Friday, August 16, 2019

Stages of Being an Adult

I mowed the grass today. Mowing our big front yard is a great time to pause, reflect, and formulate inspiration for my writing. I also sneeze a lot and deepen my farmer's tan.
While I was mowing I got a text from Whitneigh that said," It feels good to pay the bills." I pondered this a few seconds and agreed. Yes, at this stage of my life having the bills paid is extremely satisfying. I spent the next several rotations around the yard reflecting that this wasn't always so. I know that there are few universal experiences. Maybe my journey is unusual, maybe it isn't.
I moved out with Taila's Mom a bit before my eighteenth birthday. We moved into a house my parents owned. I didn't pay for anything except my phone bill for the house landline. My parents footed the electric bill and we didn't pay any rent. We had a mostly free ride.
Stupidly, we moved into an apartment. My bills increased to rent, electric bill, phone bill, and cable bill. I paid them. I resented the hell out of all of them. I paid bills grudgingly, rarely on time, and often with a complaint of what I would rather be doing.
This to me is the first encounter with the adult responsibility of paying the bills. They are annoying. They are a burden. I wanted all of those things, The apartment, the cable, the telephone, and I didn't want to pay for any of them. I accepted that they were good and necessary, but I had trouble rationalizing to myself why they cost so darned much.
I didn't budget for my bills in any specific sense. I totaled everything up and vaguely knew that the amount of money I earned would cover paying for those things. That is the theory at least. I remember struggling a lot. It might have had something to do with my growing video game library, comic book collection, and roleplaying game collection.
I very clearly remember walking through a book store with a stack of novels and sketch books. I get to the register to ring it all up. I handled my money in a fun way. Bill money got folded in half in the wallet to suggest, subtly, that I not spend it. My total comes up. It is a little more than the spare spending money I had. I didn't hesitate to float the rent out until my next paycheck.
I strongly suspect that I improved my hustle back in the day just because I did want to learn to budget and spend responsibly. With my first wife they money got spent at Walmart. We bought tons of things we didn't need at all. We would buy new clothes just to avoid washing laundry. Had I not hated the feel of new underwear so much I might not have resisted this at all.
It was hard times that finally taught me the value of budgeting for bills. After a few times having the power go out I decided that my priorities might not be in the best order. It is damned hard to play a video game when the power is off. Honestly, it isn't much fun reading a book by lantern light in the middle of summer. Lanterns are really nice for camping, but indoors, in the summer they are crazy warm.
The next phase of growing up for me was accepting that the bills were not only necessary but not really a burden. At this juncture you don't enjoy the bills getting paid so much as begin to regularly plan to pay the cursed things. The budget for bills gets more accurate. You actually set money aside. It is during this phase you may get brave enough to let a bill or two autodraft from your account.
Odds are pretty good you are going to screw this all up. Keep a balance in a bank account is difficult unless you have more than average earnings as a young adult. Going out with your friends screws things up more than toys at this juncture. You really learn to hate overdraft fees.
Mostly though lights stay on, cable doesn't get interrupted quite as often because you host things at your place sometimes now, and you may even keep food in your refrigerator more often than not. I am probably being generous. The Fridge really is just for beer and soft drinks. The freezer is hosts a lot of pizzas and that slowly disappearing bottle of your favorite liquor. This is a fun phase of paying bills because every once in a while you manage to sneak from one paycheck to the next with a few dollars left over. Some people never evolve beyond this stage as I understand it.
I realized my next evolution when I had my bills all budgeted out and they were all paid, but I also began take pride in the fact. I started getting bills paid ahead and even started working on banking up emergency money to cover a month or two of bills. The budget for gas and groceries got really solid. I was tracking my finances strongly enough to set aside money specifically for date night and my hobbies. This is fully functional adulting. You may occasionally get stuck in the pay check to pay check routine, but this isn't as problematic. At this juncture if you are eating ramen noodles you actually enjoy the taste.
Now the bills are an understood thing. They are plotted out far ahead of time. I also have a budget for food, gas, fun, comics, this website, savings, incidental savings, and retirement savings. I still get broke on occasion, but this version of broke is different from needing to bum a few dollars for gas or food broke.
The tighter my financial game is the more in control I feel of my life. I haven't lost my ability to hustle up some funds, but I don't have to exercise them as much. The end of debt is still a dream, but the dream isn't even a decade away anymore. Suddenly I am feeling pretty good about paying bills. There is a genuine satisfaction to it. There is a comfort to knowing things are in order.

This is clearly a result of depression. I just attempted to spin out a few hundred words on feeling good about paying bills. I have got to get cheered up. The mowing did help... so did the random rambling post.

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