Around 8 years ago I would’ve said I was flat broke, an inaccurate assessment considering I had a full time job. I felt broke though, because back then I earmarked every penny I earned for living expenses, retirement, emergency savings or my rainy day fund. Some people call this “living within your means.” I was just doing what my parents taught me to do. I thought everyone lived that way.

In those days I wore my clothes until they were literally falling apart. I bought the cheapest shampoo and barely wore makeup. I never cooked meat and didn’t see the point of keeping alcohol in the house. I walked or took public transportation almost everywhere I went. This lifestyle kept me from ever carrying a balance on my credit card, something I felt should only be used in case of an emergency.

Sometimes I felt deprived. I worked downtown in a big city. It was hard not to compare myself to women on the subway who wore nice suits and carried Coach briefcases. I walked by shops and boutiques every day on the way to work, with windows full of clothes I thought I couldn’t afford.

I survived. I was happy, healthy and gainfully employed. I never felt at a disadvantage for not being decked out in the latest fashions. My lack of discretionary income forced me to create my own style and I was slowly, but surely, starting to own it. Books like The Beauty Myth and Affluenza helped me shape my philosophy on money and strengthen my relationship with it. I became an extremely conscious consumer, inspired by organizations like Center for a New American Dream and Adbusters.

As I said, that was years ago and things have changed. I no longer keep track of every penny I spend. I buy what I need when I need it, and what I want when I want it. I keep liquor in the house “just in case” and a cabinet full of products that allegedly help me defend and repair the affects of aging. My younger self would be sickened. How quickly our perspectives shift when our wallets get fatter.

I still technically live within my means. I’m debt free and contribute money toward my retirement every month, but I need to focus on saving for a mortgage down payment now. I know I can make that happen with some discipline and goal setting, but it’s going to be hard after years of not paying attention to my bank account. It will require work, sacrifice and using of the brain, and well, I’m kind of spoiled and lazy.

This morning I ran out of my skip prep and I’ve decided not to replace it. I feel like my bases are covered with the skin guardian, moisturizer, sunscreen and layer of makeup I put on my face each morning. I could be wrong, but I’m willing to risk a few wrinkles for some extra cash. My looks may suffer and I may have to switch from cocktail hour to tea time, but hopefully these baby steps will motivate me to get back on track. I just hope Origins doesn’t go out of business on my account.

Terrell

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