Yesterday, I stalked a pair of boots on 6pm.com. I put them in my shopping cart in the morning (only one pair left!), and every few hours I’d refresh the page to see if they’d been sold. All day, I wondered, Should I buy them? I decided to not decide and just stalk them instead.
So today, when that last pair of boots was still available, and there was freezing rain outside, I pulled the trigger. I bought the boots.
Yes, they were on sale, even moreso today than yesterday. Yes, I will need them, though it’s debatable whether I needed them now. Yes, they’re gorgeous, and if the fit is right, I am sure I will love them and wear them lots.
And yet, as of a few days ago, I had finally made enough money to pay for rent this month. Should I really be buying shoes or clothes at all? As I transition into my part-time steady job plus part-time freelancer lifestyle, I find myself wondering: How the heck am I supposed to budget this year?!?
I’ve read advice suggesting that if your income is uncertain, then you should base this month’s budget on last month’s income. Well, my December income fell way short of my December spending. I had already started tutoring by then, and I knew I wanted to focus on that part of my professional life in 2014. But in December, the academic semester is winding down for undergrads, and everybody’s anticipating their vacation. Few people are looking to start a new working relationship with a tutor, or so I thought. I decided not to worry about December and let myself have a break after the whiplash of 2013.
It is hard for me not to worry about money. Rather than focus on my worry, I am telling myself that I am learning a new skill set this year. I am learning how to tutor, how to run a business, how to promote myself and my work. Really, there’s a lot of learning going on! It’s like I’m in school, except there’s no tuition and my teachers come in many forms. And—lucky me!—I can actually get paid during this time in tutoring school. I don’t have to take out student loans or apply for scholarships. Instead, I need to show up and do the work. As for my budget, while my goal is to break even this year, I need to be patient and recognize that really, I’m just getting started and there’s a lot of 2014 ahead of us. Plus, I think Paul is realizing that this change in my employment status comes with $acrifice$, so we may shift the balance on who pays for what. Especially when his semester is going so well, perhaps stepping up financially is a way to show his support for me.
Clothes and shoes, for me, are often purchases that straddle the line between want and need. Sometimes I go too long before I replace a worn-out item. Other times, I want a back-up waiting in the wings, like those gorgeous grey boots. I don’t have a set budget for wearables; they fit into my “monthly extras” category for which I allot $300. Generally, I can stick to my budget (but not this month!). But a budget requires predictability, and that is lacking in my life right now.
Have you ever found yourself in a transition or an “in-between” time in your work life? Did you adjust your spending habits? How do you decide the difference between a want and a need?