Hey guys, this week's guest post is different than anything you've ever seen on M$M before. We aren't talking about cute financial budgeting tricks, or an anti-entitlement message. We are talking about something real: Mental Illness, and more specifically anxiety that results from massive amounts of student loans.
Thornton J. Young is an up and coming writer (and a great friend of mine) that has dealt with something that our culture routinely sweeps under the rug. The student loan burden in this country is real – and he has some great tips to help face the anxiety that comes with crippling debt. Enjoy! ~ M$M
Full disclosure, folks. I suffer from a mental illness.
I hesitate to say the word “suffer” because, honestly, I do pretty alright. Regardless, I have something called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (or GAD if you want to be hip). Pretty much, I worry a lot and I have to actively do things to combat that worry.
If I don’t, I suffer from anxiety related symptoms. Insomnia, depression, panic attacks, and nausea. I was diagnosed at the age of 22, right before I graduated college. Coincidence? Heck no! I was freaking out, folks!
Me, like most people I knew, had made it through the last four years of my life on the money I got from loans. Refund day each semester was my time to stock up on everything I could possibly need for the next 4 to 5 months. And then, I was being thrown into the financial wasteland as far as I was concerned.
Every week was a panic riddled look at the calendar, counting the days until that next “pay check” would drop. I know I’m not the only one who has felt like they cheated the system when payday was SUPPOSED to fall on a Saturday, but because of that they give it to you on Friday. Oh, the sweet smell of victory! Honestly, it was driving me crazy. I told myself “But you’re a writer with a day job. You aren’t supposed to be sane.”
I’m glad I got over that.
I even got myself a “big-boy” job with a salary and benefits and the whole nine…and still, I was going crazy! And now, I’m putting myself through graduate school, my bank account isn’t anything impressive, but I’m happier than I have ever been. My GAD is even at the point where I don’t need treatment for it as I did before.
Now, I know I’m not the only one who deals with these issues of depression and anxiety. For me, so much of it was linked to the concept of financial stability, and I see that same connection in other people.
I work around brilliant and creative people who can honestly change the world, but spend so much of their time worrying about their financial futures they even admit it stifles them. I work in the same field as they do, but I have gotten to a place where those concerns no longer stifle me.
What’s different between me and them? The way I look at my money.
I check my account daily
Look, I know it’s scary sometimes to actually see what you have in the bank. I get it. But, you can’t make good financial decisions if you don’t know what you are working with. Currently, I am not using any loans to go to graduate school, so my account usually whimpers from lack of being fed.
But, knowing what I have allows me to accurately know what I need. It also lets me know what I am realistically capable of doing. Which brings me to my next point…
I don’t let others spend my money for me
Who doesn’t like being a cool kid and going out with people on the weekends and seeing Coldplay perform at Fun Fun Fun Fest? (Actually, I’ll pass on the Coldplay). I understand where you are coming from.
I spend a vast majority of my time around creative people who love to go do creative things and knowing what I had in my account allows me to choose those things I really want to do, plan for them, and say no to those things I can’t afford. Realistically can’t afford.
There is nothing wrong with being cheap if you are depending on yourself to put food in your mouth. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If they aren’t pumping income into your life, why would you let them dictate what you withdraw?
I understand my needs vs. my wants
I am an avid gamer. I have been since the age of 7. And yes, I want Fallout 4 like the rest of the bunch. But I also know that I have obligations I must meet first. I know we have all heard the word before, but really…you gotta BUDGET!
I make sure that my money is meeting my obligations before it meets my wants. That doesn’t only include bills, that that includes the things that are going to push me into a place of greater financial stability. For me, a big thing is submission costs to playwright contests and festivals.
Since I write plays as my profession, I have to make sure my money is working for me to further that career. Seems simple, but it isn’t always easy.
While the new PS4 game might make me happy for a time, I know I’ll be happier knowing that I have made strides toward getting myself in a better position to succeed.
I still allow myself to have fun
Coming from a guy who has an anxiety disorder, trust me when I say I understand the importance of having fun and living your life. But, I learned the importance of that fun being kind of like a reward.
When I follow my budget (yes, that B word again) I find myself with a bit of money to have some fun with. I actually work the entertainment portion of my life into my budget. When I go out, I set hard and fast limits with myself about how much I will allow myself to spend.
I do my best to only take the cash with me I’ve allowed myself to spend and keep my cards on me just in case of an emergency.
And no, a large plate of nachos at 2:30 AM is not an emergency. Regardless of how good they might taste, the sober you will appreciate it in the morning when you check your account.
I made those tough calls
We all know the ones I’m talking about. The ones to all your creditors. ALL OF THEM! It’s about opening up the lines of communication with them. How do they know that you are living paycheck to paycheck? They don’t? How did they know that I was going back to graduate school?
Easy. I told them.
I was surprised and grateful at the options that became available to me once I was honest with them about what I was working with. It helps you build a plan. Plans are good for people like me who worry about every little thing you possibly can.
I feel more secure in the fact that my money is a tool to help me live, and not some strange thing that runs my life. Not only that, but my cell phone doesn’t ring NEARLY as much. It makes me seem infinitely less popular when in public now, but the battery lasts longer on the sucker.
Do I have more money than I did four years ago? Nope. Do I have better control of the money I do have? I sure do. And that has allowed me to be happier, overall. I know happiness is hard to quantify for most people, but for me it is easy to track in the nights I don’t stay awake and the number of panic attacks I don’t have.
“Understanding your money can help you use it as a tool to create the happiness you want in your life.” [Tweet this]
That's what most of us really want anyway, isn't it?
~Thornton J. Young