Some Stray Thoughts on Debt Freedom, Cash Flow, and Money Anxiety

I’ve been experiencing an uptick of anxiety the last few weeks. In the grand scheme of things it’s no big deal — really! That I’m noticing it at all is an indication of how chill I’ve been for a while now 🙂 I know where it’s coming from: first, my job situation for next year will be up in the air a while longer (I’ll have a job, just not sure which one yet); and second, I’ve gotten involved in a civic controversy which is taking up a TON of time, contributing to my being behind in work, socializing (except with the people I’m working with on the controversy), and things like calling my parents on the regular. I have been on local TV a few times though!

Anyway, tonight I went to double check my bank balances and credit cards, as I do regularly, and realized that I hadn’t charged anything to my credit card in days. Its balance is sitting at $15.64, the amount of a stray takeout order from last Thursday. I’ve spent money on groceries and coffee in the interim, but that was all in cash. It’s kind of a cool feeling to owe (basically) nothing.

It really helps the anxiety too. I know in general that I’m ok, despite these stressors, but I especially am relieved by the thought that I don’t have any obligations I have to meet.

Good thing too since all of a sudden I’m spending travel money like it’s going out of style. My 36-hour trip to my uncle’s funeral cost about $450 (plane tickets, gas/tolls, hotel room) and I was just asked to become a godmother again (yay!) but that means a few hundred for a trip to New York for the baptism in April. I really ought to take up travel hacking! More to the point, I have to stop robbing my travel fund for other purposes. I’ve been under-contributing there for months and it needs to stop. So what if it does build up for a while and get huge? That hasn’t been a problem so far (I’ve always spent it on some kind of trip, whether planned or last-minute) and even if it did get really big, I could just go to France or something. That settles it: I’m going back to a $250/month travel contribution. I want that fund big enough to cover emergency trips so that I’m not having to draw on my freelance income to cover travel (as I did this month for my uncle’s funeral, and will have to again in March to pay for the baptism plane tickets.) And this time I am going to remember this lesson and not decide in June to ratchet back my monthly contribution to this fund.

I think maybe I thought that debt freedom meant I would get ahead on everything and have big sinking funds all over the place? But that hasn’t really happened. I’m still scrambling every month to cash-flow unexpected expenses as well as meet my aggressive savings targets. I guess that’s why I still feel some anxiety about my finances even as objectively I’m in infinitely better shape than I was when I started this blog. Looking forward to the day when I’m completely at peace. Whenever that is 🙂

19 thoughts on “Some Stray Thoughts on Debt Freedom, Cash Flow, and Money Anxiety

  1. No surprise you’re feeling some anxiety. You have said you’re an introvert – and you’ve been on local TV! Ay caramba! Very cool, but no doubt anxiety-provoking. (So what’s this controversy?) I’m glad you’ve decided to go back to a more generous travel fund. It’s clearly something you value a great deal. I think that debt repayment is a training ground for saving, and saving is a training ground for freedom. I suppose even financial freedom will have its anxieties, but nothing you can’t handle.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      You’re right, I can totally handle these anxieties 🙂 Wish I could say more about the controversy but still trying to maintain a thin veil of anonymity…it has to do with local government transparency and trying to protect city assets from being sold off to developers without adequate consideration.

      1. That’s worth fighting for!

  2. Leigh says:

    If you have anxiety about money, it’ll probably always be there in some way. It’s one of the ways in which my anxiety and desire for control is shown. I have a $600k and change net worth and I still having money anxiety. Although they’re usually sillier things, like worrying over the fact that I don’t have two years of liquid expenses – most of my net worth is tied up in my condo and retirement accounts. I also worry about spending too much money sometimes, though that’s been getting better. Mostly the anxiety comes when I worry about losing my job and then assume I’ll never find another one and that my runway isn’t endless! If I’m not worried about losing my job, my money anxiety is much better as I have a pretty good separation between spending and income each month. Good luck! 🙂

    1. Leigh says:

      I don’t know about you, but I don’t like running things down to zero. Maybe if you pre-fund your travel fund a bit, that might help?

    2. thesingledollar says:

      It’s a good point that money anxiety doesn’t necessarily track completely with how secure you are. I need to keep that in mind. Once a worrier, always a worrier, just try to focus your worry on things you can actually do something about, I think 🙂

  3. Isn’t it funny how all the cash magically disappears after debt? You think “ermagerd! My debt is almost gone. I’m going to have so much money!” and then Poof! it finds a new place to go.

