Holy crap, am I bad with money. I love clothes and food, and it pains me every time I have to let go of several hundred dollars just so that I can keep living in the same semi-crappy apartment where I already live, or pay for heat and electricity that I already used. I was righteously indignant when, as a kid, I found out that trash removal was something you actually have to pay for and not just a service provided by the community. It’s not like the government (or anyone, really) wants trash lying around, so it seemed absurd that its removal wouldn’t just be provided for everyone. (It still does, actually. But then, there’s always been a little communist in me.) And yes, I sometimes don’t even have enough money to pay for internet, but online shopping still exerts its siren song on me embarrassingly often.
(Exhibit A: I recently convinced myself that I needed this balance ball chair for practicing. Plus a comfy cover for it. While it’s turned out to be great for my posture, it’s also indulgent and ridiculous at almost $90. I can justify anything if it’s for playing…)
Yeah, I just bought that thing. The thing that looks like it could have come out of either a kitschy, faddy fitness ad from the 60s (mail-order, of course), or an incredibly specialized sex toy store. (Might still be good for both…) But it’s awesome, and I’d been needing both a balance ball and a practicing chair—I’d been sitting on the edge of my bed, with my feet not touching the floor and the pillows right there, begging for nap time instead of practice time. So I went ahead and bought it.
And to be fair, it’s really, really hard to be smart with your money when you have no idea what kind of income the next month will bring. When you have that one unexpected gig that pays $600 out of the blue, you feel like it’s your one chance to buy all the things you’ve been putting off, like a pair of pants that won’t rip within a week and a half, or a new toaster to replace the one you melted (long story), or the $6 shampoo which is twice the price of the cheap stuff but that actually makes your hair look okay. When faced with that small, glimmering opportunity for normalcy, it’s really hard for me to bite the bullet and use most of that money to pay the two months’ worth of bills I’ve been avoiding.
The reasons aren’t lost on me—spending money on something that makes your life nicer/easier/prettier is FAR more satisfying than something so banal as the Comcast bill. (It’s not like Comcast or Duke Energy NEED my money anyway…) That fancy dinner/weekend in a nearby city/Jedi bathrobe has an immediacy and thrill of the new that paying for a continuing service that you’re already used to just can’t match. And yet. Every time I buy something silly (like a balance ball chair), even if I’ve decided I actually need it (like a balance ball chair), I do think about all the ways that money could be spent more practically, if only I saved it until next month.
The impulse to save up a lot of things to buy or pay for until after a big gig has got to be a common one amongst freelancers. I was doing it all by myself in college, but now that I live with Boyfriend, the impulse is more than doubled—maybe squared—because now my finances don’t only effect me. I obviously can’t say that I’m good at budgeting, and I’m not really sure what the antidote to pre-spending large paychecks before they even come might be.
Except, of course, a steady job.