“No one’s ever achieved financial fitness with a January resolution that’s abandoned by February” — Suze Orman
Sometimes to achieve your goal, you just have to walk away.
That’s what I had to do today right before I pushed the button to purchase a $400 festival ticket to Governor’s Ball in New York. Not going to lie — at one point I did push the “Buy” button. Luckily the site declined my credit card because this 22-year-old has card limits.
Any who, the second time I tried to load my credit card and use the layaway plan option (yes, it got that deep), I realized that this was a prime case of instant gratification.
I’m a millennial, and as much as society likes to assign characteristics to my generation, I do believe people my age have grown up in an era of immediacy. For us, news comes constantly, fast food is king, and if an app on my phone doesn’t load quickly enough, honestly, that app just isn’t worth it anymore. I’ve treated my spending habits in the same way. I’ve become way too accustomed to swiping my credit card now, and waiting for the phone call from my dad about the charge later.
Just consider me the 21st century version of Hilary Banks. Sorry not that very sorry.
Now that I’m adulting full0time with my own bills, apartment and paycheck, I’ve made this the year to hold myself accountable. I’ve made this promise for the past four years. Yet, in college, I had a net of security while living in the illusion of adulthood. In college there was always some reason for why my financial illiteracy was acceptable.
Frequently used ones were: A break from dining hall food, traveling during study abroad, summer break shenanigans, 21st birthday plans, fancy red carpets. Literally anything under the Los Angeles sun.
But there I was in my New York office, finger hovering above my mouse, ready to click “Buy” on the Governor’s Ball ticket ($400!) and I couldn’t think of a quick enough excuse for this frivolous expense. Time was ticking. The site was giving me five minutes to complete my purchase.
Earlier this week I started an excel spreadsheet dedicated to tracking all of my spending. It’s been going good so far. Before this week, I would tell myself that I could make a mental checklist of just how expensive my lifestyle was. I couldn’t. I would genuinely be surprised when it came time to pay off my credit card each month.
Grant it’s only the first week, but I’m starting to feel accountable to this spreadsheet. I save all of my receipts and scribble prices down in the note section of my phone to make sure I can later update this spreadsheet. It’s kind of jarring to see how quickly money can flow out of my wallet.
I had two minutes left before the Governor’s Ball site would log me out, and I kept seeing the text messages from my friends encouraging me to buy this ticket. I rechecked the lineup for the festival and, yes, it was still amazing. I thought about how many likes my Instagram photo from the festival would get (just trying to keep it real). There was a lot of noise as that two minutes became 60 seconds and my finger still hovered over the left-hand button on the mouse about to push “Buy”.
But I knew I needed to walk away. The voice I needed to hear was the one telling me that I wouldn’t be able to afford, say, lunch for the next month and a half if I said yes to this expense now. I needed to hear the resolution I made for myself saying that this was the year I would take responsibility for my finances.
I didn’t want to silence that voice any longer. Plus, I love hot food for lunch.
So in a decision that’s been building up since I left for college in 2012, I moved my mouse away from the “Buy” button as the clock start counting down 10. (Tbh, if I thought through this moment thoroughly, I would definitely be the owner of a 3-day Governor’s Ball ticket.) Instead of “Buy”, my mouse shifted up and clicked on the red exit button that would close the page. Feeling uneasy at the decision I got up and walked away from the desk. I had just made my first financial decision of the year.
To celebrate, I called my mom. Half of me called her because I thought she might convince me I should have actually bought that $400 ticket.
She did not. In fact, she was sipping tea at the time I called her and had to put her glass down when I told her how much money I was about to spend. When I assured her I hadn’t, she just started laughing. And laughing. And laughing.
Now I am here with no festival ticket to my name. But I still have $400 to use however I please, and because I live in New York, when I say “however I please” what I really mean is it’s going toward rent.
Yet, I feel better that when facing this decision, I stood up and let the most important voice takeover. This year I’m standing at the precipice of change in my spending habits. From all my failures in the past, I have learned that I can’t change something in my life unless I truly wanted it to happen.
Financial literacy is going to be a yearlong, er lifelong, goal, but at least now I’m ready to take on the challenge.
So here’s to going back to the drawing board. And by drawing board, I mean the excel spreadsheet that keeps my budget.