Young and Free and – Lacking Money.

Young and Free and – Lacking Money.

Let’s talk about money. Or more so, not having any. I’m 20, I’m in university, I am in the prime of my life! I feel good! I’m supposed to be travelling and experiencing new things, doing what I can now before I have to grow up and become a fully functioning, realistic adult. And I want to, believe me. I went to New York for the first time last summer, I was going to go to Africa this summer, I had all these plans. Until reality hit.

I’m in university, and I have it easy. I’m living at home, rent free, my parents are paying for my school, I have a job with flexible hours, I don’t really have any monetary obligations right now. Sure, I pay my gym memberships and buy all the things I need really, but I don’t have rent, or school fees, or car payments. I have nothing that really is detracting from my ability to save money (except maybe my shopping habits). I want to finish my bachelor’s degree in another year or two and then it’s off to grad school. The only thing is, I have to pay for that.

Yes, I know. I sound like a spoiled kid who isn’t used to having to budget properly, and I am a bit, I won’t lie, I’ve led a good life so far. But I have dreams, and I want to make those dreams happen. I want to go to grad school, but I want to go to a different university in a different city for it; New York or Toronto. Somewhere big and bright and full of life. I’ve lived in Calgary for almost my whole life and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life here. I want to become fully independent. My own place, my own tuition payments, my own life. I want that freedom. But with that freedom comes restrictions on your, well, freedom.

That’s where reality hit. I want to move to a different city, live on my own, and go to graduate school all the way through for a PhD in English (talk about a money-making degree). That’s one of my dreams. I also want to travel: Africa, Europe, Asia, all these places that I’ll never get to go to once I’m settled down. Once I get a career I’m not going to be able to take off for 3 months and travel South America. I have to do that now. But see, I don’t have the money.

Now you may wonder “Caitlin, you just said you have no real expenses, where’s all your money?” and you should.. I mean I should have tons right? No, I don’t though. I mean I want all that stuff but I also want a social life, clothes that fit and I actually like, Christmas just happened. Spending my money, maybe a little too often, is a habit but I’ve reined it in, I’ve learned. I keep my chequing account low and put all my money in my savings where I’ll never touch it – I set a spending budget every week. But that doesn’t change that I just don’t have the money to do both. The options are I could either go travel the world and give up on graduate school until I’m near my 30’s, or I could go to graduate school and squeeze in a few trips when I can.

Everyone always says “travel when you’re young or you’ll regret it when you’re old” and I don’t doubt them. If I don’t travel when I’m young I’ll probably hate myself for it when I have a family and a career and obligations. But I know that if I don’t go to graduate school when I’m young and get it done with so that I can start a career and start making money in ways that don’t include asking people if they’d “like a side with that” then I’ll regret that too. I mean the best way to have money is to earn it, and it’s a lot easier to make money when you have a full-time, high-paying job. So there’s pros and cons to both sides, and in reality, it’d be nice if I could do both. Everyone says that “money isn’t the key to happiness” but I feel like nobody is considering that it’s easier to be happy in a world dominated by the economy if you have financial security.

So I’ve chosen to give up on Africa this summer, and it pains me because I’ve been planning it for nearly two years, but I’ve been planning my degree for longer. I’ve known forever that I want to go to graduate school and that I want to leave my city and live somewhere else. So I’ve decided it’s smarter for me to work through the summer to save money and hopefully by the time I graduate I’ll have saved enough to actually play out that dream. Because in reality, I can always squeeze in a few trips here and there, and I know I would because I want to travel so badly, but it will be a lot less stressful saving for a big trip if I have a career that can actually support it.

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