Category Archives: Money

It’s All About the Cha-Ching

Well, dear readers, my first paycheck has come and gone.  Not gone gone, but mostly gone.  I would like to say that I was a responsible adult with my first real paycheck in about a year and a half.  I’d really like to, but I can’t quite go that far.

The first thing I did with my money was responsible and very adult of me – I paid my student loan bill.  Good for me!  I also paid a few other outstanding bills.  Then I spent the rest of it.  To be fair, I bought a bunch of stuff I needed to make a bunch of Christmas presents.  And I bought a few gifts that I can’t DIY.

I mean, yeah, of course I also bought a bunch of stuff for myself.  Things I’ve wanted for months but haven’t had the disposable income to purchase.  Like a cute new coat.  And a new pair of Chucks (I’m obsessed).  And an Achievement Hunter t-shirt.  And some video games (used, of course).  And lots of other unnecessary stuff.  Like candy and ice cream and nail polish.

I’m surprised by how quickly and easily I spent my money now as compared to how stingy I would be when I didn’t have a steady job.  Knowing there’s more money on the way eases my iron grip on my bank account.  I mean, if anything, I’m more mindful of how much I’m spending even though I’m spending quite a bit.

But now that I have the rush of buying things and not really worrying about having money for food and bills out of the way, maybe I can put a budget together.  Or save up to by an iPad.  Yeah, totally gonna get me an iPad.  Wanted one for years, and I’m finally gonna get one.  It’ll only take 2 paychecks for a new one and I’ve got my eye on a nice refurbished one for about $300 less.  I may have money now, but I’m still a cheap skate!

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Dollars and Sense

So, I have my confirmed interview date from ECC as September 24th in Seattle, WA.  Now, I don’t know if you remember, but I live in the Midwest.  Specifically Minneapolis.  That’s a little far away.  And by “a little” I mean it’s a 2 day drive at least.  If I were to drive.  The other interview locations are all just as far away from home base for me.  San Francisco, New York, and Toronto.  All out on the coasts.  I kind of wish ECC had a location in Chicago.  That would make life way easier for me and everyone else from the center of the US who wanted to apply.

My plan is to fly out to Seattle the day before my interview, and fly back home the day after.  This requires a plane ticket and a hotel room.  As well as money for food and cost of transportation to and from the airport.  And if I land the job, there’s even more money I need to throw at a plane ticket to Japan and an apartment and all the other costs which come with moving, let alone moving to a different country.  On top of all of that, I have student loans looming over my head.  I have bills to pay and currently have zero money coming in to offset those costs.

So what can I do to at least try and make ends meet?  I’ve lucked out on having basically the best parents out there.  They’ve been helping me financially since I got out of school and haven’t been able to find a job.  But I know I can’t rely on them for much longer.  They have their own bills to pay.  My current lease is up at the end of September, so I’m doing something I swore to myself that I would never absolutely ever do:

I’m moving back home.

I was of the mindset that I’d live on the street before I moved back home.  There’s a lot of reasons I was set on never doing this.  The biggest reason being as that I saw moving back in with your parents meant that you failed.  You failed at being a functioning adult.  You failed at living your dream.  You just failed in every way you possibly could fail.  And failure – even the mere idea of it – terrifies me.  I still struggle with failure and my attitude towards it, and I still struggle with the decision I’ve made to move home.  But I know it’s something I’ve just got to bite the bullet and do.  I can’t save any money when I do get a job if I have to spend all that money on rent and electricity and internet and whatnot.

I recognize that living with my parents for a while again is financially necessary for me.  And even though I don’t think I’ll ever really be comfortable with the idea, I just keep telling myself that it’s only until I can move to Japan.  I’m fairly confident that I’ll do well in my ECC interview and will land the job.  Then it’s just a matter of getting a start date.  If I had my choice, I’d move over in March.  I feel like that would give me enough time to find a job in IA and save up the money required to get myself and my stuff to Japan without pushing my limits on living with my parents again.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and I’m beyond grateful to them for helping me out at this rough time in my life.  But I am 25 and I’ve been living on my own since I started college (the first time) in 2006.  I’m used to having my own schedule and living my own way.  I’m worried that I might clash with my parents over that sort of thing.

I already get frustrated with my father over silly things that don’t matter in the long run.  For example, he suggested I contact a cousin of mine who has a teaching degree and teaches ESL in Indonesia.  Which is a fine idea, one I will probably end up doing, but the way it was suggested to me made me feel like he wasn’t just suggesting, but telling me that I needed to do this.  We got into a bit of a fight then because I mentioned that my best friend already works for ECC (the company I’m applying to) and has gone through the exact same application process I will be going through.  Then we butted heads about how I should contact my cousin – email or Facebook.  My dad said email because he said my cousin might not like having a conversation like that in a place where the whole public can see.  But, Facebook does have private messaging, as I mentioned, and since my cousin is the same age as me, probably is quicker to respond via Facebook than via email.  It boils down to my father wanting to help me in every way he can and coming across as wanting to control how I do things while all I want is for him to be supportive of my choices and decisions while letting me make my own mistakes and letting me do things in my own time and on my own terms.

So while I’m going to get frustrated with Dad over this, I’m going to ask him to help me keep a budget to save as much money as I can while I’m living at home.  I know I’ve never been good at managing my money or sticking to a budget.  But I want to give myself the best start in Japan, and I know the amount of money I can stockpile will play a key part in that.  I know my downfalls whenever I try to create a budget is that I don’t write down every single thing I spend money on.  I’ll leave off the $5 I spend at CVS on snacks that I don’t really need.  I’ll forget to write down the lunch I grabbed while I was out running errands because I didn’t bring my designated budget notebook with me.  And next thing I know I’ll glance at my little budget notebook as I carry in groceries or pull out my guilty book buy that I “didn’t intend” on buying but really did intend on buying.

The other big thing that kills my budgeting plan before it even gets started is that I typically use my debit or credit cards instead of cash.  It’s very true that it’s easy to overspend if you’re not physically handing paper money over to the cashier.  If I’m paying by card, yeah, I’ll throw that box of tea I’ve been meaning to try in my cart without even glancing at the price.  But when I’ve got $30 in my wallet and I need milk, bread, and eggs, then I’m only getting milk, bread, and eggs, no matter how longingly I stare at the pint of ice cream on sale.  Okay, well, maybe if it’s on sale…  But then I can’t afford coffee when my friends want to hang out downtown and catch up.

If you have similar poor spending habits, might I suggest the envelope system?  I’m going to try this once I have income to try it with.  In Japan, it’s a very cash-based society.  I hardly ever used my debit card, unless I was withdrawing money for the weekend or whatever.  But I tended to spend more wisely and think twice and twice again about the things I was buying because I was handing over cash.  And when a coin says “100” on it, even if it’s only the equivalent of US$1, it feels like it’s worth more, silly as it may seem.

So I think I’ll just leave this post about budgeting and save my fury over the ridiculously low minimum wage for another day.

However much it costs, enjoy the journey.

-Kate