The Year I Learned What Things Really Cost

One thing you can be certain of is that your life will never appear more uninteresting than when it is being enumerated to you over the phone by the woman from fraud protection at your bank. I did not know who had stolen my debit card and made out with $600 worth of sneakers in the Bronx, but I felt sure that he or she was sucking a lot more joy from the world than I was, with my $7 of off-brand fiber cereal, because a deal like that doesn’t happen every day.

It feels counterintuitive to say that I’ve made financial progress this year by becoming more cavalier about money, but at some point, if you’re living in New York and you’re in your twenties and you have no one to support but yourself and you’re lucky enough to have made it this far without much debt and you work at a job where even if you tried (and I mean really, really tried), you could never save money, not even a little bit, really, none, then at some point you realize that you’ve made all of these choices, and here you are, and the only thing to do is live it. Really live it.

Spend $14 on that absurd elderflower cocktail at the faux-speakeasy in Williamsburg because it will, genuinely, make you feel a little bit better about your life, and because fuck it, you live in New York, and you’re in your twenties, etc. etc.

This year was my attempt to work toward soothing the gut-clutching financial guilt. I got my first credit card with an adorable $2,000 limit and grew obscurely fond of the snug pocket of debt I collected. That credit card allowed me to travel across the country to celebrate with my far more grownup friends, the ones who launched alarmingly into married life this year.

And what a waste it would be, at a barn in Montana or under a wide summer sky in Maine, to stand beside friends who have crawled with you all of this way and to be mentally calculating just how much it cost—this dress, these shoes, that airfare, the slightly-mildewed cabin, the top of the line twin sleeping pads from their registry—rather than staring in heart-gaping wonder at these people you love declaring their love for each other. It is not, like the commercials say it is, priceless—my love for them is roughly $745, and it is worth every penny. For the first time in my life, I’m learning what things really cost.


Meghan Nesmith tweets her feelings.


7 Comments / Post A Comment

Blondsak (#2,299)

D: D: D:

Blondsak (#2,299)

@LO ETA: This is by no means a comment on the writing or the author herself, just an approximation of my facial expression as I read this.

DickensianCat (#971)

okay author, I get the “I feel like I can be a little cavalier in spending because I don’t have much long-standing debt or any dependents” thing, and ditto, but when you say you’ve really really tried to save money through your job and have failed, you lose me: you can’t set up a 401K or an IRA? Something to draw directly from your checking account to go somewhere you can’t touch? Even if you’ve failed at maintaining a personal savings account, at least establish something for retirement, buying a house one day, etc, please trust me on this one.

eagerber (#1,958)

@DickensianCat I agree. I was confused by this, also. I’ve worked for nonprofits since graduating college, so I understand not having much for spending money–but that doesn’t mean I forget about building my savings. Automatic transfers are pretty simple to set up.

wee_ramekin (#1,246)

@DickensianCat I am also confused by that statement.

I mean, one train of thought I have is that if you can’t afford to save anything, then you probably can’t afford any amount of debt, and waxing rhapsodic about your friends’ hipster wedding doesn’t change that. The other train of thought I have is that perhaps the author *can* afford to make minimum or above minimum payments on her credit card debt, and that’s why she feels comfortable accruing some.

I would argue, though (if we’ve all agreed to jump aboard the second train), that if she can afford to make monthly payments on credit card debt, she could afford to save. Even if it’s a mere $25.00 a month, that’s better than nothing, right?

Also, it sucks that NYC is so. damn. pricey.

Hi all – you’re right, I could afford to save $25 a month. And I should, yes? That seems like a responsible thing to do. I think I might have been trying to convince myself I can’t save anything – which, on a very paltry nonprofit salary, is almost true, but not quite.

Tell me how YOU save! I’m genuinely eager to learn.

I still carry debt from my broke-ass unpaid-intern/not-for-profit-assistant/temp days in nyc, and I regret it not one bit.

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