Thursday, August 27, 2009

My declaration of independence

I kept thinking that at some point I would feel safe enough about money that I could give up the extra things I do--mystery shopping, focus groups, even belly dancing. I guess I always thought I'd just *know* when that time would come, when I felt like I was financially secure enough to give up these things that had seen me through some really lean times.

Just six months ago I was fully supporting myself, living in my own apartment making $35,000 a year. I was making ends meet just fine, and putting money into retirement and savings. Today my rent is ridiculously cheap by New York standards and Peanut and I split other household expenses so I'm not spending NEARLY what I was. And now I just got a $10,000 raise, which theoretically should make me feel flush enough to unsubscribe from InboxDollars and SurveySpot, like, stat.

It's both scary and liberating to feel like I've reached a point where I do not need to do some of these things. It's GREAT to think that I can cut down on the number of emails I get each day for surveys, focus groups and mystery shops. It's SO FREEING to think of not having to take tax considerations into account and save receipts for so many purchases, to think of doing my taxes without multiple Schedule Cs attached. But there's fear under there too. Where does that come from? I'm officially making more money than I ever have in my life, but I'm worried about giving up an income-producing gigs that pay less than minimum wage per hour, all things considered. Even though giving up those things would reduce my mental stress and inbox clutter considerably.

Weird.

I'm going to take it slowly, but I'm going to start taking steps to stop mystery shopping. I'll unsubscribe from companies I haven't shopped for in a while, or even--gasp--delete my shopper profile. I'll review my mystery shopping filter less frequently. I'll stop thinking of the $12 and change I've got "built up" at Inbox Dollars, waiting for me to earn a ridiculous $30 before I can request a check (I think it would take me another three years to get close). I'll request payouts at the survey sites where I am able to, and cut my losses where I can't.

It has occurred to me in the past that putting all of my mental energy into my day job would probably result in my making more money solely from that job. I'm seeing that in action right now, so it's time for me to start making good on the part of the deal where I focus exclusively on my career. This feels to some extent like putting all my eggs in one basket, but seriously--I couldn't make enough from all these piddly things to support myself for one month, so why bother anymore? If something happened and I lost my day job, I wouldn't be able to support myself off of survey income and free meals--I'd get unemployment and then I'd start looking for a new job, and I have enough contacts in the industry that it probably wouldn't take me too long. And if it did, I'd go back to work at Starbucks or in retail or somewhere else where I could command an actual wage.

Belly dancing is a whole different can of worms. I love it for reasons completely unrelated to money, but realistically I am not going to have time for it the way I have--I won't even have time for it the way I've been haphazardly paying attention to it while I've been in grad school. I can't make a decision to quit cold turkey or even to taper off like I can with mystery shopping. I mean, giving up mystery shopping means losing out on some side income and some free meals and occasional things like this luxury gym, but giving up belly dance feels like giving up a part of ME. It means not performing. It means not working towards something and showing it off. It means likely never seeing some people again, people who make me laugh and challenge me. We don't have enough in common to be friends outside the studio, but it feels weird to choose to leave them. It means my brand new costume would never even get worn!

Of course, I'm being extreme here. There's nothing that says I have to give up belly dancing cold turkey right now. My mom had a great philosophy towards decluttering our things. She always said, "well, you can't get rid of it till you're ready, so if it bothers you that much, just keep it." So I would, and then six months or a year later when I came across that item, I might be completely ready to let it go with no qualms. That has to happen with belly dancing, but I don't have that kind of emotional connection with mystery shopping or online surveys.

So, I guess this is my declaration of independence. I am now a personal finance blogger who doesn't try to keep money flowing in by doing things on the side. I'm now a single-track career woman who has done some things in her past that she's not doing anymore because she doesn't need them. As of today, I'd rather work some overtime to secure my career than covertly shop at a drug store on my lunch break. I'd rather enjoy a restaurant meal at full price than stealthily time every aspect of my dining experience.

Yay for me!

1 comment:

  1. First off: congratulations on the promotion and the raise!! Considering the state of the union right now, that is AWESOME.

    AND on the having of two readers. Even if you don't get to keep them, it's awesome you get to play with them for a while. Let us know how you like it!

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