The Southern Englishman
Change Is Hard - A Cliché
In this entry, you'll see my tips for budgeting and how that will affect your lifestyle:
Post grad life feels unlike any other point in my life thus far. I am in the midst of my summer - a time that usually means, make money, do a show, and then go back to school. This time though, I have nothing to return to. No sense of comfortability, no sense of routine, no sense of what I should expect for the next few months. It feels like my parents have just broken the news that they have decided to divorce all over again and I am questioning “Where will I live? What should I expect? Will that sense of comfort ever return?” all over again! As dramatic as that may sound, as I write this, I can’t help but note how similarly I feel now.
I remember feeling as if I needed to become more independent, needed to grow up, needed to get my priorities for my mental health in order and the rest may just fall into place. I should take my own advice at the moment.
I started this summer out with my family in Boston. Having them here for my graduation was a surprising relief. Sometimes it can feel as though I am their tour guide and feel the
immense pressure to entertain by showing them something every tourist must see while on vacation in a new place. This trip felt different. They were here to celebrate me and that was their main priority. Not to say that I was reveling in it, but I felt pretty royal. I was blessed that all who came were able to attend graduation and celebrate for a few days before a spontaneous trip to Martha’s Vineyard with my Mawmaw and Pawpaw, Dad and sister, Lauren. We spent three magical days there exploring and seeing new sights - I definitely see myself vacationing here in the future. I knew, however, that with great reward comes great sacrifice. Returning to Boston meant getting in my grind and making some money.
In the past, I’ve been a workaholic; I set a goal for myself of how much money I aim to make and then I strive to get as close as possible in the few months between school years. Last year, my goal was 10,000 dollars. I came pretty close. This summer was to be just like the last with a few differences. I knew that I would be performing in Anything Goes at Reagle Music Theatre - a theatre that, while awarding Equity points to performers, there is no compensation monetarily. I also knew that I wanted at least one vacation and that I would be moving to New York in September. While I felt secure in my position at Club Monaco, I soon realized that the hours of rehearsal are the same times as shifts at Club, meaning I would not be able to work on days that I rehearse. This would knock out almost 6 days a week that I could be working. This did concern me, but with my goal in mind, I had my eyes on the prize.
In my training as an actor, having connections is heavily emphasized. “It’s all about who you know”; I realized the truth in this statement this summer. Instead of relying on my job at Club Monaco and working in Boston, I found two jobs to do in Louisiana at home that would be more rewarding. In a two week time frame, I was able to make over $3,000 because of family friends and my handyman skills. All this before I had to start rehearsals.
After literally working on my hands and knees for this money, I knew that I needed to start budgeting because the day after I returned to Boston, I was due to begin rehearsals for Anything Goes.
While I love food and absolutely consider myself a foodie, I knew that getting lunch and dinner at different restaurants each night was NOT going to be cost effective. Meal prepping was going to be my best bet.
I will admit that I love to cook to begin with, so this feat did not seem intimidating. I had cooked for myself before, and with mornings free before rehearsals, this would be entirely doable. With this plan in place, I needed to figure out a menu and where to shop.
One of the reasons I love Boston is because of its convenience. I feel that I could live in any neighborhood and have at least one grocery store, one coffee shop, one convenience store, and one restaurant within walking distance. I am fortunate enough to have a Whole Foods on my street as well as a CVS. While I absolutely adore the products that Whole Foods has to offer, I know how expensive it can be. One of my mom’s besties calls Whole Foods, “Whole Paycheck” because if you buy too much there, you will spend almost your entire paycheck on one purchase. It can be ridiculous. I am also not one who cares if my food is organic - it all ends up in the same place anyway. I’ve always been a big proponent of supporting locally and giving to those who are working hard for their money. This sensibility inspired me to check out the local farmers market.
Every Friday and Saturday, the North End in Boston boasts a large farmers market with almost every fruit and vegetable imaginable at ridiculously low prices. How often can you find 6 apples for $1? It is a budgeters paradise! After this amazing discovery, I knew all I would have to purchase for full price at a grocery store would be the non-perishables like milk, nuts, and condiments. With my paycheck in mind, the nearest Star Market was my destination of choice.
