I am not sure if this is because I am naturally childish or if it’s because I am bipolar, but I personally truly lack self discipline. But it wasn’t always this way…
I was diagnosed bipolar at 18 years old and began showing signs of the disorder at 16 or 17. Now at 23, I am assessing some past choices and decisions and I am trying to pinpoint what was the starting point for my lack of self discipline.
Growing up in elementary and middle school, I was the most studious student. I was ahead one grade level in math, so I was taking freshman algebra 1 in the 8th grade. I got straight A’s all throughout, was in junior honor society, and enjoyed various extracurriculars. In high school as an underclassman, I was more of a straight B student. My mother’s addictions were at an all time high so I did whatever I could to get out of the house. I had the discipline to go to church 3 times a week, participate in speech and debate and work about 25 hours at the local grocery store.
Discipline was never something I struggled with until my bipolar became more prevalent. I avoided school work to see my then boyfriend and go to work and do my activities. I was very diligent with my money that I earned. I would cash my paychecks at work and use strictly cash only for everything. It was with that due diligence that in 18 months, I saved about $5,000.00 to purchase my first vehicle, a 2000 Honda CR-V in cash just shy of my 18th birthday.
Once I graduated from high school, I enrolled myself at the semi-local community college across the Puget Sound from me. I was also experiencing a slightly rebellious phase. I picked up casual cigarette smoking that eventually turned into chain vaping due to my time at the shipyard. I tried weed and alcohol for the first time at 18. I also tried gambling in the local casino for the first time ever. It’s interesting to admit that I actually hated gambling initially and only tried it 3 times in the first year and a half that I could go.
I think once I started to learn Blackjack with Diego in the tables section of the casino was when I started to get hooked on gambling and lost my sense for self discipline. Now I am not blaming my gambling problem on Diego, but he did teach me to play table games, which sparked my interest to play more and more.
It took only nine months for Julio’s (my Honda CR-V) transmission to become faulty. In those nine months, I was able to save roughly three thousand dollars and since this time I was 18, I decided to get a tiny auto loan to build credit and use that three grand as a down payment. I ended up with my pimped out Jeep Compass Rallye named Tyrome.
I was fiscally responsible for a little while longer as my doctors were adjusting my bipolar medication. It wasn’t until I went to work for the Navy at the shipyard that I had any issues with money. Before the shipyard, I was working two jobs and paying $220 a month for my car for the duration of three years. I also paid $400 toward rent when I lived with Diego in a little rental house. I budgeted everything perfectly because I knew if I overspent, it would be a disaster.
However, at the shipyard, I was making more money in six months than I knew what to do with. In six months, I made about 17,000 dollars, more than my annual income combined from the previous two jobs. I started gambling more and I was never forced to pay more in rent even though Diego and I were making the same amount of money near the end. So I sunk a lot of money into my car and paid the car off a year early.
Then I had credit good enough to get a couple of credit cards. Slowly I was increasing the spending limits, but paying them off, and then maxing them out, and repeat the cycle.
After I got hurt on the job, I bought a 2016 Volkswagen Jetta for twenty grand. It was a stupid deal, but I was satisfied and seemed fair to me at the time. This was also stupid because after 90 days, I never got income from the shipyard again and I had this brand new to me car with a $400.00 car payment and I put $3,500.00 down from selling my $9,500.00 Jeep for $4,250.00.
Not only did I make stupid financial choices with car loans and credit cards, because I had a broken foot that was awaiting surgery, I gained a lot of weight. 40 pounds to be exact. Because I didn’t care and I couldn’t really exercise.
As time progressed, my spending habits became more impulsive and erratic. I bought my Kia Sportage for $35,000.00, including the negative equity from the Volkswagen because I hated that car. I have consolidated my debt 3 different times, spent my entire mutual fund on random spending and my gambling problem. I have nothing in savings.
So how do you let yourself get to this point?
Well I think it also has to do with the fact that our culture is so instantaneous; everything is right here and right now. With that being said, online shopping has been my latest vice because I can browse online for things I need or don’t need from the comfort of my bed. I get all the endorphins rushed into my brain as soon as I hit complete transaction. And better yet, my package will come in two days time!
Since what we do isn’t tangible, it makes it harder to see money, I guess. Like, most people use a debit or credit card for all purchases rather than carrying cash. It is rare that you go somewhere and can’t use their card reader, or if you can’t, they have an ATM nearby. All of these electronic transactions makes it harder to rationalize that hey I’m using real money that took me X amount of hours to earn this X prize item.
When I swipe or chip my card, I just pretend like it’s not real. But it all is real and the money you are using has a greater purpose than you going in for Starbucks coffee every fucking day. Since it is so easy to desensitize yourself to your own spending habits, you lose some or all of your self control.
A lot of people do not budget or keep track of their expenses. I have kept an excel sheet for my budget for about a year now, but I am always looking for ways to improve. I recently bought a cash envelope binder with 24 pouches that can fit in said binder and labels for the cash envelopes. I figure if I bring the tangible back into finances, I will think more before I spend. Also this forces me to go to the bank once a week and organize my cash and stuff them into their designated envelopes. It forces me to budget and if I have money left over in groceries or going out, that can either go in savings or remain in that category for the next week.
So, I may not be disciplined, but I am trying everything in my power to take my life back.