because none of us is fucking up like we think we are, is what i'm trying to say

Monday, 30 September 2013

I Just Can't Afford It (Anymore)

Laura Jane Williams

I’m shit with money. It’s not cute. Maybe in your early twenties living off baked beans for two months until the student loan comes through is worth the story it produces, but at 27? At 27 living off of £2.35 the week before payday is just a bit… sad.

Let it be said that I’ve been financially independent since I was 18. I financed university by myself, and I’ve paid rental deposits, airfares, phone bills, the lot, all on my lonesome, my whole adult life. I know many a human who calls daddy when they get to zero, which, you know, no judgment, but I’d rather die than do that. I spend most conversations with my father telling him what an independent woman I am, desperately positioning myself as an adult in his eyes (tip: we’re never adults in our parents’ eyes). I can’t do that and then follow up with a, “So, any chance of five hundred quid…?”

Thing is, I’ve never been a saver, either. I’ve never put money away for a rainy day. If I find a tenner in an old coat pocket I spend it; if I crack a twenty at the pub I’ll use up all the change. I spend what I’ve got, and while that’s fun it’s also pretty fucking stupid.

I know I’ll never go hungry, because a million pubs need waitresses and after rent, £12 a month to Giff Gaff, and no children or small animals, I have no financial commitments. I’ll forever be okay, always figure it out, because all I need is bed and board. There’s nowt fancy about my outgoings. I designed it that way. I get nervous if I feel like I can’t up and leave at any moment, so everything is minimal. And the future? WHAT’S THAT.

I get asked a lot how I paid for my travelling adventures, and the truth is I have an enormous talent for Making It Work. I moved to Rome with €400 and six weeks until my first paycheck, but I made it work. (Ate white pasta three times a day for 42 days). I flew to New York to tell a boy I loved him when I was on the dole because I made it work. (Ate white pasta twice a day for 63 days.) I go to the theatre two or three times a month, and eat out a lot, because I (The baked beans.)

But, I do an awful lot of “treating” myself, too. I’ll spend £10 on a Leon lunch because I worked really hard on that piece of copy all morning, but then… that’s my job. To work hard on copy. So, if I treat myself every working day that’s almost £150 a month on avocado salad. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS A MONTH ON LEAVES. That’s insane. I don’t even want to attempt the math for what that is a year.

(Nearly two grand. I annually spend the equivalent of more than 200 Primark jumpers on SALAD.)

Add that to the fact that I work part-time, too, so there’s not a lot of money coming in in the first place, and basically I feel forever broke. And it sucks. It means I have a really bad relationship with money. It makes me feel tired and exhausted a lot of the time because money doesn’t make you happy, but not having money does make you panic a bit when you have to suddenly move house, or pay a surprise bill, or get really fucking drunk because it’s been *that* kind of week.

Not having money is the price I’ve paid for working fewer hours in an office so that I have time to build my portfolio. And it’s been worth it. I’ve written for some tremendous publications, and I see how my writing has gotten sharper, more to the point, because of exposure to some incredible editors. I’ve loved it.


Priorities shift. Things change. I’ve decided to get my writing M.F.A. from an American university so I can fulfill my ambition to teach college kids and eventually get my PhD. Moving to Europe felt like a game- moving across the Atlantic? Serious goddamn shit. I need cash in the bank for this one.

Ten thousand dollars is my target. By August. Ten months for ten grand. So this week I commence full-time hours at work, a sacrifice to my portfolio for a chance to achieve something even bigger, that’ll cost in more ways than one.

I suppose the ability to stretch £2.35 over seven days and two trips to the pub is actually going to come in very handy indeed, and you can’t put a price on that. It’s just another thing I’m going to have to make work. After all, big dreams don’t come cheap.

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