After careful planning, the total for my first meal prep which included two meals with 4 portions each was $15 for produce, and $20 for non-perishables. Who would have thunk it? 8 meals, fruits and veggies for snacks, and a small portioned breakfast all for $35? Once I realized these savings, there has been no going back. Not to mention, it's been such a creative journey! I've made recipes that I've never made before and not only was it fun, but it was also convenient. Before I went grocery shopping, I took a look at the ingredients I already had on hand and built a recipe around those. That just goes to show that it doesn't take a huge investment to make a meal - take a look at what you've got already (pasta, red sauce, cashews, chickpeas, rice, chicken) and go from there. Don't do it alone either! Use Pinterest for recipes catered to your tastebuds!
Now, I understand that meal prepping isn't for everyone. It takes planning and time - something not all of us have. BUT for those of you looking to reframe your spending, here’s what I recommend:
Admit you have a problem….JK
In all seriousness, this is what I did:
#1 Review your monthly spending and see where you are spending the most amount of money. For me, I spent the most on food and partying.
#2 Make an action plan. What will you do to decrease the money going towards these areas? Ask yourself, Do I need to meal prep? Do I need that appetizer along with my entree? Do I need to go out again tonight?
#3 Hold yourself accountable. What will happen if I go over budget? How can I prevent myself from going over budget?
#4 If the budget is broken, maybe think about giving yourself some wiggle room as you develop a lifestyle with this new money savings. Then, start again from #1
Success doesn’t come easy, but I am using these tools to keep me in check. By changing the way I use my money so many benefits have followed. By purchasing fresh produce because of affordability, it in turn has impacted my eating habits. I have been more conscious about what I really need at the supermarket as opposed to throwing things in my basket and eating items out of guilt before they go bad. By meal prepping, I am able to decide how big or small of a portion I will need for that particular meal. In addition, because fruit is so cheap, I am much more inclined to have fresh produce as a snack as opposed to a trip to the corner store for a $5 bag of chips that I eat in one sitting. Take those initial steps and the rest is close behind.
While I can't say that I have quite reached the money goal that I set for myself this summer (remember, I'm a workaholic), I know that these few months have set me up for not only a practical, organized and healthy lifestyle, but a happy one. It gives me great pleasure to know that I don't have to look at the price tag of a meal because I have it at home waiting for me. That extra savings can go towards entertainment, my hobbies, or right into my savings.
The most difficult part of these changes for me has been the way it impacts my social life. Meal prepping often means that I will miss out on dinners with friends or excursions that cost money. I consciously chose not to go to a bar with friends because I know it will involve an Uber, a cover charge, and a few drinks. That racks up. My mom taught me that the people who matter don't mind and the people who mind don't matter. In this time of change, I have been evaluating who I want to surround myself with. Some might think that this thinking is selfish. I truly believe that my true friends would respect my decision to stay in and know that I will make the effort to see them on an occasion where it is without sacrificing my needs. Being honest with friends is sometimes the hardest thing to do because feelings are involved. But the gratitude they feel and you will feel from truth telling beats the feeling of saying "Yes" to please someone when you really want to say "No". Sometimes, pleasing yourself is far more important.
As much as it is a cliche, change is hard. That statement is a cliche because it is true for so many people. Having to do monetary, lifestyle, and personal evaluations are some of the most difficult because it impacts our lives so much. It is much easier to change things that don’t involve us. If I’m comfortable, I’m comfortable. But hey! We aren’t alive to be comfortable! Get out of your comfort zone. Evaluate what really matters to you. See where you can improve your decisions. My mom used to tell my sister and I before we went to a friends house for a simple sleepover, “Make good choices”. To that I say, thank you and I want to take it one step further.
Make VITAL decisions. Decisions for your future. Decisions for your lifestyle. Decisions for you! You can! I know I’ve been so happy about mine. What are you currently working on in your life? Do you have a routine that someone else could benefit from? Let me know below!