I realized recently, as I’m rapidly approaching the end of my second year in this apartment, that this is the first time in my adult life I’ve managed to find some semblance of a routine. I’ve adjusted to my budget, created a schedule that (mostly) balances work and life, and I have my little rituals that make me happy, like yoga every morning and weekly food prep on Sundays. I mean sure, I’m still pretty broke most of the time, and much as I always intend to prep food on Sundays, sometimes that doesn’t happen till Monday. Or Tuesday. Or okay sometimes I forget to grocery shop and then blow the rest of my budget eating Seamless meals all week. But for the most part, at least, I’ve found a way to live comfortably in the life that just now looks to be settling down. This routine, and the new-found responsibility* (*appearance of responsibility), all fit nicely into a goal that my lovely friend M and I set for ourselves all the way back in 2014 (aka two weeks ago). January is officially the Month of “No.”
The last year has been one of the most enjoyable times in my life. I went to multiple concerts and festivals, planned last-minute mini-vacations and day trips outside the city; I’ve been to more crazy restaurants and bars and parties than probably the previous three years combined. I indulged my Free People obsession on way too many occasions and all-too-happily handed over cash at a few tattoo parlors. And I don’t regret a single dollar spent in this year. I started 2014 newly single, slowly expanding my group of friends, trying new scenes, taking what I thought I knew about the city so far out of my comfort zone that it forced me out of the shell I’d been in for so long, challenging me to be Someone, to be LB. The routine of my last year was there was no routine. I could plan ahead by a few days, or maybe a few weeks, but anything after that just seemed ridiculous, like I wouldn’t know enough about my life in two months to commit to saving money for that hypothetical time when I’d really need it. Things continued on this path during the holidays, spending money with little more than reckless abandon, but only because I knew it was the last time I’d really be able to do so. So once the madness of New Year’s (e.g. the hangover) calmed down, I sat on my couch with a notebook and a calculator, and planned my budget for the next year.
When you’re still in school, you plan things by the semester, or even by the month. Things are so up in the air, they’re so variable at that age; you could choose to switch a class or take a weekend road trip on a whim and a daydream. In the early years of life on your own, budgets are more like “helpful suggestions,” since as long as you can pay the rent and bills on time, why not have a little fun while on your own for the first time in your life? It’s easy to say “Yes” to everything: Yes to going out two nights in a row, Yes to taking a cab home even though it’s not creepy-subway hours yet, Yes to buying that extra dress just because it’s on sale, Yes to peanut butter and frozen vegetables for a week just so you can buy that last-minute ticket at Webster. Yes feeds into FOMO, convincing you not to skip that happy hour just in case something great happens while you were being responsible. No is a scary concept, when you’ve spent so long trying to avoid it in favor of fun.
In order this year, I will have: Nickname Posse trip to Atlantic City, annual mama/Twinster Boston trip, 5-year college reunion, the annual 403 trip with my anchor G and my soul sister E, bachelorette parties/wedding showers for Twinster and my partner-in-crime R, plus oh ya know THEIR WEDDINGS. This is in between birthdays for everyone, spontaneous nights and roadtrips, weekends where at least one day I’ll eat nothing but Seamless food and one or two Free People indulgences. This year already has so many amazing things planned that I’m taking January, my one month with absolutely zero plans, to say “No.” No to nights out, No to spending money on things for myself that aren’t workout classes or essentials (e.g. coffee and wine), No to buying new yoga leggings even though they’re on crazy sale at Rue La La (which was the hardest thing I’ve had to do ALL YEAR). I need a month to save money, staying in on Saturdays to finish whatever’s on my Netflix queue and spending Sundays buying groceries and prepping food all week. It won’t last forever – my FOMO is pretty freaking strong – but for at least a few weeks, it’s a small step towards making me feel like a real adult.