As a young professional with financially responsible/hard-working parents, who is a loyal reader of TFD since the beginning, and someone who appears “budget conscious” to their friends, it absolutely pains me to admit how completely reckless I have been with my money over the last four months. I live in an incredibly overpriced area of Brooklyn, graduated college last May, am on an entry-level salary of $35,000 (with some additional supplementary income provided by a restaurant job, occasional babysitting, and freelance writing), and should be allocating every single cent that comes my way — but instead, I’ve completely disregarded it.
I started the year by taking a Financial Peace course, and convinced myself that it would change my habits automatically (funny thing is, you actually have to put the work in for the lessons to change your life). I cut out Seamless, previously a money-sucking addiction, and I took pride in this achievement. I imagined all the money I had spent on that before suddenly floating into my reach, I imagined that my income had somehow increased tenfold. I did not imagine that the amount I’d been spending would somehow triple in an incredibly short period of time.
This horrific revelation occurred to me when I began to track my finances (as my parents had been telling me to do for years). I’d tried Mint and Level before, but nothing really stuck. I became frustrated with having to face my finances and put money in specific places, and I was too lazy and ashamed to take accountability for what I was spending (particularly on my eating habits). But I’d just taken a Dave Ramsey course! I could do this now! I could face the facts! My entire family got an annual EveryDollar subscription, and the app was eye-opening for me! So eye-opening, in fact, that it brought me face-to-face with the fact that I had spent almost $1,200 on taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts over the course of 2016’s four short months.
This made me physically ill.
What I had imagined were just a few late-night trips home from friends’ places or last-minute rides to work when the crowded train didn’t “suit me” had now amounted to what I pay for a month’s rent. $1,173.46. Completely wasted. Disappeared. $1,173.46. Money I could have spent to take a trip home, money I could have saved for nice clothes, money I could have put into retirement. My side hustles might as well have been non-existent, because any of the income I had garnered from those long hours and hard work had been put into the gas tank of a yellow cab or a black Toyota Camry. All of it. Gone.
How could I have let this happen? The tools to my fiscal success had been presented to me on something of a silver platter by my parents and the Financial Peace course. But I’d had one too many mornings where I decided it was okay to “treat myself” because I was working multiple jobs and I was already running late anyway (the rush hour traffic always made me later than I would have been if I had just taken the damn subway), one too many nights where I didn’t consider my tips to be “real money” so it was fine to spend them on a cab home because they’d never shown up in my checking account, so they were basically already gone anyway, because they were untraceable. I shudder at the thought of how much money I could have saved by now just putting those tips into a jar at the end of each night. The shame I feel over this spending is visceral. I don’t know how to talk to anyone about it, but I know it has to stop — and I’m hoping by writing about it here, I’m taking the first step.
I fully understand that I’m not living as frugally as I could/should be. I’ve been told by many people that I should move, and yes, I’m aware that I could probably be paying half of what I pay now and only add about 20 minutes or so on to my commute, but an apartment hunt is simply not feasible for me right now, and to be frank, I love my living situation (roommate, location, apartment itself) entirely too much to upend it all at this moment in time. I understand that it may sound childish, but I am willing to live with my dumb choices for the time being if it brings me happiness and ease. I was an RA all through college, so a comfortable living situation is extremely valuable to me, even if it costs a little extra.
My transportation spending, however, is completely obscene and inexcusable. With the exception of a couple late-night rides that made me feel safer going home alone and would maybe amount to a total of $100 for the entire year thus far, I would have arrived at my destinations quicker and cheaper by a minimum of $15 each trip if I had just taken the train. (I pay the $116.50 for the monthly unlimited MetroCard. It’s idiotic of me to not take full advantage of that.)
All of these realizations about the state of my finances, my reckless behavior/ complete laziness, as well as a total disregard for my “budget” have caused me to truly reassess where I stand and how I live my life. I may have taken a taxi to work yesterday, but this morning, I left the apartment a little earlier and hopped on the train (as I always should). I don’t plan on taking another taxi anytime soon, and next time I’m running late for work, I will swipe my MetroCard, not my debit card. I’ll be less late taking the train anyway.
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