September was the first month I couldn’t pay off my credit card bill in its entirety. I’ve only had a credit card for a year, having previously only used my debit card, so that isn’t saying a TON, but still. Editor’s note: this is not a pity blog, it’s simply an update. Please don’t panic, family members- I made this mess, and I have lots of options to clean it up.
Turns out, I’m maybe not as great with money as I thought. I’m not TERRIBLE with money- the reason I lasted as long as I did this year without a full time job is because I had built up a savings account while working at MTV for this exact purpose- but I’m apparently not great with it either.
It’s largely denial. I don’t like checking my balance because it freaks me out to think about money in that specific of terms when I know I’m not making very much. And since my paycheck was literally halved since MTV and my rent and utilities went up after my move and I had negative income for a few months this summer, suffice it to say I’m not making very much. So I try to spend smarter and keep my head down and hope it works out for the best.
Spoiler alert: it did not work out for the best. After finally sitting down and doing the math, when subtracting rent, utilities, student loans, Metro card, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Drive storage, and Hulu (all my recurring monthly purchases), I have a net income of about $230, which has to buy all groceries and food and incidentals.
If I’d been smart, that would have been sucky yet doable. Sadly, I wasn’t smart, choosing avoidance and denial instead of math and reason.
In fairness to me and my dumb brain, some of last month was unavoidable. There were two recurring account charges that auto-paid before I could cancel them- both accounts were created while I was still making (relative) bank at MTV and were yearly subscriptions so I forgot about them entirely. Also last month I produced the entire season of my new web series Sam and Pat Are Depressed, which while the cheapest project I’ve ever made still cost me for props, craft services, and a brand new hard drive ($120!!!) to actually edit it on. I donated to two hurricane relief funds and a friend’s Kickstarter. Finally, last month I got a medical bill from February that I thought I’d paid for another $111- as it turned out, they’d sent me a physical bill months ago, but to my old address, and I never received the notice back when my finances weren’t in as dire of shape.
By way of digging-myself-out-of-this-hole-of-my-own-making strategy, I’ve stopped leaving my apartment unless absolutely necessary (work) to save on subway tickets, I’ve stopped ordering in entirely, I’ve stopped submitting to film festivals (unsurprisingly, this was one of my biggest and stupidest money-sucks this year), I’ve put in a request to get my monthly student loan payments reduced (hopefully from its current $450 a month to a more reasonable $100) and I’ve been paying for everything that can’t be avoided (lunch while at the office, for instance) in the small stash of cash I had leftover from my FIKA tip days. Again, I’m not the WORST with money- having my savings account this summer and this tiny cash stash have been incredibly helpful. If I’ve done my math right, if I can eek out another month on no-monthly-Metro-card, picking up small freelance gigs where I can, and relying largely on Quinn for food (plus portioning things better to last longer), by the end of 2017 I will pay off my credit card bill and be able to reset my spending habits. It’ll still be tight, but without the deficit I should be able to better plan and track my spending to stay in the green.
I’ll say it again- this isn’t a pity blog. But I’m trying to be more transparent about money, because this is not the world my parents grew up in, and I am not following a typical path, even for my generation. I’m not going to sit here and pretend things are fine when they aren’t, and I realize that because of my social media presence some people have interpreted my life to be more successful than it actually is. I don’t regret pursuing film and writing, even though I could be way better paid and way more financially secure if I’d gotten a degree that hiring managers actually care about. I don’t regret how much money I’ve lost (instead of saved) by making Brains season 1, then Brains season 2, then Ace and Anxious, then Sam and Pat Are Depressed.
All I regret is making stupid, impulsive purchases because I was too lazy to make my own lunch instead of ordering in or wait 20 minutes for a free train instead of grabbing a $10 Uber. I regret not sending in my application and paperwork to reduce my loan payments as soon as I found out my MTV gig was ending. I regret being too lazy to bring my reusable water bottle to work and then buying disposable water bottles every day for lunch. I regret letting my depression talk me into making purchases to cheer myself up because “I’d earned it.” I regret not keeping better track of how much money I was spending at a time when I knew I shouldn’t be spending money.
I’m also incredibly privileged. I’m privileged to have had a savings account in the first place, I’m privileged to have a family who is generous and able to bail me out if I ask for help, I’m privileged to have a partner who can pitch in a bit more while I get my shit back together, I’m privileged to have some extra cash on hand that I haven’t needed to use previously, I’m privileged to have wonderful friends who helped me make a web series for free and who buy me a beer when I can’t afford it, I’m privileged to be able-bodied and in good health, and I’m privileged to consider my $12/month Hulu subscription (no commercials, what what) an essential rather than a frivolity. I am a white, cisgender, neurotypical-ish woman with a white-sounding name from a middle class family. I was able to take out student loans no problem to pay for a private undergraduate degree and a private graduate degree in the arts. None of the fifteen thousand hurricanes currently tearing this world a new one have displaced me. I am financially responsible for no one but myself. I will be ok. Others aren’t as lucky, and not for one second have I forgotten about that.
I’ve made a mess, but I’m cleaning it up. Not because “that’s what you do” when the going gets tough, but because I’m privileged enough to be able to.