by Cait

Budgeting sucks. There are countless reasons why this is, but for me it’s mainly the fact that whenever I write down my savings goals and spending plans for the next month, I’m ready for my next paycheck right then. I know the whole point of being a good saver is that you aren’t anxious for your next paycheck. You’re simply thrifty enough to be fine until that fresh dinero hits your bank balance. But, in truth, I struggle with this.

And according to the Wall Street Journal so does 60% of America. (Thank God I’m not alone!) Most of us don’t have a savings account able to sustain our way of living for any measurable period of time, and because of this we’re vulnerable to… well anything. So whether we want to or not, a vast majority of people are living on the edge. And while the fringe sounds awesome, not being able to feed yourself isn’t cool, and that’s a risk you run when you aren’t aware of your bank account and how far it can realistically take you.

I especially find this brand of self awareness difficult in the middle of each month, because the terrible truth about monthly pay checks is, that they are just that: monthly. I never really go crazy with my spending, but I’m not making mountains of dough either, so that means each and every purchase I do make becomes frustratingly significant. And when you don’t realize that soon enough, the 15th can seem reeeeeally far away from the 30th.

This is such an inconvenient truth for someone who went to college and graduated with honors (pats self on back.) And as my fellow 20-something co-worker so articulately asked, “Why the hell do I have to buy generic chicken? I want to buy Tyson chicken and not feel shitty about it.” And I completely agree! Sure the price difference is only a few bucks, but a few bucks is bread and peanut butter. It’s an amount of money that I can’t really afford to be flippant about. AND THAT ANNOYS THE CRAP OUT OF ME.

It’s incredible how important daily spending, on groceries and the like, is. A lot of people take great care in purchasing cars, expensive clothes, and fancy beauty products, but these same people (myself included) do not plan each purchase at the grocery store. If we could save 10 cents off of a can of corn from cutting out a coupon on Sunday, the majority of us wouldn’t take the time. However, if we could cut out a coupon to save 10% on a car, you bet your ass we’d all be jonesing for one of those fictitious pieces of paper!

But think about it, grocery shopping is a weekly, and for some people, a daily task. If you could save 10% on every trip, you’d be pocketing some major cash. I understand watching pennies add up is far less satisfying than dollah dollah bills ya’ll. Truly I get it, but does it really make sense?

Fellow 20-somethings, I feel your struggle. It is, in fact, real. I know our generation is, altogether, a bunch of entitled assholes who want instant gratification, when they want it (which is uh…now.) However, let’s try not to be entitled assholes, and actually make plans and realistic timelines to make them a reality. That’s what makes sense, and that’s what successful people do, regardless of their end goal.

For me, that may mean buying cheap chicken for a few years. For you, maybe that equals off-brand toilet paper rather than Charmin or secondhand furniture in place of brand-new. Drastic or minute, savings add up. It may not be a trip to Hawaii initially, but it might be a dinner and drinks with friends, without the worry of a declined credit card at the end of the meal. And isn’t that peace of mind more valuable than the label on the plastic covering of your toilet paper that no one is going to see anyway.

It’s all a compromise. You live within your means, and then someday you get to (fingers crossed!) have bigger means. I’m not saying that a job promotion denotes swearing off generic brands for life, but it may make it easier to treat yourself to luxuries you truly care about, whether that’s a car, a trip, a couch, a nose job, whatever. It’s money that you probably barely noticed you were saving with each trip to the drugstore, but it became something you didn’t know it could possibly be.

You see where I’m going with this? It’s not all instant gratification and rainbows guys. If we work hard, eventually we’ll get to buy our groceries with less frustration. (Whether it’s because we’re pop stars having other people buy our groceries or we simply couldn’t give two shits what kind of ketchup sits in our fridge is still up in the air.) We’ll still watch our pennies, because it’s the right thing to do, but maybe we’ll (gasp!) grab a Starbucks on a day we feel particularly spendy, taste the bitterness of shitty coffee, and realize we have officially moved on to cheaper and basically-the-same-quality things. Go us.

Until next time or not, I’m still Cait.