I Became Financially Independent Last Year, Here’s How You Can Too

by previous writer Patricia Rodriguez

This time last year I was sure of what I wanted to accomplish by the end of 2017: becoming financially independent. I’m excited to share my journey, and some tips on how to handle the rocky road of freeing yourself from depending on others for money. I’m sure a lot of you are feeling the immense pressure we put on ourselves in a new calendar year. We create vision boards, write letters to ourselves, or draft long lists of our goals with the hope that we will make the next year our bitch. 2016 brought a year of unreliable financial support from my father, and my mother struggled to get enough hours as a home attendant. I lacked financial aid, and with bills showing no mercy and accumulating anyway, I knew that I needed to get my finances together. I did not want to depend on anyone anymore— if there was someone to blame for my financial burdens, it would be me.Life has a funny way of manifesting. I set the intention to become financially independent, and the universe forced that to come true. I took many “L’s” in 2017, from my father walking away from my life, to waking up every single day at 6 am because I worked two jobs on campus, to having to cancel a vacation and lose all the money that I invested because I had to choose between school textbooks and sipping whiskey sour in St.Thomas. I couldn’t believe how hard life had gotten for me, and my unhappiness still stemmed from money. One summer night when I went out to dinner with my mother in SoHo, a couple of glasses of wine ushered in a breakthrough for both of us. We started talking about life. I expressed to her my disappointment in the summer so far, because after landing the internship of my dreams at a charter school, I had been unable to save up as much as I wanted due to the biggest evil on Earth: bills. My mom understood my frustration and offered sympathy, but she also illuminated an important point that I was unable to see at the time (perhaps because it’s hard to see anything clearly over stacks of bills). In 2017, I really paid for everything on my own!

I not only paid my bills, but at times I chipped in for my mom’s bills as well. Utilities, Metrocards, clothing, beauty procedures, groceries, happy hours, recreational activities—I funded all of these things. It took someone expressing how proud they were of me to realize that I had achieved the financial independence I had asked for at the beginning of the year. Was the process hard? Of course it was. It involved streams of tears, many “Why me?” moments, distance from “friends,” early mornings, hungry nights, and many more hardships that I still struggle with today. Nonetheless, through all this pain and adversity, I stood strong, and if anything achieving this goal, proved to me that I was more capable than I ever imagined myself to be. So if in 2018 you’re seeking to be financially independent, I have some tips and truths of what you may expect during this time.

1. Your Social Life may Suffer As you walk into this new financial situation, prioritizing and budgeting is key. Now that you do not have mommy and daddy or anybody helping you, there will be times you have to choose your phone bill over going out. To put it simply: your social life will deteriorate.You will choose between buying groceries for the week over dropping “guap” and going out to Mamasushi. You will choose keeping your lights on over bandwagoning the impromptu vacations plans that your friends came up with. And if you’re a college student, you will definitely choose food or your train/bus tickets over putting five on a Henny bottle for Thirsty Thursday.  During this time you should never feel bad or guilty for making those decisions because you’re doing what’s best for you. But, do not suffer more than you have to because of FOMO (fear of missing out). If you’ve got REAL friends, they will support you during this time. May it be through spotting you one night, bringing some wine over to hang out, or by just understanding that just because you’re saying “no” to these plans, it doesn’t mean that you do not want to be friends anymore. If a friendship suffers because of this, it lets you know that they weren’t your friend in the first place, so keep it pushing. 2. Having more than one job will become the norm. If you’re lucky and have a good paying job, then you might be able to skip this step. But, if that’s not the case or you want some extra funds aside from that killer job, keep reading.If you’re like me, you’re making this decision while relying on a wage or on-campus employment, so dividing your time between jobs will become normal for you. I was waking up every single day at 6 am, and on certain days, not touching my dorm until midnight because of the multiple jobs that I had. With this type of schedule, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed, especially when you have to fit in coursework. You’ll feel like you don’t even have time for yourself. Although these feelings are valid, I need you remember that you’re doing this in your best interest. The struggle will one day pay off and you will look back at these moments and laugh. At the end of the day, making money is better than struggling to make ends meet, so be strong. 3. Don’t forget to treat yourself. This was one of my biggest mistakes when embarked this journey. I was working so much and forgetting about myself. When I would finally step back and reflect, I realized how much I had neglected myself. If you’re able to, please treat yourself from time to time. Book that facial, get your nails done, make reservations at one of the places on your restaurant list, and buy that jacket you’ve been eyeing. Do not deprive yourself of all pleasure because that can easily put you down and make this process harder than it needs to be. 4. Ask for help. I know we are trying to be that boss babe that we’ve dreamed of becoming, but there’s nothing stronger than knowing when to ask for help. As much as we try to keep things together and be on top of everything, life will sometimes hand you calm and subtle “L’s”. When these obstacles arise, and you feel unable to overcome them, please ask for help. You’re surrounded by a lot of love and support, but you won't be able to feel it until you speak up. Are you trying to become financially independent or get a grip on your money? Have you tried any of these tips? Any thoughts or questions for Patricia? Spark the conversation in the comments below.

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