Saturday, December 26, 2009

2010's First $ Project

I'm probably heading to grad school in Fall 2010, hopefully getting a graduate assistantship. While I'm excited about the prospect of grad school, or at least the prospect of getting a higher paying job because of grad school, I am not too excited about the fact that for about two years, I will need to live on one half of my current income. And I'm not doing student loans, that's just not an option for me.

This is definitely a "trial by fire" experience. It's an excellent test really: am I willing to sacrifice my lifestyle for two years so that I have the chance to improve my lifestyle in the years following?

Honestly, the idea is freaking me out. I hate having to worry about money. Certain expenses are non-negotiable like rent, utilities, car insurance and the cell bill, and because of those, the areas of my budget that get trimmed are food, clothing, entertainment & travel. I already track all my expenditures by category (yes, I'm one of those freaks in love with spreadsheets), so the left side of my brain is about ready to explode with anxiety since the new categorical numbers will be difficult to work with, I can't continue my life the way I like, and, holy crap, I'll have to change my general operating procedure!

But then I decided that my right brain should take charge of this project; it's time to get creative! I have seven months to get ready for this & I'm already well-situated to do this! I already own the "big items" like bed, dresser, & kitchen supplies so I won't be incurring additional expenses with those, I already have enough clothes & shoes, & I won't need to buy work clothes since I can go to class in jeans & a t-shirt (my preferred uniform for life), and I won't be commuting 250+ miles a week, so my gas & time between car maintenance appointments will be greatly reduced.

So how can I start preparing now? My goal for the first half of 2010 is to save as much money as possible & to start adopting some of the lifestyle habits that will be thrust upon me come August. I already try to lead a fairly simple lifestyle, but there are adjustments that I can make.
  1. Limit travel. I love travelling, whether visiting relatives or college friends or taking an adventure trip. But travelling usually involves at least $50 in gas plus money spent eating out, going out, admission to events & occasionally pet care (for my lovely dog Mabel).
  2. Limit clothing purchases. I already have enough. I should probably get rid of some actually.
  3. Prepare food that is filling & extendible. Instead of making a chicken breast which works for only one meal, cut it up and put it in a stir fry which is equally as tasty, but will provide leftovers for subsequent meals.
  4. Try to eat vegetarian a few times a week. Meat is expensive.
  5. Invite friends over for dinner or game nights instead of going out. And thinking about it, my friends probably won't mind. Saving $ is a universal interest.

It'll end up working out because it has to. I just don't really want to do this. I suppose the mental block I have is the same kind of block certain people have towards cleaning their homes, losing weight or starting an exercise program. Nothing will change until you decide to change it. No one else is going to do this for me, so it's time I accept the way things are & go forth with creative confidence that with a few adjustments, I can do this!

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