Finally! A subject not about contraception!
Ok….no but seriously. Let’s talk about money.
In the last year, I’ve (for the most part) broken away financially from my parents. I still have 2 years of school left, but I spent this past year working full time and getting my residency. It was the best decision I could have possibly made. Having spent a year supporting myself and getting real world professional experience, I feel confident about thriving post-graduation. (Because, you know, film students graduate and instantly get jobs and make 6 figure salaries….not.)
I had never actually budgeted until this year. I mean, I kept track of my money and everything, but I never had to make the choice “Oh, shoot. I can’t get the cute shoes, because I had to pay that fee for my vehicle.” or “I’m trying to get by the next 2 weeks on a half tank of gas. Better ride my bike to the library.” (Admittedly, I live in a town that is very bike friendly.)
The act of physically writing every penny spent opened my eyes to the value of a dollar. I remember calling my mom and asking “I don’t know how to make a budget! What template should I use? How much should I spend on groceries? What’s the normal amount to spend?” She said it was really, quite a simple equation. There’s the amount that comes in each month and the amount that goes out. And the former better be bigger than the latter – if not, you need to see what expenditures can be cut and go from there. It’s really simple math, and I’m terrible at math. So if I can do it, it’s probably simple enough.
I was reading a magazine the other week, and there was an article about how money isn’t everything. This one family had, I don’t know, four kids, an Escalade, a mansion, a nanny, what have you, and then they lost everything. (I can’t remember how, I think he lost his job.) The mom declared, “I’m happier than ever. We sold our house, and we garden and raise livestock. We bike a lot of places and spend quality time together.” And I thought…”Huh. Cool.”
Sure, I’d like to be able to vacation. And I do love splurging on food. But I can’t imagine being inherently happier with double, triple, or even quadruple my salary. As the old adage goes, money doesn’t buy happiness. It certainly buys stability. But that moment I was able to separate happiness from money was huge. Not many Americans (or really any 21st century person) instinctively make that distinction. We are inundated with the idea that money is power. And, of course, we all want power.
I’m not saying we don’t need money. Obviously, we do. But if we can let go of the perception that “more will bring more joy”. Don’t worry, advertising will tell you it will. But joy comes from within.