Saturday Upside: The Clarity of Frugality

saturdayupsidesbuttonBonnie, the mastermind behind this Saturday series, shares her enthusiasm for couponing on her site, Recipes Happen. I admire that sort of dedication to seeking out the best value, especially now when I’m forcing myself to be a responsible adult once and for all by taking control of my finances. I never really gave any thought to being more proactive about extra savings through coupons other than a quick glance at the circulars I get in the mail. I figure I buy stuff on sale so that’s good enough. Right?

That was until yesterday when I found myself furiously clipping and printing coupons like a pro. $1.00 off my coconut milk creamer?! SCORE! I felt triumphant with each new little slip of paper stacking neatly on my desk. It was then that I realized that I’d entered a new phase in my life: I’m officially a grown up.  I am more concerned with saving a buck then just buying things at whatever cost. Moment for pause……Being a grown up sucks. Why didn’t anyone warn me?


There was a time when I would come home with a smaller check than I make now (although not by much, sad to say) and still manage to carry in loads of shopping bags filled with God knows what on a weekly basis. Shoes, jeans, more jewelry than I can figure out what to do with, hair accessories, expensive shampoos, dresses, that fancy jacket in three colors; you name it, I bought it. I was young and I had a bit of a disposable income. But it was more than that. I harbored images of a future that would see an even bigger paycheck which had the potential of bringing my hopes of a glossy-NYC-up-and-comer lifestyle to fruition. Why? Because I felt I was entitled to that future. All the promises made me to me when I was growing up and in school about working hard and being a “leader of tomorrow,” only got more magnified when I climbed my way into the ivy-league and made it out on the other side. I’d done my part. I graduated from a great school. There’s a payoff here and I can feel it coming any day now.

Seven and a half years later and I’m still waiting.

There’s been a heavy burden of expectation weighing me down for years. I constantly struggle with this idea of what my life should look like by this point. Comparisons are made to my peers and so and so who has this job or that title or that income and I always end up feeling like crap by the end. I point the finger at me and blame myself for not being good enough to have accomplished more, as I was supposed to do after I was done with school. Yet here I am, not living up to those expectations and clipping coupons at a desk at a less than impressive job wearing clothes two sizes too big because I no longer come home with shopping bags of new things. I’m entering my thirties with a completely different life than what I pictured when I was accepting my diploma at my college graduation.

Some people call this a problem for the “millenials,” a generation of over-achievers who came of age during a major shift in globalization and technological expansion. We all grew up believing that we were capable of reaching further and thinking outside the box to become innovators and leaders. Hell, Mark Zuckerberg was my same year at Harvard when he was writing code for Facebook while I was wasting time napping between classes. But I had no clue at 21 what I wanted to do when I “grew up.”  All I saw or thought about was financial security. By 30, I figured I’d have the money, maybe a marriage, a respectable job, and most of all, that I’d feel settled. It never dawned on me that I’d be just as confused about what I wanted out of life or that my priorities would shift to embrace new expectations that included emotional and spiritual fulfillment. It never crossed my mind to really question the environment that shaped me with its set ideals of success as defined by money or status. I was a product of that system and the pictures of a bright future framed by those ideals that were fed to me all throughout my adolescence and early 20s, was what I wanted more than anything.

Now, I fight that picture in my mind every single day. I battle to shrug off the weight of expectation every time I allow myself to wallow in self-pity that I haven’t become the “big deal” I thought I was going to be at my age. I try not to compare myself to my peers who seem to have it together according to me, and acknowledge that we’re all going through some version of this problem. I know people making money hand over fist and are absolutely miserable with their chosen careers. We’re all in this boat together it seems.

I used to get upset and think that we were all bamboozled by the system by being made to think that there would always be a golden path laid before out feet because we were the generation to change things. My naivete was delivered a crushing blow when I was forced to take any job I could get my hands on out of college because I couldn’t wait around for the one that I thought was suitable for someone of my academic background. Snooty, snobby, outrageously ridiculous, yet it’s very much a true story. Reality kicked the door down of my fantasy ivy-league dreamhouse and I’ve been picking up the scattered pieces ever since.

American Dream over

It’s taken a long time for me to make the distinction between that dream and my real dreams. As difficult as its been to cope with financial challenges at my age when I feel like I should be a “grown up” and like, own things already, the fact is I’m weirdly happy I was dealt this crap hand. Sure, I’d love to be able to just buy things and not have to think about it five or six times before I do. Or have all my student loans paid off. Or not stay up late at night trying to figure out how the hell I’m going to cover all the huge plans I have laid out for myself this year. But having all of these pressures has forced me to look at everything from a different and more critical angle. That former dream-life picture has changed to a new dream of my own creation. This new picture paints a life where I’m not bound to things or accumulating stuff, but rather to focus on the aspects that make me feel truly happy and satisfied regardless of how it might be perceived by the outside world. In this picture I can do what feels right for me and not have to worry about what other people think. It’s a freedom that I wish for every single day.

I made resolutions like most everyone on January 1st. To blog more. Exercise more. Get back to school. Meditate and spend time nurturing my emotional and spiritual well-being. And to be more financially responsible. I have major challenges set for 2013 and I’m working hard to get out of my own way this time around so that I can finally get moving towards my goals. A big piece of this puzzle has been letting go of the former expectations from my past and to embrace the sacrifices I have to make so that I can make my dreams a reality.

I used to feel lost when that old dream crumbled, and I wasn’t quite sure what I had to look forward to when I didn’t have any direction. Now, I have a direction and a strong desire to follow that path. More importantly, I realized that I can still dream and dream big. Only this time it would be shaped by the new ideals and expectations that have grown out of my experiences as a “grown up” trying to make sense of it all. It’s 100% me and seeing that for the first time is worth a bit of coupon-clipping to help get me there.

Got a Saturday Upside to share? Then head on over to Bonnie’s site and copy a link to your post on her page. While there, take a peek at the other upsides and see what your fellow bloggers shared.

Until next time, stay healthy and keep paying it forward. Happy Saturday! 🙂

7 Replies to “Saturday Upside: The Clarity of Frugality”

  1. Such a great post – so much honesty, yet hopefulness and acceptance of your situation. I graduated from college during a time in the economy where I had to “take what I could” as far as jobs were concerned and also resented the promises I got in school about us being able to go out there and conquer the world with our degrees. But sadly, I allowed myself to be pigeon holed, even after the economy turned and I had a chance of changing jobs and careers. I am still not “settled” – as you put it – today, but I think I need to settle my soul a little before the “outside stuff” will begin to feel settled too. Love your writing and your message.


  2. I am still waiting to win the lottery so I can have a padded bank account to allow me to follow all my passions in life instead of try to work the system to my advantage.


  3. Great post. I graduated college just as the boom of the 80’s was ending. My first job out of college was great for a year but the economy was tanking. My next few jobs kinda sucked but were the steps I needed to get me where I am today.
    I know it is difficult and frustrating at times. As a 48 yr old I can tell you that the times will change, they always do. You are going to be okay.


    1. Thanks so much for saying that. When you’re in the middle of the mess, it’s hard to look outward in a positive way. I’m grateful for the encouragement. I’m trying my best to keep my chin up!


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