I seem to have everything in life except for financial stability. And so, I find myself constantly asking, “why am I always broke?”
I have made it through adversity to become the happiest person I know, the best version of myself, and an individual who is worthy of love. And I have a beautiful romantic relationship, a blossoming career and education, and all of my bills are paid. Yet as I write this, I am in a one-bedroom apartment. Worse, I have no savings to speak of and thousands of dollars in credit card debt. I wonder: how did I manage to get everything I ever wanted in life except for money?
A wise person might tell me to count my blessings. My therapist might ask me to make a “gratitude list” and write down all I have to be thankful for for an improved perspective.
I’m not inclined to let this go. Having a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle is actually quite stressful and often prevents me from doing things that I want to do. Yes, all of my bills are paid, but it’s always a struggle of careful budgeting and planning with my partner to muster up the bare minimum, and try to avoid going broke.
The Struggle of Money
Every single week, we pay off the essentials such as rent, car insurance, and the cell phone bill. Then, we plan out what we have leftover for a grocery, gasoline, and cigarette budget. We never buy anything that isn’t essential. (With the exception of a bottle of wine for me or a beer for him once or twice per month.)
My partner and I both work. John has a full-time job and a packed schedule with one of the notorious Long Island-to-New York City commutes of nightmares. He works for 40 hours per week. Meanwhile I usually work about 25–30 hours per week between my two jobs while I work on my masters degree. We’re both exceptionally responsible people who never call out of work. John even found himself with a raise in pay fairly recently.
We’re responsible, we don’t buy frivolous things, and there’s even been an increase in our budget. What am I missing that could make my life better? You may be looking at your own similar situation and asking yourself the same questions.
I don’t want to worry about money and being broke like this forever. So, a couple of weeks ago I began to ask myself what I could do differently to make my life better and reach my long-term goals of moving into a nicer apartment and navigating my way through my credit card debt. The answer isn’t simple, and figuring out how to do better required a good, hard look in the mirror.
We Cancelled Subscriptions
The first move I made to try and make our lives better was to cancel subscription services. Between Spotify/Hulu, HBO Max, Boxycharm, and Savage X Fenty, I was throwing away over $100 per month on subscription services. I cut this down to just Spotify/Hulu under my student plan for $9.99 per month and stopped finding myself surprised because subscription costs were no longer being deducted from my account when I least expected it. This was the start of truly knowing how much money I had in the bank.
We Stopped Ordering Takeout
Before I switched to working part-time to juggle school, I had a higher paying job with more hours. It looked like we could afford takeout, but once I realized that we were averaging $50 or more every time we ordered from Uber Eats, I realized that we were spending roughly one half of a whole week’s grocery budget in a single night! It’s no wonder we worried about being broke all the time.
I started cooking dinner every single night except for Thursdays, where we have a pizza delivered for the grand total of $21. Limiting takeout to a once-weekly pizza has saved us tons of money. I even learned how to cook on a budget, and dinner for two never ends up being more than $10. It’s also much healthier. On an average night, I cook some kind of vegetarian meat substitute along with mixed vegetables and mashed cauliflower. This is dramatically more cost effective while taking away the artery-clogging factors of takeout nachos and deep-fried potatoes.
I Use Apps to My Advantage
I recently started using Acorns, an investment app that helps its users save money. The best thing about it is the ability to utilize “round-ups”, so that every time I make a purchase, the rest of the change leftover rounds up to the nearest dollar and goes into my savings. If I spend $3.29 on a coffee, 71 cents will go into the savings account and the total will be rounded up to $4.
Acorns also allows me to make a weekly contribution to my account in increments. So every Thursday I add $10 to my savings. It’s a very small amount, but you’d be surprised by how much $10 per week plus spare change adds up.
There are a laundry list of reasons why I’m broke. But these small changes have made a huge difference in helping my partner and I to build our lives together, improve our credit, and work towards moving forward. We plan on moving out of our small apartment by this spring. And, we’re working every day to save money and to be able to soon afford getting married. (Getting married is expensive right?!)
I hope that some of these practices will be helpful on your journey for financial stability in the future. It’s bad enough that these are uncertain times for so many of us because of the pandemic, and I know how hard it is to move forward when there are constant hurdles in the way. John and I recently had to throw another $1000 towards car repairs. Things like this seem so insidious in their way of derailing everything we’ve worked so hard for. Doing everything that we can little by little is going to make our lives better.
I believe it can make your life better, too.