So I'm waiting. And waiting. And trying to be patient and not pester the human resources department. I'm anxious to rejoin the working population, to earn that first paycheck in what seems like forever. I'm ready to contribute to growing the economy.
Being broke sucks. It's horrible. But I'm beginning to think that I was denied opportunities so long because I needed to learn some lessons about money, like the universe was saying, "Nope. If you find a good job now, you'll just blow all your money again."
Here's what a year of having to stretch few dollars has taught me:
**Having six different kinds of shampoo and conditioner from various salons is ridiculous, especially when the $3 bottle of 2-in-1 from the grocery store will do the job well enough. Most body care products (except toothpaste, soap, deodorant, and a basic lotion) are a waste of money. Commercials lie about creams that make your skin glow or tighten your ass. You might as well set your money on fire if you're going to spend more than $10 per month on body care products.
**If you only have $50 spending money per week, and a pack of cigarettes costs $6.37 at the local 7-Eleven, and you smoke a pack of cigarettes every other day, you'll blow half your money on something everyone around you thinks is disgusting. Ergo, making the choice to quit is a financially intelligent decision. Not to mention you're no longer killing yourself slowly.
**I did some research into my past bank records. Three years ago, it wasn't unusual for me to spend more than $600 per month on eating/drinking out. Wow. W.T.F.? What was I thinking? That works out to about $7,200 per year. Yikes! And more than half of that money was spent on beer and wine. I wish I hadn't eaten (literally) all my savings! Now it's a long internal debate on whether I can spend $10 at the bar.
**You can't buy friendship. It just doesn't work. So why do we have the tendency to want to buy drinks at the bar for near-strangers? Why do we spend more than $20 on Christmas presents for co-workers who never hang out with us outside of work? What's up with that?
**You don't have to go to a fancy restaurant to be romantic. Romance doesn't equal fine dining and luxury hotels. Yes, that's nice sometimes. But it doesn't have to be the norm. Writing sweet post-it notes and leaving them around the house can be just as sweet. Being more thoughtful with presents can be just as sweet. Making a nice dinner at home and eating it by candlelight can be just as sweet. Hell, free romance is even better: dancing to a special song in the living room, going for a walk through the park on a beautiful day, taking a bubble bath, etc.
**I can cook on a very tight budget. If I need exactly 24 spears of asparagus, that's how many I'll buy. Not 30, not even 25. I check the cupboard against my grocery list every time I leave the house now, whereas before, I'd just wander up and down the aisles and dump whatever shit in the grocery cart that appealed to me at the time. At one point, I had six containers of lemon pepper spice, four bottles of Worcestershire sauce, five containers of garlic powder, three tubs of butter, and four Pam spray cans because I never checked to see what I already had before leaving the house. What a waste!
**Speaking of waste -- I can remember at least ten occasions when I wanted to go on a date, couldn't find anything to wear, and bought new clothes for the evening. I couldn't find anything to wear because 90 percent of my clothes were dirty. I had plenty of clothes. In other words, I was too lazy to do laundry so I bought new clothes instead. WTF? You better believe I keep up with the laundry now. I haven't bought new clothes in a year. I don't need to. I take care of my stuff now instead of treating all my clothes like disposable crap. And there's no way in hell I'll even consider spending more than $20 on a pair of jeans. Plato's Closet and thrift stores, here I come!
**It is more expensive to be on a proper diet than it is to exercise. Seriously. Healthy food -- fresh produce -- is not cheap. It's much cheaper to make PBJ sandwiches and then go kick butt at the "free" university gym (admission is included in tuition fees). There's free pizza for attendees of a science lecture? Bring it on! I'll eat anything that's free, and damned the calories. I'll run it off later anyway.
**Cheap entertainment is awesome. I haven't read so many books for pleasure in quite a while. Belong to Me and Into the Wild are fantastic books, by the way.
**I will never drop another paycheck at the mall again. Shopping sprees that cost hundreds of dollars are ridiculous. And using coupons is NOT GHETTO.
**Memories are more important than stuff. I'll remember that trip to New Orleans. I'll never remember what I wore or what purse I carried. I'll remember that trip to Las Vegas. But ask me what souvenirs I got -- I have no idea!
**Most importantly: It is completely unnecessary to buy super-expensive presents for birthdays and Christmas, even for your better half. Do you think they are going to remember that $300 gym membership or the scrapbook of your time together? Are they going to be more impressed with the bistro-style outdoor patio set for two or the book you wrote just for them? I've decided that thoughtful presents are more important than glamor and glitz. I try to give presents that people can't get anywhere else. No more Bath and Bodyworks gift baskets. No more gift cards.
Money doesn't burn a hole in my pocket anymore. I think I needed this last year, even if it sucked money-wise. I'm not going to follow some of my peers in living beyond my means, accumulating massive debts, or being constantly depressed and disappointed because I can't afford that perfect living room sofa addition.
Being broke made me green. I buy less crap, throw less crap away, and don't want more crap. I had to learn the hard way, but it's going to pay off, I just know it.