Sometimes when I think about my financial history, I get down in the dumps. Sometimes when I think about my possible financial future, I am pessimistic.
It just seems like too much. I think about how much things cost now and how much they will likely cost later (unless the world ends due to war, famine, or some global warming disaster... told you I can be pessimistic). And I think, all my saved pennies won't amount to a thing.
But then I was talking to my guy about a few thing while we waited in line to see The Dark Knight (which, by the way, was AWESOME!). I asked him how he manages to save so much money, especially when the tech job market is tough, when he's between jobs and when things cost so much. He told me about how, when he was first working, he got tired of breaking even. So, he started to save large amounts of money per paycheck ($200 to $300 or so) and, obviously, had to cut back on other things to compensate for it -- like cooking dinners at home with friends to save money. Or going to every happy hour he could make it to, early, so he could eat rather than drink. He saved the money he received as birthday or Christmas presents, rather than spend it. He saved big chunks of tax refunds and he followed the example of his mother and others who were good at saving.
Then, before he knew it, he had saved $10,000, which surprised him, but also encouraged him to save thousands more. He continues to hide money from himself in accounts that he monitors, but can't easily withdraw from.
Then I said something. In five years, I eliminated from $36,000 in debt. If I look at that negatively, the way I normally do, that means that I somehow earned or gained that much money and let it slip through my fingers. But, then I looked at it a different way.
Not only did I pay off the debt, but I saved $8,500 at the same time in my e-fund and in 401ks.
So, in five years, I put more than $44,000 to work. My guy said "That's really good. That's amazing actually."
And I thought, yeah, it kinda is.
It's not about patting myself on the back (because that 44K journey wasn't all discipline and common sense, as you have read many times in this blog!). It's about being hopeful. I did do it. I can do it again. Only this time, that money can actually work for me, as opposed to me just repaying past mistakes and overly expensive fun and stuff.
And I can have fun at the same time! I haven't totally gone without or denied myself everything I wanted or wanted to do. But now I can do what I want smarter.
So, I feel less freaked out about getting it together financially.
Now, if I can only just shake this shopping bug that seems to have bitten me...