Betting on Love, Leveling Up and Leaving Atlanta (Part III)

by Amanda Tomas

We didn’t do so well this month when it came to saving. Not that we’ve been doing great up to this point by any means, but this month was pretty terrible. Adam and I were still able to save our goal amount: We currently have $2,200 in our savings account, and are still on track to putting away $10,000 by next May. That’s reassuring, but we could have done a lot better.

This month was one of those mentally draining, down-in-the-dumps months. It was full of impulse purchases and lack of any motivation whatsoever to try to cut back or be frugal.

For a few days in the middle of October, I felt completely overwhelmed with even the smallest tasks and wallowed around in depression, holing up under the bedcovers and feeling devastated about anything and everything. For me, depression creeps up slowly and uncontrollably, like a chest-constricting, overwhelming feeling of being trapped combined with the head-swirling vertigo of facing too many choices at once. Endless series of questions encroach one after the other, hypothetical answers branching off madly, zigzagging through my brain and jamming all the normal frequencies. It is bad. It makes Adam feel crappy and alienated because he can’t do anything to help me, and I just wind up lashing out at him when he does try to help. After a few days I get over it, and life rights itself. I feel mentally weak for being unable to check my own emotions and insecurities sometimes, but I figure it’s fairly normal. Or is it? Most people go through these periods of depression, right?

I guess everyone just has to try to avert their gaze from the darkest, most terrifying, infinite, yawning chasms of Reality, find some kind of overarching meaning or at least a distraction, or else we’d all be laid out flat on our backs, shivering with terror and desperation. As for myself, sometimes I think it’s good to come face-to-face with the hard, cold facts of life and my own microscopic, antlike existence, instead of cocooning myself in some kind of warm and fuzzy delusion where I am center of the universe.

I’m sure it’s much better to concentrate on the here and now, and enjoy the moment-to-moment little things — the creamy, steaming mug of hot chocolate and some toasted pecan-raisin bread slathered with a warm dollop of butter and honey. Or I can concentrate on bigger things, like on caring for the people closest and most important to me, on making my boyfriend feel special and loved, on my dog’s sweet and trusting dependence on me, on the rhythm of my breath and the pumping of my blood while I run on a wooded trail at the park.

Or I could focus on one small and attainable goal at a time, instead of making my habitual vast mental leap to my biggest long-term goals, which seem huge and insurmountable right now. For one thing, I could finally focus on creating a weekly food plan and budget for Adam and me. This is so necessary for us, and I have been meaning to do it, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. We have fallen in a sad trap of buying enough food for the coming day or two but no further, ultimately going grocery shopping almost every single day. This is a ridiculous and tiring habit and it’s also totally unnecessary. When we started, our original food budget goal was $600 per month. Last month, we spent a whopping $1,000 at the grocery store. This month, we spent about $900, ever so slightly better, but still coming in at $300 over our target. (This includes non-food items, like shampoo, soap, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, dog food, etc.) Last month, we put about $400 on our credit card, and this month we charged about $550, which consisted of work boots for Adam, some new office apparel for me, new makeup, a haircut, a few cheap dinners out, and some first-aid stuff for Adam because he sliced his thumb up and had to get stitches, then immediately thereafter injured his knee while running in the Atlanta Marathon. No extravagantly luxurious charges, but clearly very little money-saving progress was made.

I’m taking more action this month. I will focus on forward progress, one step at a time, and will also concentrate on delving deeper into the good stuff in my life, getting out of the ruts I tend to dig for myself. So here are my goals for November:

Goal 1: Create at least three weekly money-optimizing menus that although cheap, are still mouth-wateringly, stomach-grumbling-ly delicious, stick to them, and share them with you next month.

Goal 2: Get more exercise. It feels good.

Goal 3: Do something purposeful every day. Apply for a job I think I’d like better. Finish projects I started but have let languish. Shell out a little extra for a class in a subject I really like. Make something that I care about. Knock out things on my to-do list and don’t let the tasks pile up.

Goal 4: Be stronger, more thoughtful, less selfish, more loving! Find new twists on my day-to-day life, stretch my abilities and challenge myself. Find that pit-of-the-stomach adrenaline rush that I constantly crave through being more productive and trying new things.

Goal 5: Save more money. (Obviously)

What does everyone else do get their motivation flowing? What makes you want to live, and do, and engage? What about your life do you find exciting and stimulating? How do you pay for it, or is it free? Is excitement a requirement for you to feel good or do you prefer a quieter, slower pace of life? Do you have a plan for the future or do you play it by ear? I would like to hear about it.

Previously: Parts I, and II

Amanda Tomas will do better next time.

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