1. Crying In My Mom’s Lap
There are so many things I neglected to appreciate as a daughter in my earlier years. The biggest one was my mom’s ability to understand situations I endured in life and how I would undoubtedly react to them. It’s silly to think that the woman who raised me and molded me into the person I am today would be the last person I looked to for friendship. I’m embarrassed to admit the first time I openly let my mom see me cry was in my mid-twenties. And while the story behind it is not important, here’s something that is: you are never too old to need your mom. So whether I’m 6, 26, or 46, I am so blessed to know I can always cry in my mom’s lap — just as she has often gone to her mother and done the same.
2. Creating A Financial Budget — And Sticking To It
Last was a crazy year for my fiance (now husband), Tommy, and I. We traveled quite a bit, we had to remodel our financial habits. I wouldn’t say we were careless with our money. As a matter of fact, we thought we were doing pretty well: neither of us had any debt, we both put about 30% of our paychecks into savings, and we had more than enough expendable income to do the things we wanted to do on a daily basis. The main flaw we saw in our spending was that we weren’t keeping track of any of it.
Once we started to, we realized which areas of our spending needed restructuring. Rather than creating a monthly budget, we created a bi-monthly budget for every pay period (since we both get paid twice a month). In doing this we were able to see that, very often, our expenses for the period were greater than our income for the period. For example, if I got paid $100 on the 15th (obviously a made up wage), I was often spending $120 before I got paid again on the 31st. Though these overages were often small, they gave us perspective on where we could reduce our spending and add to our savings.
Most of our overspending came in a not-so-surprising category: food. We were overspending not only on eating out, but also on groceries! Did we really need to be buying expensive seafood so we could eat surf and turf three times a week and falter to every ridiculous deal Sam’s club had on Tombstone pizza? Probably not. This encouraged us to develop meal planning strategies and, in turn, made us better grocery shoppers (if anyone wants free Tombstone pizza — please inbox me). We also realized we were keeping more expendable income in our checking accounts than we needed to — so we started putting those additional funds into our savings accounts. Getting on a good financial track is so important, and developing disciplined habits early on is crucial — especially if you’re in it with someone else. My best advice: learn how to use Excel. Spreadsheets change your life!
3. Taking My Parents To Disney World
I’ve always wanted to take my parents on vacation, but I never thought it was good timing. This year with getting engaged, planning for our wedding, and paying for tuition out-of-pocket, I thought it would be impossible. But then I realized that if I always made up excuses like this in my head, “someday” would turn into “never” and before I knew it I’d wake up and be 27 and regret all the times I said I’d do it but didn’t. So I broke the mold and booked a trip for my parents and little brother to go to Disney World.
It is honestly one of the things I am most proud of, because my parents have made the ultimate sacrifices for me and my siblings, and they truly deserve the world on a silver platter. (I’m sure you’ve all got Disney World engraved in your minds as a magical place for kids, but judging by all my dad’s pictures with Buzz Lightyear and his take-home of multiple plush toys, I’d say it brings out the kid in all of us. They have Dinosaurs that actually walk around the park, okay?!) So whether it’s calling my mom to just say “hello,” stopping by and dropping off groceries, or taking them out to dinner from time to time — it is my ultimate joy to contribute to my parents’ happiness and cherishing every moment I have with them.
4. Taking A Month Of Unpaid Leave
So many people think if they don’t have paid vacation days that they shouldn’t take time off. If you plan ahead and have cogent spending habits — or let’s say, a good financial budget (see #2 above) — this should absolutely be doable! Last December, Tommy and I took a month off to travel to China, Taiwan, and Thailand. I remember being extremely nervous knowing I was going to take a month of work off unpaid. I prepared close to a year in advance to make sure everything would be taken care of in our absence: our utilities, our rent, and other miscellaneous bills. In that month, I saw the country my parents were once refugees in, I met my aunt who hasn’t seen my family in over 35 years, I ate alien food, I bathed in mountains, I fell in love with strangers, and I became someone’s fiance! It was the best month of my life. Of course, this isn’t intended for you to think you should take unpaid time off just to go on vacation or to encourage a careless work ethic. But sometimes we need a day to visit family. Or a day to rest. Sometimes we just need to choose ourselves first.
5. No Longer Measuring My Success
One of the hardest feats I’ve had to overcome in my coming into adulthood is accepting that life is not a race and that my timeline is not determined by someone else’s. I’ve found “success” to be such an asinine term. It’s a weird habit to measure your success in life only by the numbers side of the equation. Who cares if you bring in $100K a year if it only buys you a crappy apartment that you hate in a city that stresses you out with friends that don’t inspire you and a daily existence you mostly daydream about escaping from? Who cares if you have 12,532 followers on Instagram and get 430 likes on staged photos with imitated aesthetics and overexposed lighting?
We’re all guilty of seeking validation in superficial environments, and we’re all familiar with the feeling of how second-rate those ventures often make us feel. It’s okay to be two steps behind. It’s okay to make less money than your peers. It’s okay to be second best and it’s also okay to be just as good as someone else. Only you can truly know what kind of life you want, but opening your mind to measures of progress beyond salary and social acceptance will give you a much better chance of crafting a life you love.
Amy, aka “Fivefeetsmall,” started her blog years ago as a therapeutic outlet for writing but has since then evolved it into what it is today: A Personal Finance + Lifestyle blog. Follow her on Twitter here.
Image via Unsplash