Saving Up for Hillary Clinton’s America

…and spending it all in Trump’s America.

Photo credit: John Haslam, CC BY 2.0.

In September of last year, my girlfriend and I decided to fix our finances. Not because it was embarrassing that I had so much credit card debt, or because we were tired of taking Lyft rides home from work and then feeling bad about it, but for one very specific reason: We were both working for the Clinton campaign, and we both fully believed that, following the 2016 presidential election, one or both of us would have to move to Washington, DC.

You know, to work for President Hillary Clinton.

Moving is always expensive, especially when it’s fast, and you might be surprised to learn that while working for a presidential campaign doesn’t pay “well,” working at the White House pays even less. So we got affordable financial planners through LearnVest and started saving aggressively for our impending move. We darted around the corner from the office to buy groceries between meetings instead of going to one of the four restaurants in Brooklyn that serve a full menu after 11 p.m.. We took the bus, and took turns napping on the bus. We stopped ordering so many $8 breakfast sandwiches to the office, which meant we still ordered $8 breakfast sandwiches, but not as often as we might have.

When you work on a presidential campaign, you don’t know if you’ve won until it’s over—but when you save money, you can see your wins stack up as you move closer to a measurable goal. I’d check my savings account with a little pleased grin at the end of each day. We—and our candidate—were one day closer to the next big chapter in our lives.

Then, you know, plot twist.

After the election, my girlfriend and I did a lot of rampant grief spending. Do you know how much real, new books cost? I bought a lot of those. And gin, a lot of gin. And a trip home, and a trip to Cape Cod to stay in a friend’s parents’ house, and a group trip to the mountains for inauguration weekend so that we could be as far away as possible from the new president.

But, despite all of this spending and my inconsistent freelance employment, we still had most of our moving fund. In a savings account. In April, long past the “this can’t be happening” mark and the other four stages of grief. President Trump was here to stay.

So we went on vacation. We found reasonably priced tickets to Puerto Rico (hot tip: go just after spring break) and accommodations (a friend who works for a hotel in New York very generously let us use her discount at their sister hotel in San Juan). The total cost for the two of us was around $3,000 once we threw in food and souvenirs.

It was the most expensive trip we had ever taken together, but it was worth it. This money that I had set aside for the next chapter in my life—a chapter that had now been torn out of the book—paid for me to lie beachside and feel the sunlight warm the parts of me where grief had been living for so many months. I was grateful for the luxury, and grateful for the financial planning that had gotten me to a place where I had the freedom to run away for a few days.

We’re back to saving now, if not as stringently. There are things that I want: to travel even more, some furniture for our cozy little apartment, to one day even pay off my student loans. But I’m not in a rush. After all, surviving the next four years is going to take a lot of little gifts and small joys and, yes, $8 delivery breakfast sandwiches.

Liz Zaretsky is “working on a YA novel.”

This story is part of The Billfold’s Vacation Series.

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