    Sorry about your uncle. Yay for another godbaby! Do you need to hide the travel money? Or make it difficult to change your contribution amount? You could do a direct deposit with your paycheck into a separate savings account… and then you know.. France!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, it’s like conservation of available money! I think there may be a real reason for some of it since often when we’re paying off debt we’re putting off other things — like, I put off buying necessary clothing and some other stuff, so that had to be dealt with sooner or later. But often it just seems like Murphy intervenes. Good question about needing to hide the travel money. Unfortunately I can’t split my direct deposit, though I do have a separate savings account for travel. I just need to have more willpower about not shorting that fund. I was really good about contributing what I said I would for the first year, but lately I’ve been more lax and it’s a problem.

  4. Hannah says:

    Some of our sinking funds are quite large (like the one for our rental house), and others get used so regularly that we barely keep them above zero (looking at you car fund!).

    Our splurge fund got built up too large (mostly from some Christmas gifts and the like, not from our paltry monthly contributions), so we bought a mattress- exciting!

    Basically, anything that we earmark to spend, gets spent… often sooner rather than later. I think that’s how fungible funds work. They get funged.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Funged! I love it! Also, something about your phrasing here reminds me that it is crazy to expect myself not to spend the money I specifically designated for spending. Fine, be that way 🙂

  5. Jason says:

    It seems like there is always something. Although I would give yourself a bit of a break. I mean your debt freedom has only been for months, not years. As you settle into a normal routine things will get better. However, if/when you own a home you will have other items that just come up like needing to redo electrical for a dishwasher because the previous owners were morons. Oh yea that was just us.

    Don’t sweat it.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I’m not really sweating 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement. Also reminder not to be a moron about dishwashers 🙂

  6. Hate to break it to you, but I don’t know that most people find financial peace, per se. But I think the panic attacks last shorter periods of time when unexpected expenses rear their heads. Their ugly, ugly heads.

    It’s awesome that you’ve charged so little. It’s less awesome that your travel fund is being sucked away. I’m glad you decided to prioritize it again. I need to do that with our vacation fund, but there are a few other things that need to get taken care of first.

    Also, I’m sorry for your loss.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, my panic attacks have improved SUBSTANTIALLY in the last two years! I’m grateful for that. And thank you for the support.

  7. I want a travel fund! That sounds awesome! 🙂 Do you keep it in a separate account or is it just separate in a spreadsheet?

    I know you’re into using cash, but this Capital One Venture card I got recently seems to have some pretty cool travel rewards…

    Sorry to hear about the anxiety. I can relate (not that I think I know *exactly* what your experience is like, but anxiety in general is an ongoing struggle for me). I hope the job stuff gets settled soon. ‘Tis the season, or so I hear from my other friends in academia. I feel like in an earlier post you might have mentioned having gone to therapy at some point (I could be wrong?), but maybe it could be helpful? It has been for me, though I admit I haven’t been in a while.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Actually, I totally do use credit cards for rewards — just not at the grocery store 🙂 I’ll look into the Venture. // 2) Both! I have a travel savings account, which has been as high as $1000 and as low as $25 depending on how much I’ve been using it lately 🙂 But I also keep track in a line in my actual budget so I know how much to transfer from the travel account to my credit card. In theory, I top it up with $250/month; in practice, I’ve been pretty slack on that lately because of wanting to do other things with it. // 3) Oh, anxiety. It is the season. It sucks. Therapy helped a lot, and so did a low steady dose of medication I’ve been on for a bit over a year. Zero shame in seeking help around here 🙂

  8. Sorry to hear about your uncle. As much as you do travel you might want to consider using cc’s for travel rewards! I hope you hear about your job soon too so that relieves you of some of your anxiety!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      The problem with me and card rewards is that I spend so little $$ that I’m not sure I would rack up points quickly enough to be useful/worth it! But I maybe should look into it again because lord, I do seem to travel a lot!

  9. I’m so curious what will happen to my money anxiety as our financial picture improves… It’s certainly better than it was when we had $60K in credit card debt and no plan – hello waking up in a panic in the middle of the night on a regular basis! – but because we still have a lot of work to do, it’s still a source of anxiety for me. There are so many things we need to work on, I can’t imagine it ever going away completely, but my hope is that it’ll be much more minor when we have our debt paid off, a substantial emergency fund, and more retirement savings.

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