Don’t Know How You’re Feeling? Your Spending Record Will Tell You

by Debt Hater on August 2, 2011

I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions this month. Happiness, to sadness, to loneliness, to frustration, to fear, to anxiety, to anger, to apathy, to elation, to excitement, to disappointment, back to anxiety, to contentment, to more anxiety, then to dread. I was all over the place.

Y’all know I moved up here to take a job I had high hopes for and to get out of another that was driving me crazy. Well, I hated my last job, but at least my stomach didn’t knot every time I walked into the office. I won’t get into detail, but I was not happy. I worked hard to make it work and to always be professional and get the work done. I succeeded in that regard, but I could not get comfortable. Besides that, I was planning a wedding whose budget was becoming more like a guideline than a hard and fast rule (more on that one in another post).

I was here away from my fiance and my friends — even though my bestie and my fam live right over the river in my hometown of Brooklyn, I felt isolated. I would come home and just want to go to bed. There was always so much waiting for me when I left work, including more work. Checking my email made my chest tighten and my heart race. I never knew what was waiting for me. On the weekends, when I was supposed to relax, I was sitting on pins and needles every time my phone beeped that I had an email. After a while, I would just sit and wait for emails or compulsively check for them. I had to say to myself — out loud — “DH, it can wait until Monday. And if it can’t, F– it. You’re not Atlas, you can’t hold up the world.”

When Emotions Run High, So Do Credit Card Balances
So, when I could, I just disconnected. I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer when I didn’t absolutely have to. That meant no blogging, no Tweeting, no checking in with my spending record spreadsheet. No monitoring my balances. I didn’t want to know, because, really, I already knew.

I spent more on dining out in July than in the previous two months put together. I stopped cooking. I was eating out all the time — garbagey McDonald’s or random greasy spoons around town or $100 meals when a simple meal at home would have sufficed. Ice cream for dinner? Yeah, it’s fun when you do it once… a quarter. But, um, three times a week, for two weeks? When you don’t even really like ice cream like that? I also must have spent $20 just on Twix from the office vending machine.

I stopped taking care of myself. I wasn’t doing yoga, which had been so helpful to me before. I stopped working out after faithfully exercising for months. If I didn’t have to get out of bed, I wouldn’t. I’d sleep 8 hours and would still be tired. So instead of eating breakfasts that would have cost me pennies at home, I’d spend $6 on a bagel and Naked juice in a vain attempt to do something healthy. I’d do it two, three, four days in a row, when just getting up 15 minutes earlier would have saved me all that.

The month was full of travel. I like travel a lot, but it often throws me off my game. I had back-to-back trips — buses, trains, planes. Airport terminals with nothing but junk food. Bus depots with nothing but vending machines. Being pissed off when a flight was delayed, so going to get something comforting to snack on.

I lost weight. I ate junk, but I didn’t eat much. Too anxious. Too tired. Too, just too.

Hating it when a new day approached, because I knew it meant I had to go back to work. Thought of just not going back. Lying on my back in bed as minutes ticked away, doing phantom math trying to figure out if I had enough to sustain me if I just didn’t go back. “There is plenty of money. Right? I can be unemployed for a while, move and still pay for the wedding, right? And break my lease, right? There’s enough. Right?”

An hour after my alarm clock went off, I’d get out of bed.

I was mad at myself for upending my life. I had it good in D.C., except for that crappy job. But at least that crappy job didn’t follow me home, infiltrate my dreams, hang like a cloud of volcanic ash over my weekends. At least my rent was lower. At least I didn’t have to pay more than a $1,000  year just to park my car. At least it didn’t cost me $15 to get to my friends. At least my guy was with me all the time.

There’s a Pattern Here
I see that old habits die hard. When I got into nearly $16,000 in credit card debt, I did it because I wasn’t paying attention. But I was also spending because I wasn’t happy. I was so unsure about what I was going to do next with my life. I was frustrated about where I was and how I didn’t think I was anywhere near where I was supposed to be. I just bought things. Little, stupid things. Took trips that I didn’t plan for. Just anything to think about something else or to feel something, instead of numb.

When I feel good and go spending, it’s mindful. I know what I am doing. I am aware of my balances. I know where I stand in my budget. I get what I want, when I want it because I’m in a good mood. Let’s go shopping! And I don’t break the bank.

When I feel despondent, it’s mindless spending. I don’t get the receipts. I didn’t really need whatever I bought. I got it and now I don’t even want it.

That’s the difference.

Getting Off the Coaster
It hasn’t been all bad. I did learn a lot about myself and was fortunate to attend management training courses that really taught me about managing myself, not just other people. It had confirmed for me what truly matters  — living my own life, surrounding myself with love. I don’t care about anything else. Keep your prestigious title. I don’t want the big paycheck if it means you get to make me work any time of the day and week. No thanks. I’ll stay at home eating rice and beans four days a week if it means I can be free.

I know what I need to do. I know because I did it before. I know how to tune up my finances into a machine that takes me where I want to go, not where it wants to take me. I already know what to do. I just have to get up and do it.

And I am. I’ve already started. I kinda made a mess, not sure the extent of it — but it’s probably not nearly as bad as I think. And it’s ok, because I’m the Debt Hater and I’m not going to be in debt, not in any aspect of my life — physically, emotionally, spiritually or financially.

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