I never really had a savings account. I had a checking account that, usually for reasons out of my control, I didn’t touch for periods of time, but I never really had savings. Before I turned 18, my parents put away 75 percent of my paychecks from my summer jobs into an account that I couldn’t touch, but shortly after my 18th birthday, I damaged my dad’s car pretty seriously with my foot (yeah, I know), and had to drain most of my meager earnings to fix it. Since then, I’ve never really known what it feels like to actively save money, let alone sit back and appreciate an account with enough to take care of me in some sort of emergency situation.
But recently – mostly since starting this blog – I’ve started to save money in a more conscious, deliberate way. It’s nothing crazy, and I only have enough at this point to live for a few months at most if I stopped earning income tomorrow, but it’s still significant to someone who never looked at money as something to accumulate, but rather a transient concept used to buy unnecessary clothing and accessories. It’s a feeling of comfort and security that I’ve never known, and it is slowly transforming my worldview.
For a long time, my view of money was very immature. I hated the idea of spending money on something that I couldn’t touch, see, or immediately use. I bought 300-dollar dresses when I was earning 1,000 a month in school. I ate out several days a week with friends (with glasses of wine and dessert and all the things that make meals fabulous and expensive), even though I had a full fridge at home. I spent money because I had it and because, on some level, the idea of keeping it locked away or invested in some intangible place felt foreign and unfulfilling. I wanted instant gratification, and that often meant hemorrhaging all of the money that was coming in.
And it’s a very hard thing at first to start genuinely enjoying the feeling of saving, watching the little number creep up, saying “no” to things that you could easily say yes to, and the enjoying the feeling of victory that comes with. I’ve spent the past few afternoons wandering around Paris, in and out of shops I loved and frequented, and have yet to buy a thing. I’ve tried on a lot, and seriously debated one or two items – even ones where Marc was insisting – but never bought. And I find that not buying has become significantly more satisfying than buying. I won’t walk out of the store with those crisp, elegant bags, and I won’t have something completely new and exciting to wear tomorrow, but it will make me observe and use what I already have with fresh eyes, and enjoy the cushion of security that slowly grows in a faraway bank account.
Saving has to become an addiction like anything else, it has to give you the same saccharine rush you get from buying something, and it’s not as easy as you want it to be. But ultimately, it is a much more sustainable and healthy kind of joy, and puts you (eventually) in the position where purchases can be made with confidence and sanity, where you don’t have to worry about every little thing because you’ve saved and been smart dozens of times before. I thought that vacation (particularly a Christmas vacation, back in Paris) would be a test of willpower I couldn’t manage, that I would slip back into old habits and decide that my money only looks and feels good when it is wrapped in tissue paper at the register of a favorite store. But even here, even in these circumstances, I find myself thinking about my savings account, watching the number tick up, waiting for checks to arrive here and there to contribute to this greater, intangible future that feels so far away, but ultimately, so exciting.
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