A blog about spending wisely in your twenties, with advice on everything from cooking to saving money on gas; how to teach yourself to save money instead of spending it, traveling without breaking the bank, and much more.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Aaaand, we're back!

Too often, I feel as though I'm caught in between my time & my money. If I wake up at 8 and I have to be in class by 8:30, I'll skip making my own coffee - coffee that costs me less than a quarter a cup - and get Starbucks. Granted, I'll still opt for iced coffee over a latte, but I'm still paying way, way too much. Ideally I'd learn to just not depend on caffeine so much, but if there's anything being in class from 8am to 12 pm four days a week AND working full time AND trying to maintain a healthy social life has taught me, it's drink my coffee and don't skip breakfast.

When my schedule gets too crowded, I don't eat as well and I don't eat as much. This semester, I'm going to attempt to put myself on a meal plan of sorts, as much for my own health as for my wallet. If I've already got a batch of peanut-butter-and-raisin-slathered celery sticks made up and packaged in the fridge for nickels on the dollar, I'll be less tempted to justify buying an $8 chicken ceasar salad with exactly one slice of chicken that I won't even finish.

Maybe the most annoying thing about trying to spend conservatively and save my money is that sometimes I just feel like I don't have the time. I've never been willing to sacrifice people & relationships for money, so if given the choice between some time with friends or cooking a week's worth of meals in one night, I'll opt to spend time with people, which means I'm either paying for meals on the run or trying to throw them together in between work & studying. School is also a priority, but only because the silly little slip of paper is going to get me a higher paying job. I'm not willing to invest more time or money than I'll get back in higher pay post-degree. I don't ascribe to the oft touted insinuation that finishing my degree is going to make me a better human - it's just going to make me a higher paid human. While I want to finish, I'm certainly not going to sacrifice time with my friends or postpone my wedding - I hold my relationships with my family & friends higher than I do money or a bit of paper that will mean the same thing at age 25 as it would at 23. Often I'll choose to drop a class in order to be able to work a few more hours. If I make enough money to MORE than comfortably pay my bills, I'm less stressed out which means I'll do better in school, which means I'm far more likely to stay in it long enough to finish.

What all of this means is that there is a constant choice I'm making as far as where I'm expending my time & energy. Sometimes gaining an hour of time to relax is worth spending $5. Sometimes taking an extra hour to study is worth sacrificing a DIY project or two that will save me a little money. Sometimes it's completely worth it to blow everything off and spend a night with friends. As much as I like to put every purchase and every use of time into a numerical perspective, I think I'd go nuts if tried to put a price on every minute I'm awake. At the same time, they don't say "time is money" for nothing, so an hour or two a week planning out a budget for the month, a meal plan for a week, or even just blocking out time to study can save me upwards of $100 or more a month.

This summer, I spent about 24 hours a week in class or studying, 40 hours working, and somewhere in there I hung out with my friends - not a hard schedule, but definitely a grueling one. Even though I was pressed for time to write or do anything else, I still managed to take an hour or two every Sunday night to look at where I was financially and remain constantly aware of what I needed to do to continue living below my means.

Too often we lose track of our whole lives, not to mention our money, and stick our heads in the sand instead of actively trying to reign in our finances. Just one hour a week can help you plan for those times when you've got two minutes to decide whether you're going to plunk down cash to eat out or invest the time to eat in.