Just writing that word and I can feel a tightening in my chest, a constriction in my throat. There’s a desire to open another screen and let myself move on to some other necessary project: email, Facebook, Spotify, would somebody call me?
Unlike my best friend who follows an actual budget and adjusts accordingly when necessary (imagine!), I’ve taken a more ‘it will all work out approach,’ to financial planning.
With trepidation I’ve checked my account balance either to be relieved or completely panicked by what is revealed. An inability to “show myself the money” has allowed my imagination to generate all kinds of horrors. What if can’t make rent this month? Do I have enough money for food? When did I last pay my cell bill?
It hasn’t been pretty.
Last November, my financial well being hung in the balance after I lost my job. During that long walk home with my box of belongings, the phrase that kept running through my head was: I am fucked.
I was making roughly $3k a month and had plenty discretionary income which was promptly spent on “necessities” including but not limited to: laser hair removal (it didn’t work), cocktails, clothes, shoes, and meditation trainings. Even with the surplus, my aversion to wellsfargo.com meant overdraft fees happened more frequently than I care to admit.
12 months later I’m living on less than half of what I previously earned. Friends have asked, “how are you doing this? You live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and you don’t have a real job?”
The truth is, I don’t actually know. There’s some alchemy to my finances that I’m just now learning to understand. But I am surviving … rather well, actually.
There have been a few logical adjustments: I look at my bank account regularly, put an end to the laser hair removal (thank gawd), have stopped buying meat (easier on my wallet and the planet) and have unsubscribed to emails that make me want things and services I don’t really need. Goodbye weekly CSA Box.
I trade volunteer time for yoga and dance classes, pour wine in a tasting room to pay for the basics, and I receive food stamps, which, gulp, I hesitantly admit given my advanced education. No this is not my long term plan, but simplifying and relying on social services has allowed me to experience bureaucracy which I suspect I will one day help others navigate. More on this another time. It’s also helped me evaluate what I really value in life.
In this year of 9-5 freedom I’ve traveled to Mexico, danced, done many a meditation retreat, danced some more, and spent two weeks creating art, telling stories and making new friends.
In less than a month I’ll be co-hosting a 30-day silent meditation retreat. This will be a month of no income whatsoever. Can you fathom it? I certainly couldn’t years ago. My travel to this retreat has been funded in large part by the generous donations of friends and family who are supporting this journey. Thank you!
All of this and since being unemployed, I’ve yet to accrue a single overdraft charge. This has happened NEVER in my banking history. In fact, the standing balance in my account is now higher than when I was employed. Whaaaaa?
How is it possible?
Could it be (and this may sound a little woo-woo) that because I’m more aligned and content in my life that the world is delivering resources to support my endeavors?
I have less stress around money even though there is a rapidly approaching expiration date to my ability to not secure a regular paycheck.
This whole experience has awakened a concept that maybe money is not as linear as I once thought. It’s not an either you have it or you don’t kinda situation. Right now it seems to be flowing in and out at just the right times.
I find money in unexpected places like the bag of quarters I lost and then found months later when I needed them most, forgotten bills in infrequently worn apparel, and unexpected gifts from organizations and people I love.
I’m sure I’ve heard something about the “spirit of money,” but my previous self had no interest in such nonsense. Well, I’m most interested now. If this is your thang, please leave a comment with any recommended materials.
While I don’t have a lot, I’ve found that I’m more inclined to give the resources I do have. Sometimes that’s money, sometimes it’s meals I’ve prepared and sometimes it’s my time.
I’m more conscious about the dollars I do spend and who they support, and I’m overwhelmingly appreciative of the life that I’m able to lead. My privilege, especially as I’ve navigated social services, is not lost on me.
I have $153 in my bank account to last through November and while that would have terrified me 12 months ago, today I feel wealthy behind measure.
Oh, make that $153.25, just spotted a quarter.