For years I’ve been stuck in the deadly cycle: receiving my monthly pay → spending most of it before mid-month → living on an extremely tight budget for the rest of the month (sometimes sustained by loans from my colleagues).
I just thought it’s something natural, something normal. My peers often complain about living in the same cycle. We support each other from mid-month until we get our paycheck. I have a solid support system, but most importantly I fit in. I can actually relate to others’ problems and thus become part of them.
I did receive a bunch of financial advice from my seniors at work and my parents. But I hardly listen because as soon as somebody invites me for a fancy lunch or to do some ‘grocery shopping’ (not to the supermarket, but to the drugstore and clothing retail shops), I can’t say no.
I mean, sometimes they’re an old friend I haven’t met in months, a regular shopping buddy, a friend who needs a shoulder to lean on. Besides, some of those activities are necessary to get me out of everyday work stress. Right?
Right… but not really.
My parents and seniors always seem to ‘have it all together’. Even nearing the end of the month, they can still order take outs and have expensive dinners. My parents can still pay for my hospital bills when I get sick (since I don’t have any savings) and treat me for dinners.
At first, I thought it’s because they earn more than I do. But now I’ve learnt that it’s not about how much you earn, it’s about how you manage it.
I thought I can only save when I have this much or that much salary. But no matter how much salary I have, I can always save because I set priorities. I need to pay my bills first and set aside a budget for meals and transportation. After that, I determine how much money I want to save per month and I make sure I set the money apart once I get my paycheck. Then I could use the rest for fun stuff: shopping, going to the movies, concerts, etc.
Of course, there wasn’t much left for the fun stuff once I budget for my priorities. I have savings now, but I don’t go to fancy dinners as often and watch the latest movie on a subscription channel, instead of the theatre (plus the popcorn and extra transport money).
I realize that I could live without much of a going out and shopping and I feel totally fine. Oh, and most importantly, I can now learn to say no to unimportant invitations that will only cost me not for what it’s worth.
I have a decent amount of savings now. So, the next time I get to an emergency, I’ll have enough money in my bank account to cover for it. I also don’t have to shake up the trust with my friends for begging them to loan me some cash.
I realize now that yes, money gives you the freedom to do the things you like. But security gives more extensive and long-term freedom. In this case, financial security gives me the freedom to go about every day without fear of not being able to pay back my debts or anxiously waiting for my next paycheck.