Tuesday, June 29, 2010
- Tuesday: dinner with friends ($0, ate beforehand), La Jolla Shores (free, public beach), 2am fast food stop ($0, ate snack @ home)
- Wednesday: Starbucks with friend ($0, skipped coffee), dinner with friend (In N Out, $5.17), out with friends after ($0, board game night @ house)
- Thursday: Tennis with friend ($0, free courts), ice cream after ($0, skipped)
- Friday: Ocean Beach. Ice cream ($0, skipped), dinner (Hodad’s, $6), cliffs (free, public entrance)
- Saturday: shopping ($0, “window” shopping), library (25 cents, pay off fine ). Asked to go to dinner & downtown to club, skipped ($0)
- Sunday: asked to go to Disneyland with friends, skipped. Asked to dinner with friends, skipped.
- Monday: library ($0, no fine this time!), gas ($6, all I could afford to put into tank), Panera (soda, free since brother works there)
In a week, I spent $17.42. Which leaves my bank account at exactly $12.58.
If I had actually purchased at every stop, I would have spent around $120 (not including Disneyland, since that just makes all expenses soar). It seems a little ridiculous to track expenses like this, but when you’re me—unemployed, running out of back up funds, and savings account is strictly for student loans—it’s necessary.
I wasn’t always unemployed. I was a lucky graduate, because two weeks after I received my BA in Literary Journalism, I began a full-time job as an Account & Content Manager at a web design and marketing business specializing in working with health care professionals (read: made websites for dentists and plastic surgeons). The job was literally given to me when a friend had to quit and offered it to me. It wasn’t quite what I wanted to do, but it was interesting, and honestly, give me $12/hr, and I’ll like a lot of things.
36 days after I began working there, the company downsized. Last hired, first “fired” (really it was “let go”, but that doesn’t rhyme), and suddenly I was thrust into the good ol’ world of unemployment. I had to move back in with my parents.
As it was, I was making the least of all my friends anyway. Most make around $15/hr, a few pull in what comes to $20/hr, and one friend takes the big ol’ fancy schmancy cake by having a starting salary of $70,000/yr (perhaps I should have conceded when my parents asked me to go into engineering. *Sigh*). Even when I had the income, I was struggling to keep up with my friends. I still had to skip the coffee sometimes, and almost definitely couldn’t afford to go on the shopping sprees at Bloomingdale’s; but I didn’t constantly have to count the change in my purse and mentally scan my bank account any time a friend asked to go somewhere.
It sucks. I’m not going to lie. I hate having to turn down so many things, I hate having to plan pre-eating before going out, I hate having to be the one that sits awkwardly at a table while everyone else chows down. I hate the looks of pity I get, I hate the offers from friends to pick up my tab (though I appreciate it). It’s frustrating and annoying and even though financial trouble plagues everyone, it’s embarrassing to be the girl who is always dragging everyone else down.
But it’s simply something I have to do if I want to see friends at all. There was a small period of time right after I was let go from work where I became extremely paranoid about my finances and turned down all offers to go out for fear of spending anything. I knew my money was going to disappear and I was terrified how fast it may go. And that put a huge strain on my relationships. Friends started expecting me to say no, so they simply stopped asking. The guy I was trying to see ended up saying, “I can never see you. I want you to go, but I know you’re not going to.” And that’s when it hit me that I was doing something wrong.
Having a small budget means knowing how to prioritize. Is it really important for me to grab that coffee with my friend? Do I have to go see that movie? You learn to cut corners (legally, of course) and find the better deals. The realization that I don’t have to buy something every time I meet up for a bite to eat was almost as life changing as when I realized what major I wanted to declare. The internet has become my best friend in trying to find cheap, if not completely free, events. I mean, I’m not sure I’d have ever known how many parks are around me had I not lost my job! And the museums offer free entry every few weeks?! Odd as it may be, being unemployed has led me to some pretty amazing finds around my city. While I’m not happy about it, there is a brighter side to this dumpy situation.
With this prioritization comes the realization of things I do need to spend on. Some things are obvious, like when a best friend’s mother passed away; no expense was spared on cards, food, flowers. Or when the man another best friend was dating had to move back to his home country, I deemed it necessary to splurge on some ice cream, bad chick flicks and the usual girls’ night fodder. Other things are evaluated and declared worthy or not worthy: ice cream after dinner? As yummy as that would be, pass. Grab a burrito for lunch? Not necessary, there are leftovers in the fridge. Birthday drinks with a close friend? Special occasion, so I’m for it. Grad gift for a friend? Definitely in, how many times will someone receive a Bachelors?!
I still know that my student loan payments and health insurance take a much higher priority than grabbing drinks with friends. And even though it’s bad that I am 23 and don’t have my own credit card yet, I’m glad the option of charging isn’t there for me. In an odd way, unemployment really made me face the realities of money, which is why I suspect I can score a 68 on the Charles Schwab Financial Fitness Quiz. Apparently, I’m middle of the road for my age group. Not great, but not bad, either. And I’m ok with that. I’ve finally figured out how to control my own money and not let others influence my choices. Friends still try, and I admit to bending to temptation sometimes—but not always, and that counts for something, too.