I don’t think I did anything crazy big this year, financially. I didn’t buy a house, or save a huge emergency fund, or even pay off any single debt in full. I didn’t max out a retirement fund or hit an impressive savings milestone. But I did come out at the end of 2017 with little victories that will surely motivate me to do more in the coming year.
2017 was the year I graduated college, and the first full year I lived out of my parents’ house, so it was naturally rocky at times, but I feel like each hiccup was (relatively) gracefully navigated, and I’m really happy for that. As I look back, I don’t see a lot of hard financial accomplishments that were made, but I do see a bunch of scenarios of all shapes and sizes that could have been make-or-break moments for me, financially. And as I look ahead, I wonder if these small things are the things that I will look back on fondly and proudly, even more so than things like eventually owning property or being entirely debt-free. (Probably not — owning a house would be awesome, and having no debt would be swell. But I’m trying to think positively here.)
Here are the six best things I did for myself, financially speaking, in 2017. They may not be crazy, but they’re pushing me in the direction I need to go — that’s a victory if I’ve ever seen one.
1. I found comfort in having different sources of income. Not everyone is going to end up comfortably in a full-time job with a salary and benefits to boot. I was very anxious about that for a while, and I kept seeking jobs that genuinely weren’t right for me because I wanted ease and security more than anything. After a few failed attempts, I found peace in the fact that my money is going to come from a few different places — and that’s actually pretty damn good, because if one of them stops for some reason (god forbid, but life is life and things change quickly), I’ll never be working with no income — I’ll always have something coming from somewhere. (Yas for side-hustles.)
2. I cut my living expenses down. Technically, in June, what I pay per month went up since before my graduation I was splitting equally with my partner/roommate. But since we’d agreed on splitting 50/50 once I graduated, we decided to move into a place with lower rent so my monthly payment wouldn’t feel like it was going up so dramatically. In addition, we’ve come up with a great system for keeping a lot of costs low around here: I found work much closer to where I live, so I don’t spend as much on transportation; we are careful and calculated when purchasing groceries; and we do what we can to keep utilities down (although that doesn’t always work, which leads to the next point).
3. I allowed myself to accept that money should be exchanged for a comfortable life, and not hoarded to die and be buried with. Not saying that I’m going full ~YOLO~ anytime soon, but I went through a few weeks last winter where I refused to turn the heat on because I didn’t want to pay a high utility bill. This winter, we’re in a different apartment — one with many more windows in an older, poorly insulated building — and we have a dog who we can’t let freeze to death during the moments when we’re not home. So, I’ve had to accept that the heat is staying on basically always — and it should. We can afford heat, and being weird about it just to save a few bucks was some bizarre behavior on my part. If I die with nothing left to my name, at least I’ll know that I kept pretty warm during nasty Connecticut winters.
4. I automated my student loan payments. Because, first and foremost, they’re too easy to let slip and forget about until two days after the due date — especially since I have two that are each due at different times of the month. They’re small enough that I am guaranteed to always have that amount of money in my account, so I don’t have to worry about the auto-payment resulting in an overdraft fee, and one of the loan providers incentivized the auto-payments by lowering my rate, which is just *chef’s kiss* incredible.
5. I got a little more serious about clothes-spending. I’m not totally a Minimalist-Queen, quality-over-quantity person who always prefers spending on pricey “key” pieces over less expensive ones, because I do actually still find joy in a lot of lower-priced clothing, and find fashion to be a fun hobby, even if it is sometimes disposable. But in general, hobby or not, I’ve cut back on it so much — mostly because I spend most of my time alone for work and don’t really have any reason to always be wearing a new cute outfit, and was much more inclined to get dressed up when I was a student, but also because I just know I need to put my money elsewhere for a while if I want to accomplish some of my bigger financial goals.
6. I put some of an emergency purchase on a credit card. This doesn’t seem like a good thing to do, financially speaking, but it was a really big moment for me. And truly, it isn’t ideal — the ideal scenario would obviously be having enough in your emergency fund to cover an emergency in full. But that’s not always the case, and when a hugely expensive emergency came up that was more than my fund could cover, I had no choice but to charge some of it. It was a shared emergency between my boyfriend and me, and we put it on a credit card he happened to just get that had an intro promotion for the first year to be interest-free. We lucked out and have paid it off almost completely, but despite all the fear and stress it caused, it did a lot for me emotionally to feel the weight of carrying a credit card balance. I have a small bit of student debt, but otherwise have never really carried debt — especially not credit card debt. I felt smug about never carrying a card balance, but also was fully terrified of it. I feel a bit stronger having found myself in an uncomfortable financial situation and figured out a way to get out of it without losing my shit. I definitely don’t want it to happen again, of course, but I did find a good lesson in there somewhere.
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