I pulled my credit card out of my wallet last week and punched in the numbers, trying not to memorize them as I’ve done with most of my other cards, and rationalized as the website check-out loaded: I’ve been eyeing this dress for weeks. It’s a quarter of the original price! THEY ACTUALLY HAVE MY SIZE. I don’t know what else I could wear to H the Scot’s birthday celebrations this weekend! Despite that last one being horribly untrue (e.g., already had something in mind), I hit “Submit” and then immediately checked my credit card statement and mentally subtracted what I’d need to cut out of my budget that week to cover the dress. “Welp,” I thought as I happily shared the link to the dress with a coworker, who agreed it was totally worth it, “looks like I have a long week of frozen veggies and canned tuna till pay day.”
I am in the unfortunate position of being a fashion-obsessed 20-something with a decent salary living on my own in New York City. “Unfortunate?” you ask. “That sounds ideal!” But no, it’s unfortunate, because that sentences really translates as this:
- Fashion-obsessed 20-something = Talks about saving money and then spends it on shoes.
- Decent salary = Enough to cover rent and bills like 65% of the time.
- Living on my own in New York City = Okay this part is true. And also rocks.
Usually, I find myself in one of two positions: it’s within 24 hours of payday and I feel like a millionaire, or it’s more than 24 hours after payday and I’m reminded that being an adult, and especially a New Yorker, is expensive and hard. My fashionista C and I bond over this in particular on the weeks after paying rent, swapping “I’m so broke until payday”s and “I’m serious, I can’t even afford dollar oysters this week”s, and yet our conversations frequently end up leading to “LOOK AT THIS NEW DRESS” and “Should I buy this purse? Just kidding I already did.” Last week in particular was a doozy of budget discussions, as we had a whirlwind weekend ahead, birthdays, bachelorette parties and a fast-approaching trip to Maine. With big Saturdays on the books for both of us, and C and I going on vacation in a week, we decided to spend Friday at her place, a low-key night of wine and on-demand movies.
Saving money is not fun. Sorry, but it’s just true. I know I can’t pull $600 out of savings for an impulse buy, but when that new Marc Jacobs purse is emitting a siren call while I’m “just looking” on Net-a-Porter, it’s so, so hard not to listen to it. It was more difficult in the early city days, the unstable months adjusting to the city, to biweekly paychecks, to the constant pull to buy every meal on Seamless and overspend on accessories, but even now that I’ve got my feet under me, it’s really hard to budget. I wonder sometimes, looking at an uncertain future, if I’ll regret going to that concert last-minute instead of putting that money towards my upcoming bedroom redecoration, wonder if I’ll berate myself for taking all those cabs over the years without sucking it up and taking the subway. I wonder sometimes if I’ll be the person that is always broke in the city, taking care of myself alone, or if someday it might get easier. Wondering all of this all the time can be overwhelming, anxiety-inducing even, when I’m trying to figure out if I really can survive on a can of tuna and salad greens until Wednesday this week. But a quick ping on Gchat from C makes me laugh and calm down a little, because whether it’s a 20-whatever thing or a New York City thing, at least I know I’m not the only one.
Friday night, for a grand total of $60, C and I got very drunk and stuffed our faces with what may be my new favorite pizza in the entire city, shrieking at the television when it stalled during a crucial scene in Belle and reciting along to Gone with the Wind until the third bottle of wine put us to bed. It was the kind of Friday we both needed after long weeks, a chance to forget our dwindling bank accounts and just enjoy a night of gossip and girl talk. It sucks to be broke most of the time, sucks to be the kind of person that will impulse-buy a dress she probably doesn’t need without realizing that money could go to groceries down the line. But I don’t think I’ll be too angry with myself in 40 years for spending that money now. After all, I may be a broke girl trying to make my way in New York City, but all things considered, I’ve made some pretty rich memories along the way.