dopey or Thumbelina, but it's really too small for two adult humans and five pets, which is what we had going on.
He was actually less Dopey and more Bashful—of commitment—and after a year, the relationship tanked, and hi-ho, hi-ho (which is what HE said), it was off to home I go. Back to my cottage.
The good news is, while the relationship went south, my money sitch went north, because we spent a year splitting the bills and our rent had been absurdly low. So, heart: broken. Credit rating: repaired.
I took my sad soul and my happy FICO score back to my cute cottage, unpacked everything and hung pictures back where they'd been a year before. I looked around my little cottage, took a deep breath and said: "What a dump."
Being gone a year had given me fresh eyes. And nothing in my house was fresh. The front porch was welcoming if you were time traveling to 1974, and the rooms looked like they were decorated by Edgar Allan Poe. The house sorely needed fixing but the last thing I wanted to do was to get back into debt.
Enter my friend Kaye.
"I can help you with how to do this," she said. She's my practical friend, but really, if you knew me, you'd realize that pretty much everyone on earth would be "the practical one" compared to me.
Her brilliant strategy to fix my house without taking a second mortgage on it was something I was only vaguely familiar with: save for it!
I know! What is this? 1952?
First of all, she's making me save up two months' salary, which—no, smug reader—I DON'T have saved up. So that's step one. Fortunately, I have a large freelance check coming soon that I was planning to use for Botox, but instead is going into a boring old savings account. Then, after THAT, I can save for my house repairs.
Then came the part that I was also only vaguely familiar with—the part where I have to give up stuff to free up my cash for more stupid savings.
"You're bringing in enough money," said my penny-wise friend. "You're just spending too much every month. Something has to give."
So we spent a Saturday afternoon arguing about what I'd give up. And after much back and forth ("Would I cut my own grass? HELL, no. I don't even own a lawn mower"), I committed to foregoing the following expenses:
· Sirius Radio
· Amazon Prime
· Weight Watchers
· Any fast food, including coffee shops
· No food delivered (My Chinese delivery guy notices when I change my hair. I'll miss him.)
· Brow waxes
· New makeup
Seriously. She banned me from Target! OK, just for six months, but still. But what we figured out is that I'll go in there to get, say, eye drops and come out with a new throw rug, six coffee mugs because what a cute color, a book on Kate Middleton because who doesn't love her and new cherry-scented Secret. The point is, I walk into Target, become hypnotized and my $1 eye drops have become a $79.46 visit.
What I REFUSED to give up was Botox, because that stuff works and there are some things a woman just needs. Hey, passing on pedicures is gonna be bad enough. I'm gonna try to do my own. And I promised to not buy $30 shampoo anymore.
I spent my day calling various companies and canceling various memberships and services. I'm gonna feel sad when I get in my car tomorrow and I won't have Super Sounds of the '70s on the radio, but my commute lasts six minutes. I'll live.
I imagine it won't be easy, but I'm excited to see the dollars accumulate in my savings account. Wish me luck. Or send me a pizza. I'm dying over here.