Living on a student’s budget is soul-crushing. As I scan my meager amount of items in the self-checkout line at Target, watching the numbers climb, I can’t help but sigh. As Blink-182 so eloquently put it: I guess this is growing up. Forking over the dough for that overpriced luxury apartment and paying the car note for that C-Class Benz your parents told you not to purchase sounds brutal. But being in school means that I don’t have a real job. No real job means no real money. I know I’m living on a pauper’s pay, and yet I’m still wholly irresponsible with my cash flow.
I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy the finer things in life. I like to try out trendy new restaurants, hit up happy hour with my buds, take fun road trips, and sport the latest threads. Simply put, there is a long list of pointless things that I enjoy spending my money on. Do you see “investment account” or “savings” in that list anywhere? Neither do I.
I have a hard time turning down invitations. It doesn’t matter what it is. Somebody wants to get a gel manicure? I’m already picking out the perfect shade of pale pink, and yes, I prefer the amber-scented hand cream. Happy hour at that new tapas bar in the city? I’ve already looked at their menu online and I’m trying to get faded on some Mezcal Mules. And oh look, yet another email from J. Crew telling me that if I spend $200, I get 20% off. Next thing I know, I’ve got another pair of destroyed boyfriend jeans and enough white t-shirts to last a lifetime arriving on my doorstep.
This is a cry for help. I know this lifestyle is not sustainable. How in the world am I ever going to live as a real adult? Especially when I get out of law school with a decent amount of student loans attached to my name? Every month, I tell myself I will be smarter about my dollars and yet I keep spending a good chunk of my funds on brunches and bar tabs. These are moments of enjoyment and fun that leave me with good memories… but an anxiety-inducing bank account.
The thought of saving seems impossible. I’m already balling on a budget, so it just feels like I’m inflicting torture upon myself by taking some of that away and effectively hiding it from myself. I know saving makes the most sense in the long run, sincerely, I do. I’ve read the articles about how much more I can retire with if I start saving and investing by the time I’m 24, 25, 26. I’ve seen the statistics. I actually started an investment account last year, but I think I’ve put money into it maybe three times. Five times max. Every once in a while, I get an email from Betterment telling me that they automatically reinvested my dividends, so I can rest easy knowing that I’m making at least a few cents off of my shoddy attempt at being fiscally responsible.
Literally everything costs money. This isn’t news to anyone. You have to put gas in your car to get to work. Grab a Starbucks cold brew on the way there, though, ‘cause it’s Tuesday, and everyone knows that’s the worst day of the week. Lunch at Chipotle because you forgot to bring your lunch again, and your boss is being a real asshole today, so go ahead and spring for the guac: you deserve it. Don’t forget happy hour after work, because it’s already been a shitty week, and need I remind you? It’s literally just Tuesday. Happy hour turns into half-price apps, half-price apps turn into dinner. After dinner, you go home and fire up the Apple TV to watch Westward on HBO Now that automatically withdraws directly from your account every month. Dollar after dollar, so easily spent on frivolity.
And somewhere in there I’m supposed to be saving some of it? My question is: how do I stop the madness? Do I quit everything and become a hermit, hiding from the world, attempting not to spend my cash by avoiding dinner out with my pals? I certainly don’t want to keep up the reckless spending, but I also don’t want to constantly stay home (read: slide into a deep, dark, depression) in the hopes that I can save a few bucks.
I know this is bad. These are not good habits that I’ve formed. I know one day I won’t be able to pull the, “But I’m a student” card. Don’t get me wrong, I worked for two years between undergrad and graduate school. I know what it’s like to get an actual paycheck and pay real taxes. But even then, I wasn’t any better at this whole “budgeting” thing. When I had real money, I just spent it on things like groceries from Whole Foods and designer shoes. For real, you guys, I want to get my act together and be a responsible, money-saving adult, but I just can’t seem to stick with it. Law school sucks, and every weekend, my classmates and I just want to get rip-roaring drunk at brunch and throw around our student loan Monopoly money. We are so totally screwed.
It really sucks living off of leftover pizza and cereal at the end of every month, but at least I hit triple digit likes on the Instagram I took at that over-priced brunch last weekend. That should be enough sustenance to stave off the impending starvation, right? .
Image via YouTube