After a year spent working in a coffee shop, despite having master‘s degree and tons of experience, I finally moved on to a better job at the end of 2017. Before I start, let me make one thing clear: this was my choice. I had moved to another country, and I desperately needed a simple job just to take a breath and figure out what next. I honestly thought it would be easier and faster, but, hey, even in the last months of your twenties, you still can be a little bit naive, right? Which I was. I eventually did figure that out, and it was about time to make some changes. Long story short, I got a nice year-long temporary gig. Nothing special, but perfect for me — well-paid, steady 9-5 hours, and within walking distance from my house (a sweet 30 minutes). A win-win situation for somebody who needs to work on her own things but also pay her bills at the same time.
I was previously working for minimum wage in hugely overpriced Dublin. After a first few months here, I found myself broke. I was seven months away from my 30th birthday, and I was broke for the first time in my life. I felt, and I still feel, deeply ashamed. Being conscious about my spending and taking advantage of everything from my ridiculously low rent to free tickets to my friends’ concerts have helped a lot on my way from the dark side. Besides, I gained a sense of how wide a classical orchestra’s repertoire is. (Still not sure if there are any actual limits.) I eventually managed to save a small three-month emergency fund.
My excitement from accepting new job was sky-high. When the analytical side of my brain took charge again, after a long while, I started thinking what this amazing thing would mean for my finances. My new salary is about one-third higher than I used to earn, which is a huge leap, and I feel extremely lucky. But reading about personal finance made me more aware of potential consequences, and a red warning sign flashing “lifestyle inflation“ appeared straight away. After my first month, I found that my spending has been affected in three major fields. I do plan on saving all extra income I am getting, but my budget categories have had to be adjusted to my new situation.
1. Clothes. I had literally no clothes for an office job, except maybe one skirt. Moreover, the recruitment company that hired me made an impression that business casual is the lowest possible way to dress. When I asked, I got a very helpful answer — “formal, business attire.” Let me remind you that this is my first office job in a foreign country, and Ireland is different from my home country in almost every way. Nothing I used to do back home is working here. Usually, I enjoy shopping at thrift stores, but time had gotten too tight for that — I was two weeks into working and still working full-time in the coffee shop. It was before Christmas, so I decided to buy only a few basic things and leave the rest for the post-season sales.
That adult, financially smart decision was, of course, followed by a stupid one. A light beige coat. I honestly thought it was a great idea; an elegant coat to finish my everyday work look. It was not. First of all, my workplace has a dress code, but the reality is not as strict as I had been told, so my lovely coat is just too much. Secondly, I live in Ireland. Irish winters are dull, dark, windy and rainy — very, very rainy. Having a non-waterproof coat in a light color that can be only dry cleaned is simply stupid. I haven‘t worn it yet because I am worried it will be dirty in the very first minute I will step out of the door. Chelsea has mentioned her special coat for a few times here, which I read about and still made the exact same mistake. And I have no excuse for that.
2. Groceries. In spite of everything, working in our coffee shop had one great benefit — nearly-free food. I paid just a teeny-tiny amount for eating there, which made my minimum wage less dreadful. I enjoy cooking and preparing work lunches every day now, which is not a problem at all. Beyond that, I suffer from gluten and lactose intolerance, so eating out is always a challenge. Cooking all meals at home has definitely added to my grocery bill, somewhere around 20% more per week. It may not sound like a big increase, but it is.
Since I now don’t have any commuting expenses, I traded off this part of my budget to make room for my higher grocery bill. As far as I know myself, it is entirely possible I am going to experience some lifestyle inflation in this area in the near future. I know I have to seriously keep my eye on a food budget, or I will eat my paycheck.
3. Cash flow. This is something I have not read about very often, or more precisely, almost never. It‘s hidden behind the other, more real things, but it can be very dangerous. Going from one job to another can cause a serious gap in a cash flow. I used to be paid weekly, but now I have a monthly paycheck. Without even having to do the math, I know that could mean three weeks without any money coming in, but still money going out. If I had been living paycheck-to-paycheck, I would have found myself in deep trouble despite having a better job. Crazy!
As somebody who moved across Europe, I know how huge and partly unpredictable relocation costs can be, in case you have to move to get a job you want. I have no intention to be pessimistic, but I get a feeling that every change in our lives will have some financial effect, and there is usually a period of time when this influence is on the negative side. I successfully funded all these things with the help of my emergency fund, and I put the money back right after my first payday. Emergencies are usually linked to something bad, job loss or illness, but positive things can have a negative financial influence as well. I am by no means perfect (staring at my coat), but being able to finance my transition from one job to another without feeling financially insecure paid for every single time I said “No” to something just to build my savings.
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