I’m Still Living Paycheck To Paycheck
I no longer have any credit card debt. I have an emergency fund. I’m paying down my six figure student loan debt and increasing my net worth at a decent pace.
Even though I’ve made massive changes, you would never know it from my thoughts or activities.
I still check my accounts multiple times a day. I still have trouble sleeping the night before payday. I still spend the majority of my money as soon as it’s deposited, although now it’s mostly used to pay off debt.
I’m still living in the paycheck to paycheck cycle.
I feel like I’m on a financial roller coaster, and that the ride never stops. If you’ve ever had an unhealthy relationship with money (or anything else), you’ll know what I mean. When payday rolls around, a euphoric rush hits you as you crest the top of a peak. You hover there for a moment before your stomach drops out as you plummet back down. Money seems to evaporate in a glut of spending, and the distance to the next payday stretches out in front of you before you begin the slow, rickety climb back up.
Is saving money always positive?
I know my financial situation has drastically improved this year and I don’t want it to seem like I’m not grateful for my advantages or pleased with my progress. This obsessive behavior is beneficial to me in many ways – I’ve paid off a substantial amount of debt, been diligently saving for retirement, and reined in my impulse spending.
My net worth keeps going up, but what about my self worth? I do generally feel proud of myself for finally taking control of my finances, and for making so much progress this year. At the same time, the underlying feelings of inadequacy are stronger than ever. I wrote about all of the comparison that happens in the financial independence community recently, and I was absolutely including myself in that category. Starting out with six figures of student loan debt has instilled this sense of always being behind and trying to catch up. I’ve read amazing stories about early retirees around my age that were able to finish working before I really even started. Avoiding these comparisons altogether would be ideal, but unrealistic to ask of my very human brain.
Will this feeling ever go away?
If I’m being honest, probably not! I think achieving debt free status will add some much needed stability to my financial situation, but I’m not so naive to think that my relationship with money will be ever be completely healthy.
Aside from the fact that I have chronic imposter syndrome and nothing I do seems to alleviate it, unstable emotions around money are tough to avoid. I can’t just quit currency. At the very least, I need to earn and spend regularly to buy shelter and food to survive. I can’t save up a certain amount and let it sit predictably in a savings account either, because keeping up with inflation requires growth and growth brings volatility. A time will come when the swings in my investment accounts will be gains or losses of thousands of dollars rather than hundreds. I already have to be careful not to check my accounts too often, and I only have about 2% of my retirement target saved!
How do I find balance?
I know what I theoretically should be doing to find balance, but I’m struggling with the execution. I could be meditating or doing breathing exercises or writing affirmations or starting new hobbies. I could be doing any number of other things, but it seems like I’d rather be obsessing about money.
It’s so easy to open the spreadsheets or web browsers and recalculate my debt free date, or my retirement date, or my net worth. I can login and check my accounts and investment balances with a few keystrokes. Even if I’m away from the computer I could probably tell you the numbers by memory. I’m just not a ‘set it and forget it’ type of person.
Acknowledging my feelings is a great first step, but I need to focus on getting off of this roller coaster ride if I want to be financially and mentally successful with money.
Do you obsess about personal finance too?