FIRE Update 1: Let’s get started

We are at the end of April and that means that the paycheck has rolled in, the investments are transferring and I have to look through my finances anyway, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start documenting my journey a bit more and just keep myself accountable.

What happened this month?

I calculated my net worth for the first time, with debts and all. Yikes. Big minus. I am definitely at the bottom of all sorts of “average wealth” for my age group in my home country and it will most likely only get worse until I am done with my studies and can focus on paying it down aggressively. So I am trying not to stress out about having these tuition fee loans and remind myself that I do have savings and investments that will help me in the long term.

Since we are on lockdown I must admit that online shopping has been more tempting than ever before – especially combined with the extra loan from my home country I applied for to pay off the more expensive tuition fee loan in the country I study in. Luckily, I’ve also had a lot of freelance work which could cover the more fun and useless spending and I sold old clothes on eBay as well as did some tutoring. It justifies it a little bit but I do hope to save more this month and sort out my closet even more.

Savings

My general/apartment savings are currently $3,351.
I am saving up for my intership in Brussels in September (hopefully it doesn’t get ruined by Corona). My goal is $1,500 and I have saved up $872.

Investments

My current investments are $2,788 out of my $33,000 goal.
My net worth is $-37,688.

Debt repayment

My current tuition fee debt is $44,141.
I owe myself $887.

Books I’ve read and texts I’ve written

Besides giving this blog an overhaul, I unsuccessfully submitted two pitches. That happens. The most important thing is that I gave it a try.
I’ve finally read Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin after numerous recommendations (I don’t do reviews unless requested).

Goals for next month

I plan to sell more clothes through eBay and hopefully ramp up my freelance work once I have submitted my last assignments for university. I really hope that I can start thinking about plans for summer – I want to visit my family (and take all the safety measures to make that happen) and spend time with my boyfriend, depending on how his holiday is going to play out. I am going to cut down on takeout and be even better at meal prepping, although this has already been a very good month in that department.
I am also tracking how much extra money I can put towards savings and investments this month (above my minimum transfers), so I am excited about how the numbers will look once the month is over.

How did your April go? Do you have any goals?

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Shopping is a symptom

I have previously touched a little upon consumerism in here, but I have recently read a string of interesting discussions and blog posts about this, so I thought I would give my two cents on it as well. My general theory is that “shopping is symptom” – for everything that is going on for you, really.

Now, I am not talking about “shopping” as in “buying food and toilet paper”, but when you order another useless gadget on Amazon or browse a string of your favourite webshops “just to see what is new”, or you purchase something you semi-like because you have a discount code.

Let’s try to dig into that a little. I am by no means perfect, and Heaven knows that I have spend quite a substantial amount of money on online shopping. And still do sometimes, especially in these quarantine times. It is a process, but just being aware of your patterns can really help to just close the window and let it be sometimes.

“I need a new wardrobe” aka Hello I Feel Insecure And Uncomfortable

The first real, dramatic change of wardrobe occurred when I was around 16-17 and on my way out of a long punk phase. I still love black clothes, studs and fishnets until the day I die, but I may no longer be wearing awful kiddie-punk t-shirt, write on everything I wear and pierce my poor ears with an unclean safety pin. A lot of my shopping was, granted, because I really just needed some normal clothes.

But since then, a lot of “wardrobe revamps” and purchases cannot exclusively be ascribed to my evolving fashion sense and has had more to do with how I was feeling during that time. Usually, something felt wrong and if I just bought XYZ items with this particular aesthetic, then I would just magically start to feel much better about myself. Somehow I would look exactly like the model in the photos and all my problems with my self-image, self esteem or stress level would just be thrown out with the bathwater. What an incredible sweater! That probably got used a few times before I donated it or sold it.

It can be difficult to really identify whether you actually are in need of new clothes or if you are just feeling particularly shitty about yourself. That is alright. I do not really have a magic formula, except for the more generic things such as, ya know, trying to deal with it in the best way you can and love yourself more. If I look back at how I felt back then and how I viewed myself versus how I actually looked, there is a world of difference. It serves as a reminder that my self-image is more tied up to my emotions than my eyes and they will give a distorted view if they so wish to do that.

I Am Stressed Out and Scrolling All The Webshops

When we feel stressed out or overwhelmed, some of us have a tendency to either shop mindlessly in stores after work, or get the online shopping going. By “us”, I sort of mean myself here (but let me just believe for a second here).

It actually took me a while to notice, because the problem was two-folded. First of all, when I was working hard (and presumably earning more money), I felt it was justified. And also, sometimes I mostly just looked at online shops for procastination and then envitably found something I just could not live without, thus spending more money than if I had just kept my mind busy and found the damn items.

I am very bored

Although it sounds laughable, it is true. If you feel inadequate, boring, or just do not know how to spend your time better, it can be convenient to just surf the net, stare at the TV or other activities that expose you to a lot of commercials. When you are bored, you shop or you may just find yourself spending more unnecessary money in general.

Tricks for resisting the urge to shop

These things should hardly surprise anyone out there, but just for good measure, I felt it would be appropriate to share some of the things I do to avoid the urge.

  • Take a look at your closet
    You may just find that you already have more than enough and perhaps three different dresses that are oddly similar to the one you want. Sometimes we tend to forget when our closets are literally overflowing.
  • Meditate
    I am not saying that you should just sit down, close your eyes and hum to yourself for a bit, but mindfulness is a good tool for dealing with stress – and take a moment to actually feel your feelings instead of treating them with a random dress.
  • Make a wishlist
    Instead of trying to crush your want straight away, then just try to put it aside for later. Sleep on it. It gives your brain time to calm down and catch up, and you may just forget about it or realise that you don’t actually need this dress, if you are being perfectly honest here.
  • Remind yourself of your goals
    You may have some financial goals or big-ticket items you are trying to save up for. Maybe that’s a classic handbag, a vacation, or an emergency fund if your washing machine breaks down. Who knows. But just having a list you can whip out and have a look at really makes a big difference to stave off those impulse buys.
  • Unsub-fucking-scribe
    Yeah, of course. The best is to do some prevention and self-parenting by unsubscribing from e-mails, perhaps even blocking certain sites so you cannot access them at certain times.
  • Play a game
    Of course I’ll shamelessly promote playing some sort of game – mind you, not one where you buy shit. I enjoy playing The Sims. While you do have to resist buying all sorts of add-ons, then it works for me and effectively fights boredom.

I hope this may either serve as a reminder or help some people out. If you have noticed any patterns with your own shopping behaviour, feel free to share as well!

Photo by Bruno Kelzer on Unsplash

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