Can You Afford Yourself?

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Last night I decided to take myself out on a date. It was one of those ‘you’ve earned it this week so you deserve to burn it this week’ moments. So I went to a nice little Italian restaurant with 4 yelp stars but 2 $. I was already winning. The food was delicious and as I sat there decompressing from the day I decided to head to the mall before it closed and pick up a pair of gloves.

Gloves led to the movies and the movies led to a nightcap drink at a local bar. But it wasn’t too bad. The night was a success, or so I thought. I wasn’t thinking about that extra glass of wine I had at dinner, the three Uber’s and one Lyft I took, that ATM withdrawal with a $3 fee. Oh and that I made a few impulse buys at the mall. Total spent on the evening: $120.

Now this may not sound like a lot to you, but I’ve still got student loans I’m paying off, a hospital bill from that one time I slipped on the ice, and my Uncle Sam who’s always asking for stuff from me every time a paycheck comes around. It doesn’t help that momma raised me to have Whole Foods taste with a Trader Joe’s budget.

And the icing on the cake, this one night of treating myself was just a small example of a larger problem.

I can’t afford myself. It isn’t every day that I treat myself, but it is every day that I reinforce negative financial habits that keep stacking on top of each other and making the mountain of debt harder to climb. After the usual expenses to live, come the expenses to actually try to enjoy life a little bit. Then right around the corner rearing its little head are the mistake expenses from stress spending because of the life expenses.

It’s a never ending cycle that keeps hitting me in the face and my wallet in the groin. The thing that sucks the absolute most is that I know I should save more but it’s actually pretty hard. Screw what people say about consumerism, the entire structure of life makes it hard to shelve money away for the future. And I want a really nice future, heck my wallet wants a nice future. It’s tired of being hit in its nethers.

We’re beat down! Work events, weekend detoxes and retoxes, transportation, holiday gifts and travel, boutique coffee shops, internet and electricity (oh don’t get me started on internet and electricity). Sometimes it feels like life was designed like a hamster wheel and I’m sitting here with a clear view of what I want but the ground beneath me keeps me where I am.

But I can’t get off the hamster wheel because I’m afraid that I’ll detach myself completely from society. I could, however, bring the stuff I want into the hamster wheel with me. I could take a small piece of what I spend and hide it away. It won’t be much but what’s the alternative? Don’t do it and spend $5 on a coffee that I won’t get back.

So ladies and gentlemen, today I present to you my top tips for affording yourself, aka how to bring wealth into the hamster wheel. Let’s get to running:

Slow down the wheel

It’s hard to tell your co-workers, family, and friends no, so I’m not even going to give that advice. But I will say pace yourself- just slow down or group events together. Big things move slow, small things move fast.

Slow down the hamster

  • That’s right, you. Take a breath before every (every) purchase. It’ll cool you down and warm up your wallet.

When you trip, stop the wheel

  • Bad decisions lead to more bad decisions. If you mess up, it’s ok. Pause. Refocus.  Look at your goals and keep it moving.

Get off the wheel

  • We all need to get off the wheel sometimes for a few brief moments. Step off, look at your goals, reflect a bit, then get back on

Break the cage

  • You’re saving, you’re building, you’re doing it. So what’s next? Crank it up and run so fast that the wheel can’t keep up and it’s running while you’re flying hitting your goals with discipline. But how? One word: automation. Automate your bills, your savings, your investments, your reminder emails, everything to do with your finances so while the wheel is spinning you’re strolling out that cage like BAMF with everything running by itself.

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