New Year’s Resolutions are useless. Everyone says so, including science. I have not had a New Year’s Resolution since middle school, when I resolved to use that seen-on-TV ab roller every day in a futile effort to get Dark Angel-era Jessica Alba abs. It didn’t work.
This year was tough. I changed jobs, was diagnosed with ADHD, stopped writing, and was generally in a constant state of malaise. Everything from my bank account to my wardrobe is tainted with an air of “I just don’t care,” and it’s just not working anymore. So, in the interest of improving myself without branding them “resolutions” per se, here are my manageable life goals for 2017:
1. Find A Side Hustle
Part of me truly believes that the “Side Hustle” is just a marketing ploy by The Man to try to brainwash us from thinking that full-time employment should be compensated enough to meet your basic needs — and in many ways, it is, but that is the system we currently have to work within. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, though, I need a side hustle. This could be anything from freelancing to thrifting and selling clothes on eBay, but the reality of the situation remains: I need to make more money.
I’ve been living on an entry-level salary for the past six years and it is no longer sustainable. Cutting out Starbucks only does so much if you don’t make enough money to pay for the basics in the first place. I’ve been avoiding finding a second source of income for years and have treated my inability to find a good paying job as a personal failure, and having a side hustle would just exemplify that failure. This is a ridiculous thought, but I’ve never been one to think rationally about myself anyway. I’m going to have to get over it to get a healthier financial state.
Also, I need money to pay for the next thing, which is:
2. Put Away Money For A Down Payment
There was some good that happened this year! I got engaged to a wonderful man who is my best friend and love of my life. But getting engaged means getting married, which means kids are on the horizon, which means my shitty apartment is just not going to cut it.
Oh, is it shitty. With uneven floors, no soundproofing (we can hear our downstairs neighbor SNORE), and no insulation, I’m beginning to feel so uncomfortable there to the point where I’m too nervous to talk at a normal volume. It’s hard living in a place that seems to actively work to make your life more miserable (I’m looking at you, carpet beetles). I feel like an interloper in my own home — I don’t belong in the place where I pay money to live. Since rental inventory in my particular area is low, and rent costs are about the same as a mortgage, buying a home has become something in my near, not distant, future. It. Is. Scary.
But I want a home. I want a place to start building equity and a place where I can finally ban the color beige. Therefore, it’s best my fiancé and I put ourselves in the best financial position to pay for a down payment and closing costs while still having a healthy emergency fund. I plan on putting any side hustle and any additional money from a raise in a separate, high interest bank account so I’m not tempted to touch it.
3. Rehaul My Wardrobe
If I were asked to describe my fashion aesthetic in a sentence, it would be “frazzled mother chasing her children in an airport.” If I could wear yoga pants, fuzzy socks, and a sweatshirt to work everyday, I would.
I love being comfortable, but I’m also irrationally uncomfortable wearing skirts and dresses and basically anything with buttons. Sometimes I dress up and look in the mirror and say “Who are you kidding? Why bother?” and put my sweatpants right back on. It’s like I don’t deserve to look pretty and successful because I feel neither pretty nor successful, and the clothes I buy reflect that.
However hard it is to accept, your appearance is important to maintain. I need to invest in good quality basics, which include good quality and comfortable bras and shoes, and to start looking like the professional, #NeutralLife woman that I want to be. But I am not patient, and cultivating a personal style is a marathon, not a sprint. Being patient and selective with my fashion choices will help save money and hopefully lead to a smarter, more coherent wardrobe. By putting some money aside each month for new clothing, getting rid of ill-fitting shirts and slacks, and forcing myself to do my hair and makeup before I go out the door, I’ll perhaps regain a little bit of confidence. Fake it till I make it, so to speak.
4. Keep A Little Black Book Of Purchases (And Feelings)
It’s kind of like a food journal, but for your wallet. I’m not a budgeter, and I don’t think I would ever be able to have the discipline to keep a budget spreadsheet every month. However, what I can do is force myself to record every single little purchase in an effort to be more mindful of my spending habits. I know services like Mint do this automatically, but as a chronic avoider I don’t check it as much as I should. Forcing myself to write every purchase down keeps me immediately accountable for my purchases and will (hopefully) act as a deterrent against impulse purchases and wasteful spending. More importantly, I’ll write down WHY I made that purchase and how I was feeling at the time. For example:
Eyeliner from CVS: $8.00
Why: Because I thought it might change my life.
And how did it make you feel? Empty.
I fully believe changing habits is a much more powerful tool than keeping a budget, and with the little black book to hold myself accountable, I should be able to alter my habits while saving a decent amount of money.
5. Be Kinder To Myself
I did not meet my financial goals this year. In fact, I lost money. While I don’t make much to begin with, it was still possible to save more money than I did. Too many times this year I became frustrated with myself and my paycheck and thought to myself “Screw it, might as well buy that $75 facial scrub because I’m not going to make any money this month anyway,” and it snowballed from there. I tie my self-worth to how much money is in my bank account and see the low number as a reflection of my professional and personal failures.
It’s not fair to me, as I would never judge a friend or family member in the same way that I judge myself. It’s also not fair to my family and my fiancé, who have to stand by and watch me self-sabotage without being able to understand. It’s like you’re building a wall around yourself, and each brick is a self-deprecating comment or a nasty thought, and the wall gets higher and higher and eventually no one will be able to climb over it to tell you to stop, and you’ll be trapped inside forever.
Frankly, I’ve become sick of it and sick of me being sick of me. Being hard on myself has gotten me nowhere and it’s time to start saying “fuck it” and do the things I want to do because they bring me joy instead of avoiding them because they’re not going to bring me money. It’s time to stop defining myself by my job and my bank account, and instead start appreciating and nurturing the other things that make me Me.
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