Like so many of us who live pay-check to pay-check, I always find myself stressing out about money. I constantly feel like I’m just one Sephora trip away from having to sell my ovaries on the black market. It doesn’t help that as soon as I walk into that place I automatically feel the need to dive right into the mesmerizing world of contour kits and specially formulated lip balms that cost more than a vintage Malbec. To say that I have champagne taste on a beer budget is a complete and utter understatement. I’m pretty sure I’m just genetically predisposed to like the most expensive shit on God’s green earth.
Growing up in a six figured household as an only child in one of my city’s nicest neighbourhoods, I was lucky enough to never live without. I was delusional to the fact that money didn’t grow on our perfectly manicured trees that lined the fence of our HGTV inspired back yard. In my mind, the ATM was just a magical machine that held free money for all to take and didn’t understand that people spent 40 hour work weeks sitting in a cubicle just to be able to take out a $20 bill for a chocolate-dipped cone at Dairy Queen.
Although I grew up somewhat privileged, I surprisingly always had a pretty ambitious work ethic. My very first job was CEO of a gimp bracelet making sweatshop that was my childhood bedroom. As the only employee, I pumped out tons of those things just to be able to sell them to family and friends for a shiny loonie a piece. I was never much of a spender at that age when I actually had money in hand I was more inclined to hang on to it for as long as possible. Of course, until a new POG slammer was released or something and then all bets were off (yes, I’m that old, this was the 90’s).
Unfortunately, I didn’t preserve my penny-saving attitude. I spent my college years squandering money hand over fist as if I were a hip-hop artist flexing dollar bills at strippers in Vegas. With a part-time job, virtually no financial sense and a credit card with a limit that should have never been given to a 19-year-old in the first place, I never missed out on the opportunity to go shopping, attend a concert, spend five out of seven nights a week “clubbing” or spending hundreds of dollars souping up my brand new Honda Civic’s car stereo system.
I was falling right down the rabbit hole into the scary and unknown world of massive debt. Arriving at my financially irresponsible tea party with an unpaid cell phone bill and a college degree (and probably mild liver damage), I was lucky enough to land a career worthy sales gig that allowed me to get a bit of a handle on things. I was even able to purchase my first RSP, that I ultimately ended up cashing out to pay for a wedding that only lasted a few hours, almost as long as the marriage itself….kidding.
When you become an adult and realize how expensive it is to even breathe, the harsh reality really starts to set in. The world of paying rent and bills (on time) can be incredibly overwhelming. When going to work just to be able to put gas in your car to get to work, becomes the vicious cycle of your nightmares, somehow robbing a casino, Danny Ocean style, doesn’t seem that far fetched. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered it, but let’s be honest, I don’t know the first thing about fingerprint replication. Instead, you become the master of robbing Peter to pay his brother Paul, who has a much higher interest rate and intimidating over the limit charges.
I’ve become the queen of justifying my spending habits with my “treat-yo-self” and “you can’t take it with you” attitude. I mean, when I die I’d rather be buried with my 800 thread count Egyptian Cotton sheets wrapped around me than have thousands of dollars in the bank (sorry, can we just laugh about the image of me actually having thousands of dollars in the bank for a second, as if Starbucks wasn’t a thing?) I’m more than guilty for being the person who tries to keep up with the Jones’ especially with the social media take over of influencers trying to sell me everything from home cooking delivery kits to little sugary gummy bears that promise to make my hair look like Rapunzel’s in a matter of weeks. I’ve literally spent $120 on pajamas I saw Jillian Harris wearing on Instagram. PAJAMAS. And I have THREE pairs! Hashtag no regrets.
This isn’t a feminist rant, but it is pretty ironic that women don’t make as much money as men do, especially since it costs a quadrupole amount more to be a woman in this day and age. A man can pretty much buy a 6-in-1 bottle of Head and Shoulders, layer that with some Paco Rabanne and call it a day; but, have you actually seen how expensive tampons are? It’s literally highway robbery and my uterus is the one being held at gunpoint in an emotionally unstable chocolate-eating haze.
