"I'll Have Water"

Having a reliable paycheck, not to mention health insurance, was an amazing change. I continued to live like a college student for the most part except I started ordering something with flavor to drink.

I'm about to start my third year as a high school math teacher. Having a salary rocks. Looking back at my years in college I never felt like I had money. There was that semester where I developed anorexia because I thought it would be cheaper to survive on twizzlers and bagels. There is the trick of constantly ordering water to drink with dinner because it's free. Budget theaters and libraries were key for entertainment.

Having a reliable paycheck, not to mention health insurance, was an amazing change. I continued to live like a college student for the most part except I started ordering something with flavor to drink. The summer after my second year of teaching was fantastic. I chose my sanity over an increased income and decided not to teach summer school. This allowed me plenty of time to do whatever I wanted which unfortunately encouraged me to spend money on just about anything. I'd never been one to spend wildly- only once did I run up a fifty dollar bar tab. I just found myself spending freely to do things like take a day trip with my sister or organize tailgating for my best friend's birthday. Combine that tendency with many summer weddings and some unexpected visits to the doctor and I suddenly found myself with much less money than I felt comfortable with.

Now, I know I'm neurotic. I think the fact that I'm aware when I'm being crazy makes it a little less terrible. I started to panic about my finances even though the rational side of my brain told me things were really okay. I considered the current state of the economy and realized that since I am employed and could pay my bills I'm better off than many, many people out there. I just needed to tweak my spending habits a bit.

I went back to asking for only water to drink with dinner. Instead of the frozen meals I used to take for lunch I'm opting for PB&Js. I plan on supervising more events at work to make some extra money. Just might consider taking up bingo after a trip to the casino revealed to me how much money you can get after just one bingo. I was surprised to find out you can win anywhere from one hundred to thousands of dollars.

I've noticed people often measure their income against material purchases. I have a friend of a friend that thinks about her money in terms of how many Coach bags she can buy. I know someone else who thinks about how many Starbucks drinks she can get. When I realized I could potentially win $500 at bingo I thought, "That's a plane ticket." That was another thing I couldn't afford this summer. A plane ticket to visit a very important person living across the country. I think of my money in terms of plan tickets, of trips out west.

My budget isn't just for my bills. It's not just preparation for the future, saving up so I can somehow afford to get my Master's degree. It's not just about being able to drink wine with dinner or go to any movie. I'm a teacher. I didn't go into this job for the money. I know I'll always be cutting corners. There will always be expensive events to pass up, school dances to chaperone for extra cash. Even though I'm not saving for a new car or a mortgage this is probably the most adult I've ever felt. Apparently, being grown up means you could do whatever you want, but you better be sure on it because you'll have to save for months to get there.

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