The 7 Biggest Financial Mistakes I've Made as a Single Woman
There's a feeling that many single women get, myself included, as they crest over the delicate balance of dreaming and reality in their day-to-day.
It's envy mixed with pride: a gleeful resilience that comes from knowing we're independent, responsible for our own bills, insurance, groceries and rent. And that many of us have the means and careers to check these monthly boxes all on our own.
If we're being honest, however, there also comes a longing for the day when we won't have to do it by ourselves.
Not that we don't value our independence, of course. This is the backbone of our single stamina in our post-college years. We're thankful for the women in our history who have worked so hard to break the cycle of women relying solely on domestication to bring them purpose.
And when pictures of smiling brides and grooms trickle through our Facebook and Instagram feeds, we cushion the blow by telling ourselves that it's okay. At least I do. I tell myself I have my career. My girlfriends and I are just in different life stages. All is not totally lost.
But, some days it really seems like obtaining a Prince Charming to sweep me off my feet would solve all of my financial struggles by bringing in a second income. Even though deep down I know this is a fairy tale thought, on par with "happily ever after."
It's true, we don't need Cinderella's glass slipper. We don't even need wedding bands that have diamonds the size of our fists. But, would it be too much to ask for a little help for when the bills stack up? Is it wrong to want a little accountability for where our money goes?
This entire line of thinking—from a Prince Charming rescue to a tight fist around crumpled bills—has gotten me into trouble. And as an unmarried woman with growing financial responsibilities as I wade deeper and deeper into my twenties, I've realized my mistaken way of thinking when it comes to my finances. Here are some of the biggest mistakes I've made as a twenty-something single.
Forgetting the Friendship Can Happen Anywhere
My girlfriends and I, it seems, make it a point to always dine out. Instead of purchasing a few hors d'oeuvres or drinks to serve at my house, we spend our dollars going to coffee and local restaurants. There's nothing wrong with having a fun night on the town, of course. But when it's a pivotal part of a social routine with your girlfriends, it's helpful to take a step back and realize that meaningful conversations and inside jokes can unravel just as easily over a cup of homebrewed coffee as it does over the bistro tables at Starbucks.
Shopping When I Feel Lonely
Audrey Hepburn's character in Breakfast at Tiffany's said it best when she calls it the "mean reds." She goes to Tiffany's whenever she's feeling lonely or depressed about her finances.
I've said it before: Target is my Tiffany's. Throw in a Barnes & Noble next door, and I could purchase a thousand trinkets to mask the feelings of frustration that seem to come along with this twenty-something version of growing pains. It's easy to fall into the swell-of-thinking that buying a new purse, New York Times bestseller or a tube of lipstick will get me out of my funk.
And while I'm standing tall in the cashier's checkout line, I start to believe the lie that it's really working. That any time I'm sad or hurt, a quick purchase fix will help dissolve the burden.
But it never seems to last.
Keeping My Credit Card Information Saved
Of course, when Target and Barnes & Noble are too far away, an online trip to Amazon will do. My love of books has unloaded my savings account at time. And the convenience of "one click spending" could break the barriers of even the most self-disciplined person's willpower to save.
Though it's a pain to enter my card number every time I want to make a purchase, the few seconds it takes gives me a chance to ask myself whether or not I really need to bring another juicy piece of fiction or non-fiction in my collection before I finish reading all of the other books I've bought in bulk.
Spending Money Because I Can
Here, the reasoning is that as a single woman I don't have the financial strain that others in marriages or with children do. So…why not spend a little money on myself here and there?
This attitude, while seemingly harmless in small part, can actually add up significantly over time. Before I knew it, these perpetual purchases were what was standing between me and a healthy savings balance.
Not Talking to Anyone
Sometimes it's really hard for me to come clean with my spending habits.
I don't like talking about it. It makes me sound shallow. And materialistic. Or even worse, it makes me come to terms with the fact that I am.
Money can be a sore spot as bruised as habitual sin. Especially since I am the sole proprietor of my debit card.
Since we don't have the built-in accountability that marriage provides, a lot of us single women can wrestle with our finances without anyone ever knowing about it.
But if we're not quick to admit where we fall short, how can we ever take the steps we need to in order to change?
The sooner I was honest about the realities of my finances, the easier it was to come to terms with budgeting, and implementing said budget. And, of course, glean from the wisdom of people who, at one point or another, have been in my financial shoes.
Believing Marriage Will Solve Everything
Out of this honesty, community is born. As it turns out, married couples struggle with their finances, too. It's just that—the money seems so much greener on the other side of the threshold.
Letting go of the belief that being married automatically puts a glittering, platinum Band-Aid over my problems was the first step in a healthy balance with my finances.
Forgetting to be Thankful
At the end of the day, nothing I earn, nothing I spend or gain is mine. Neglecting to remember that I have a job that pays for a home, running water and fresh food; which is already so much more than so many others receive in their lifetime.
When I adopted this way of thinking into my financial life, it put a pause on my spending sprees. When I can focus on being grateful for what I have rather than trying to acquire objects to make for the times I feel as though I'm not getting what I deserve.
And though I'm far from being a perfect saver, or even having a thankful attitude throughout the day, I hope to remember throughout the latter part of my twenties that I should be investing in things and experiences that simply can't be purchased.
Brett Wilson is a Christ-loving, single, curly-haired, left-handed coffee-addict. She is a public relations writer in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Brett lives with her best friend and a Boston Terrier named Regis. You can read more from Brett at her site, www.prodigalsister.com, or on Twitter.