Today’s guest post comes from my fellow southern California blogger, Tonya, who I had the pleasure of having lunch with a few months ago! Tonya is a freelance video editor and blogger living in Los Angeles. She enjoys movies, running and playing beach volleyball. You can follow her personal finance journey on her blog at Budget & the Beach, and follow her on twitter at @beachbudget.
There’s no doubt about it that as human beings we have an innate need to feel part of something bigger…to feel accepted. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be part of a community…it’s how we can thrive and live happier, healthier lives. The problem is when you sacrifice too much, i.e., your budget, to try and fit in.
It Gets Better…Or Does It?
Remember back in high school? Maybe you were part of the in crowd, or maybe you weren’t, but either way, you thought you could leave all that clique-stuff behind once you left school. Even the popular ad campaign about bullying states, “it gets better.”
But, in my opinion, there will always be some type of “in” crowd in your life which temps you to be somewhat untrue to yourself. Maybe it’s the group of co-workers who always go out to eat or to happy hour together, or your neighbors who have block parties but somehow forgot to invite you. For me it was the community of beach volleyball, and I spent thousands…literally thousands trying to be part and fit in to that scene.
It was an easy rabbit hole for me to fall into, especially after my ex boyfriend of five years dumped me, and I knew that sometime soon I was going to be laid off from my job of eight years. To say I was vulnerable is an understatement.
It started innocently with signing up for a beach volleyball class, but soon I noticed a couple of things had to happen if you really wanted to be part of the beach volleyball in crowd: you had to get good at the game, and you had to socialize a lot so people would get to know you and start inviting you to be part of their group games.
So that meant spending several thousands of dollars over the course of a couple years on training, playing in tournaments, socializing, and going out to eat and taking bus trips to wine country with my fellow players.
All this while my freelance income was half of what I was making as a full time employee, and not even having a budget. But I got stuck in a vicious cycle. The bad part was that I never did feel good enough or accepted by some people. Because truthfully feeling accepted has more to do with you than with them, and I didn’t feel good about myself.
At the same time most of my friends were all doing very well financially. They were going out to eat and taking great vacations. Some were buying new cars and some even their first home, which is hard to accomplish in the Los Angeles housing market.
Breaking from the Pack
Just over a year ago I hit my financial rock bottom, and I knew that to change my situation it was going to take some serious soul-searching as to why I needed to fit in and feel accepted.
What exactly was it that I really needed most? Well I needed good friends (we all do), healthy recreational activities (again, we all do), but equally importantly I needed to take care of my financial present and future (and you probably do to)!
So last year I stopped taking classes, and started just playing just for fun, and I stopped doing most of the social activities that involved spending money.
What happened at first felt like a huge sacrifice, and I went through some pretty sad summer nights staying at home alone watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix. I did lose the the quantity of friends I had, however, I did not lose the quality of the friends that meant the most. Because the ones that mattered, were the ones who I could open up to about my finances, and they listened and stuck with me.
It takes courage to not care what people think and pave your own unique path. There are always people who are going to try to push you back in, or tell you how you should be living your life. For example, a friend once told me I needed new clothes to show off my, ahem, “girls” more so I can attract more guys in my life.
While I’m up for hopefully attracting someone special in my life, my priorities and lifestyle right now don’t warrant a new wardrobe. I guess whoever I might date will have to accept this comfortable (but hopefully somewhat cute) top from Target I’m wearing.
What’s really cool is that not only have I carved out a new normal in my frugal way of life, but now friends seem to respect and envy certain choices I’m making now not out of desperation, but because I’m choosing to live more simply (like when I decided to get rid of cable). And they think it’s pretty cool that I have my own blog about it (which is its own fun community).
What about you? Are you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your life, or do you still feel the need to fit in or keep up with others, even if it doesn’t align with what is right for you?