At this point in my life, nothing but time means more to me than money. I mean, duh. Having time means that I am alive, and then I need money to stay alive. Pretty simple.
There was a time in my life, however, where I earned a $52,000 salary at a job that I grew to despise. Before that job, I had a job, but no savings account. When I signed the new contract, I got one. It was the first time in my adult life that I had money that I didn’t need to use. I took home, like, $800 per week after taxes. For me, $800 per week was, and still is, a fuck-ton of money. I felt rich. I could afford new clothes! I could prioritize convenience over money, and still have money to save. It was luxurious to me. I watched the money pile up, and decided that I could quit that job when my savings account looked ready.
If you will allow me to be corny for a second, let me tell you what I thought about when I looked at my money: cookies. Looking at the cozy number in my savings account increase felt like I was watching cookies bake, like I was looking at warmth. Someday, I would taste that money. Then, though, it only glowed. It filled my life with promise. Comfort. It felt like home. If that sounds stupid, it is because it is very stupid. And if you apply that analogy to my life today, well — it’s not warm or comforting. It is just depressing and shameful, because in the end, I binge-ate that money. See how gross and dumb that analogy becomes when it’s no longer about desserts?
Spoiler alert for those who didn’t read the title of this post: I currently have no savings account. I should have one, regardless of the fact that I earn less money now as a freelancer. When I earned $800 per week, I settled into a weird mindset. This, I thought, was all I would ever *need,* monetarily speaking. “One day I’ll be rich,” I thought, but I felt like I’d reached a sort of peak. A grand a week? I could do that on my own, too, I thought. I quit my job. I went freelance.
Second spoiler alert: being a freelancer is really, really, really hard. Currently, I try to take home $500 per week, but I often fall short of that. Timing matters. Publications have owed me $1,000 at a time for my writing, but try saying “the money is on the way!!!!” ten times in front of a mirror in a dark room and watch nothing but your depression appear, girl. Oh, and your landlord. But I digress.
After rent, bills, a broken-down car, and a lot of stupid, completely avoidable expenses? All of that savings (that I’d saved specifically to quit my job and work for myself) was gone faster than you can say “fucking duh, dumbass.” It was gone, girl. With the disappearance of that savings, there wasn’t much of a reason to keep my savings account. I was charged fees for the fact that it was empty, so I closed it. Like an idiot.
Had anyone even seen my money? I sure hadn’t. Still don’t. To date, I have nothing to show for my earnings but a rented apartment in Los Angeles and a lot of ~experiences~. I’m being dramatic and hard on myself, but so be it. No one should feel bad for me, especially not me. My idiotic refusal to think harder about how I was spending my money is the only reason that I don’t have more money right now. As a freelancer with variable income, I was still spending like I was earning $800 per week. But I wasn’t. I just never took my cookie-colored “convenience over money” glasses off. I spent. I didn’t spend it on anything good, but I still spent.
Now, I pay. I earn and pay, but I never, ever save. It makes me feel ashamed to admit that I don’t have a savings account. It’s this profound grossness to me — I can’t explain all of my spending in a way that justifies not saving any money. I just can’t. I. Should. Be. Saving. Money. Period.
Say it with me. Or just scream at me. I don’t know.
I hope that my sharing this will make you feel proud of your savings. You should be. My only saving(s) grace is that I use Digit — an app that takes small amounts out of your checking account and saves them for you — to squirrel away some cash to a place where I never see it. Until I need it. “Need” usually happens when I’ve saved about $100. Digit is awesome, but it’s not a choice. It’s mindless. I need to be mindful.
Well, I guess I need to rethink what “need” even means. I want to be mindful. I want to make a budget. I want to have a savings account. I need food, water, shelter, sunlight, sleep, and human interaction. At this juncture, the sum total of the cost of all those things is not so much money that I cannot afford to save any at all, but here I am. Saving is simple when you make a habit out of sacrifice: spend the same amount of money on groceries every week, take public transportation, work hard and earn as much money as you can and side hustle and keep putting it away and never stop, no matter how comfortable you get.
I wish I could write that I had some big epiphany at some point, that I learned what kind of person I am or that I was secretly putting $20 bills in a box this whole time. But there’s nothing romantic about being financially-insecure. Today, I will open a savings account. It will contain the minimum balance that it needs to exist, but it will exist. Pretty simple.
Crissy Milazzo is a writer living in Los Angeles. She’s @crissymilazzo all over the place. She really needs a savings account. You should tell her that.
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