I hate you. I love you.
The other day a friend asked, “Do you ever consider that you think about money too much?”
It’s a tough question that I used to hear a lot in high school. Back then I was gambling online and between classes – itching to throw down money. I had a problematic relationship with money.
I was surprised to hear it again. I’ve worked hard to change my relationship with money. How far have I really come if I’m hearing it again?
Denial didn’t work
In a way, the onslaught of student loans a few years ago was a consequence of not placing importance in my total bank value. I took out loans, and let them artificially fill my bank account. I stopped budgeting and tracking. Money was evil, and I would deny it’s presence and consequences — as long as the federal government was filling my coffers.
My hope was to talk about it less and never focus on it with others. The loans piled up. With nearly $40,000 of student loan debt after two years of graduate school, I was on track to graduate with $100,000+. Then, I was hit with the debt question: “how much do you owe?” The gravity of that changed my relationship with money. Essentially, I may lose opportunities in life because of excessive debt.
This prompted me to take action, reduce my debt, and start Frugaling. I accepted and embraced the effect money had on my ability to have a family and future. Not having it was at the root of much discontent and stress.
Balance is necessary but hard to find
Recently, over a more expensive meal, I remark aloud that the prices are exorbitant. The food is local, fresh, and natural, but after two small plates and a drink, I’m staring at a $30 bill. I feel guilty — I’m not following my budget tonight and it’s hurting my ability to pay off debt.
As the night rolls on, others mention financial concerns and questions. We’re on the subject because I started it. The topic stays on money for a while, and then the question that inspired this article gets asked of me.
“Do you ever consider that you think about money too much?”
Suddenly, I’m confronted with this scary feeling again. I wonder, “Am I doing it wrong? Is money too important again?”
The short answer is that I’m not sure. A lot has changed, but there’s more work to do. Focusing on money can metastasize its importance. What I know is that staying within my budget requires vigilance, but it can’t be my sole effort.
It’s hard not to reflect on this time and think, “Damn, I’m imperfect at this.”