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Breaking the bank

January 21, 2013 - Carrie Olson
This is my last week of my extended holiday in Iowa. To New York City I go, and I am a bit apprehensive about going back. This fear is mostly based on the fact that I am pretty poor at the moment and am a big spender – even when I really can’t be one.

I am pretty used to having a full-time job with benefits, and right now I am sustaining on my dwindling savings, freelancing, and babysitting. Yet, with this money shock to the system, I have found it pretty hard to change my spending habits. Oh, I have definitely cut back. My car was a huge money pit - with the payments, registration, insurance, maintenance, and gas eating up a huge chunk of change. For some reason, my common sense prevailed and I knew I had to give it up.

While my main expenses are of the normal variety – I am known to mall shop during a bout of stress or feeling homesick. The thought of “I don’t need this” is often superseded by “Ooohh, a sale!” Sephora and Macy’s are not my friends. Right now, my closet is stocked full of cute little dresses and my bathroom cupboard is loaded with Stilla and Origin products. Things I definitely do not need. One day, right before I left, I happened to enter one of those Lush Cosmetic Shops. A perky salesperson happily led me to organic face masks and grainy shampoos - I readily handed over my Chase Visa. Speed forward to a couple weeks later, when I receive my credit card bill and I wondered how I could possibly spend $75 on sandy, clay-like beauty products.

Not only that, but I like to go to the movies. A lot. Sitting at home and watching the TV is great and all, but sometimes getting out and seeing a show on the big screen is better. Yet, with ticket prices ranging from $10 to 15, it really can’t factor into my strict budget.

Lastly, going out. I have been known to keep an open tab at the local pub, and before you know it, I have switched from the $2 drink special to a $12 martini. An open tab is not my only problem, for eating out is the norm there. With so many options, most friends want to meet up at a swanky new restaurant before hitting up a show. Not talking about movies here, but actual live theater. Don’t even ask me how much one of those puppies cost. (I think I will save actual costs of NYC for another blog post.)

So while I hastily apply for more jobs, my biggest fear is that I won’t be able to keep the Midwest lifestyle that I have become accustomed to again. Here, it is totally normal to go out and eat perhaps once a week. Even then, most people go to a place like Applebee's. If you go shopping out of town, it is not an everyday occurrence. Instead, it happens maybe twice a month, if you are lucky.

Being in a place that allows for spending money on any number of things at any time of day or night is not a good thing for my wallet. So I am coming up with a mindful spending plan for myself. This includes leaving my credit card in my desk drawer, as well as digging out my checkbook ledger and regularly reconciling it. I am hoping that I can learn to treat myself every once and awhile, rather than every other day like I had before. This isn't going to be fun, but I hope (I hope) that this will keep my worries a bit more at bay while I am back in the big city.


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