Welcome back to “This Week in Thoughtful Consumerism!” Lately, I’ve been motivated to unpack a lot of my mental baggage around the issues of money, autonomy, and partnership. You may recall that I have two jobs: a part-time lab gig and private tutoring. My income is up and down this year, depending on how many tutoring hours I’m booking during a given month. Being a freelancer forces you to deal with your money fears, and being a freelancer who is dating a freelancer? That REALLY asks you to unpack your deepest beliefs about money and its role in your life.
I’ve always been pretty responsible with money, but I also have chronic anxiety about it. I used to do all the things a real grown-up does with money: track your expenses; stick to a budget; save money for retirement, a house, a rainy day, a new tooth for when you break your old one. I did all these things when my income was sufficient to cover them. But now? Now I am lucky if I break even each month, which, for the record, I am not doing. I am covering most of my expenses with current income, but each month, I pay for the remaining bills with savings.
It’s not my ideal situation, but I trust that it’s temporary as I transition out of research and into a more teaching-centered career. Meanwhile, I’m trying to find some peace around the issue of money. Truly, money comes and money goes, just like jobs. We live in uncertain times. But maybe there’s a way for me to stop worrying incessantly about money. Here are two ideas I had:
* “Have I missed out on anything because of a lack of money?” The answer is no. Paul and I had a wonderfully adventurous year of dating, with tons of travel and friends and date nights. On my own in the last year, I’ve run my first marathon, had four trips to Michigan (where my family lives), bought new or replacement items as I wanted (new boots come to mind, as well as a gorgeous dress from Ann Taylor Loft), eaten well, and adopted the best kitty in the world. Life is good.
“Money is a game.” I saw this on a post someone wrote about marriage, and I liked it a lot. Paul and I aren’t married, but we do share expenses and resources. I believe that his good fortune is our good fortune and vice versa. How we choose to spend our time and our money really is a game. What do we want to do? Do we have time for it? How busy are we going to be that month? So many puzzle pieces to consider.
For us, the time question is usually more important than the money question. Despite both being freelancers, we have substantial work commitments—“freelance” isn’t code for “unemployed” here, even if I feel under-employed right now.
I’ll be keeping this idea in mind as we prepare for our move to Austin. Game on!
Have you found any money-related ideas to be transformational for you? If so, what were they?