Before I left Australia, well before I knew what was going to happen as far as green cards and immigration were concerned, I was pondering a complete career switch and going back to university to do a masters degree in something that’s decidedly not journalism.
I was discussing it with my extremely wise roommate Ali, and I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the fear of the unknown that was stopping me from taking the plunge, but the reluctance to give up the generous salary the ABC paid me.
I mean hell, that job afforded me ample time and dollars to go overseas and hand my disposable income over the bar four nights a week for two months every year, so why would I want to give that away to become a student again?
Ali, a masters student and fulltime worker herself, told me that while it would be an adjustment, I would be able to live perfectly well on half what I was currently making.
The return to education obviously didn’t happen (yet…) but, sure enough, here I am a year later living on less than half what I was making back home. And unfortunately for me, that hasn’t sunk in yet.
That certainly isn’t a jab at my job either. I’m getting paid a very liveable wage for my current situation. My rent and bills are all tied up nicely in one monthly payment, the cost of living is substantially lower here and, if I’m sensible and think in advance a little bit, meal preparation saves me a ton of money. Hell, I’ve barely seen a bar tab more than $30 or $40 since I’ve been here, and that doesn’t mean I’ve been controlling my beer intake.
But it’s my spending habits that I need to adjust pronto. Of course I had to drop a fair bit of cash to get set up here. Furniture, kitchenware, bedding, towels: all that stuff costs money, as does stocking my wardrobe with climate-appropriate clothing so I don’t freeze to death.
But it’s occurred to me that I’ve still been living a bit frivolously as far as the almighty dollar is concerned. I’m still in the mindset of “I’ve got plenty of disposable cash!” because my paychecks haven’t yet been pillaged by the expenses of car and insurance payments that are just around the corner. And because I’m taking the ignorance-is-bliss approach, I’ve been avoiding writing up a new budget, even though I truly do need to know how much I have per week to blow on Amazon or at The Liberal Cup on a Friday night after work.
The reason I’ve started thinking about this now is that I’m heading to Boston on Saturday morning for the weekend. I’m excited about the idea not only because I can’t wait to have sushi and ride public transport again, but because it’s surreal that this is a viable thing to do for a couple of days now, when a year ago “a weekend in Boston” would’ve meant planning a six-week vacation and spending 24 hours in transit.
But the other side of the coin (boom-tish) is that my budget no longer accommodates for few-hundred-dollar binge weekends, regardless of whether or not I’m earning in the same currency I’m spending. A year ago, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at dropping $80 on a ticket to see the Brooklyn Nets playing the Celtics on Boston. Nowadays it’s a bit different.
Maybe this is that “growing up” thing they talk about?