I was unemployed for 10 of the past 20 months, and in school without work for 9 months before that. For six of my unemployed months, although not consecutive, I was paying my own way and only got slightly in debt. I managed during that time by living a relatively thrifty lifestyle. I’m not a bargain hunter. I steer away from coupons because I don’t believe “couponing” to be a real word. I just lived simply, and used many of the resources available.
When I did work in the short-term jobs between periods of unemployment, I saved. I didn’t get paid enough to save very much. The lifestyle was still relatively thrifty. Now that I’m permanently employed, the pressure to conserve financial energy has been alleviated…slightly.
I was able to get through that period of time because I’ve been saving for a while. I was very fortunate to get abundant support throughout my first degree from multiple generations of my family. My simple lifestyle and aversion to consumer debt kept my income higher than my expenses even when working part time. (Who has a life when in university full time anyway?) I worked two jobs for over a year without “rewarding” myself with binge spending. So when I decided to travel for two months then go back to school on my own dime, I was okay.
I’m back to working and back to saving. But I find it’s a more difficult lifestyle now. Things are more expensive, probably at the same rate as my higher income. I’m no longer living the anti-glamourous lifestyle I prided myself upon in my mid-20s – I’m trying to reflect my age and maturity a little bit more. I am building my savings at an ambitious rate. However, rather than seeing that as a virtue and each lump-sum funds transfer as an accomplishment, I perceive it as money slipping away from me. And the hoarded dough in that account never seems high enough to calm my worries.
So after periods of time when I celebrated having under two dollars left in my monthly budget as an accomplishment in being poor (or rather, “poor” given how advantageous my life has been compared to the rest of the world), I now stress out if my bank account balances under two hundred. It’s entirely self-inflicted, I know. But there’s just no pride in the middle. It’s a boring place. Not much recreational spending, but not much of a challenge day-to-day…except the challenge of changing the outlook to feel proud of that two hundred bucks.