Financial realities when your life is bonkers

I’ve had a really nutty year.

In a nutshell, my significant other wrapped up a slightly nontraditional graduate school experience. As part of this wrapping-up process, we had planned to do three months of long distance, but that soon turned into six, then 10.

Several financial decisions were influenced by this fluid relationship location, such as housing and traveling to visit each other. I took many cross-country trips. And smartly invested in a TSA precheck.

And boy did I make mistakes. I let my credit card balance creep up due a lack of adequate budgeting. I didn’t keep control of my credit card balance to the point that I worried that I’m about to ding my credit because of that. I didn’t save enough. I didn’t pay attention to my side hustle tax deductions, so my minimal savings took a hit when I had the HUGEST tax bill of my life.

Also, I moved cross country, and while I was able to keep my job and thus my income during that period of time, moving ain’t cheap – from transporting yourself and your stuff to getting your house into home-like condition once you arrive. Even with brand-x Wal-Mart junk and several haggled items of furniture from Craigslist to add to the stuff I already own/schlepped, the cost of setting up a new home adds up. And it sucks.

I also have immediately family members living very far from where I recently moved who have a series of health issues, and there will be several plane trips there and back to visit.

You may have some bonkers stuff going on in your life that may look nothing like mine – or make my experiences pale in comparison. In my experience, personal finance experts don’t often take exceptionally unusual situations into account in how-to articles and books. How frustrating is it to read about hyper-frugal types who save half of their income when, for a variety of reasons, you’re in the red?

So while the advice you encounter may not resonate with you in a particular situation, here are some universal truths:

  • Whatever you charge/finance, you’re going to have to pay off. No one is going to wave a magic wand and make any consumer debt you acquire disappear. You bought stuff of credit? You’re going to need to deal with that balance – and the sooner the better.
  • If you’re steadily employed, contribute toward retirement. Compounding interest is your friend, and small contributions when you’re relatively young (or any age) will grow into the nest egg necessary to be comfortable when you’re no longer willing or able to work. So just do it, even if it’s $50 a month. Have these funds taken directly out of a paycheck. If you’re not steadily employed and in the middle of a stressful situation, make all attempts to do this as well.
  • Figure out what’s important. I’m going to be making several cross-country trips in the next few months (years?) as my immediate family has some health issues. It’s going to add up and it’s going to suck to think about how much I could have saved had I not flow from BOI > CLE so many times. But in a few years, I’m confident that extra thousand or two in my high-yield savings account isn’t going to make up for the moments I got to spend with my family. I’ll have valued the time I spent with them while I can rather than being frugal to the point of stupid.
  • This too shall pass. Your life won’t be bonkers forever. Do what you can to budget, to spend money intentionally, to plan for upcoming expenses. Maybe you’ll have an epic fail of a month, finances-wise, but learn from it so that when life settles down, you’ll be in a position to strive.

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