I know some would argue that women don’t NEED to spend an excessive amount of money on make-up and beauty products and fancy purple shampoos specially formulated to de-brass our $300 balayage job, and yes, that is indeed our choice. But let’s just be realistic for a moment. If we didn’t do all of these confidence-boosting aesthetic things that actually make us feel at least somewhat put together, we wouldn’t be presenting our best self and the world would ultimately go to shit (deep down, you know it’s true). If you really think about it, when have you ever seen Michelle Obama without perfectly manicured hands? I shouldn’t be penalized for wanting to feel good about myself.
As if trying to budget your life wasn’t challenging enough, you also have to carve out enough money to feed yourself. God forbid you actually love yourself enough to want to eat somewhat healthy. You basically need a black card to shop at Whole Foods these days. “Pre-cut watermelon, $11.99, that’s totally reasonable. Have you ever tried to cut through a watermelon all by yourself? Save your machete for the jungle, Tarzan, you’re going to dull the blade.”
As I insert my quarter into the grocery cart version of a human centipede at local discount grocery store – also known as one step above the poverty line, I try my best not to bump carts with the family of six wearing matching Value Village tracksuits in the produce section. Walking through the aisles of half bruised peppers, dented canned goods, and actual security guards, you really start to question why your Kate Spade wearing ass is even in this grocery store prison. After bagging your own groceries and filing out into the parking lot where you can always get a front-row spot because everyone took a cab to get there, you actually feel pretty good about your life for a brief moment in comparison to what you just witnessed.
I’ve learned a lot of financial lessons in my 30+ years, but I still struggle at times to stay afloat while trying to keep up a comfortable lifestyle and a somewhat fashionable persona to the outside world (basically, not to look homeless is the goal). With a car that was over 11 years old in constant need of repairs, I decided to make a New Years’ resolution this year to finally get my financial ducks in a row.
Walking into the offices of my financial advisor at Scotia Bank, with my designer handbag in toe, RayBan sunnies on and virtually nothing in my savings account, she could see the cluelessness in my eyes when I sat down and asked her to teach me how to “adult”. She proceeded to ask me what my financial goals were, which besides marrying rich, I had absolutely no idea. After an hour and a half of going over mutual fund portfolios, risk factors, and credit rebuilding strategies, I felt like a million bucks when I walked out of there (ironically enough).
I’m in no way, shape, or form in a position to give anyone financial advice, but if you get nothing else from reading this I hope that at the very least you go out and get yourself a financial advisor who most importantly, gets you. I’ve sat down with a few, and the experience hasn’t all been the same. The minute I sat down at Krystal’s desk and was able to joke with her about having picked up a part-time waitressing job just to cover the cost of my Starbucks chai latte habit, I knew she was on my side. With a few clicks of a mouse, she immediately dug my head out of the protective hole in the sand that I had buried myself in and ended up sending me on my way with an RSP, a TSFA, a few other acronyms that sounded impressive and a restored will to live.
Being financially stable is always going to be something that I’ll have to work on, and it’s been a hell of a lot easier since having been able to move back home to save money and get back on my feet. But I’m proud to say that as I write this post, I have virtually zero debt, an investment portfolio, a brand new car in the driveway and my next trip booked and paid for.
They’ll always be bumps in the road, unforeseen costs endured from emergencies or just a Nordstrom anniversary sale, but learning to live responsibly and not just by the seat of my designer pants, has been my greatest achievement of the last few months. Investing in myself financially and paying myself first will continue to be a priority for me. The end goal in mind is that I’ll eventually be able to buy my wine from the fancy wooden racks at the back of the LCBO and not have to settle for the $6 bottle of Zinfandel from the region of “in the red” and “on the verge of bankruptcy”.