Europe vs. OSAP

May 31, 2014 by

          “I’m thinking about waiting to go to Europe until my student loan is paid off,” I confessed to my friend who recently returned from a two-week stint in Europe.

          “Go to Europe,” she encouraged. “Travel is an investment.”

          “You’re right,” I agreed.

          “You have to go to Barcelona! You would love Barcelona! You know when you go somewhere and it makes you think of someone? In Barcelona, I thought of you. It’s a big city, but it’s chill because it’s right by the beach.”

          “Ugh, what was I thinking?” I questioned rhetorically with both hands in my hair (#sostressed!). “Of course I’m going to Europe first; I have to go to Barcelona!”

 

***

 

          “I’ve actually been considering paying off my OSAP before going to Europe –” I started.

          “What. The. Fuck?” I was interrupted.

          “I’m not going to, but –”

          “Fuck OSAP! You’re going to Europe!” I was scolded.

          “I know –”

          “Listen, do you want to go to Italy and find your Daniele or do you want to stay in Canada, where Daniele is just Daniel?” I was interrogated with a tone of disgust.

          Laughing, I responded, “I want to go to Italy and find my Daniele.” (Meeting my first Daniele during frosh week 2007 is one of the only life-changing things U of G did for me. Dear future husband, please be named Daniele or be willing to change whatever your name is for love. #hottestguynameinexistence!)

 

***

 

          This month, I’ve found myself running out of spending money too quickly and scrounging for cash. I refuse to touch my savings and I don’t do consumer debt, but I’ve dipped into my buffer account, I’ve taken from my gas budget (which I’ve been doing since last summer, so I probably should have acknowledged that my spending budget is too low earlier), and I’ve exchanged American dollars left over from my last trip to New York back into Canadian dollars! (Future Maria is going to hate my ass for that the next time she’s NYC-bound.) Needless to say, I’ve been extremely stressed about money. Finally, a couple weeks ago, I accepted that a biweekly spending budget of $75 simply isn’t enough anymore. Whereas I used to feel like Richie Effing Rich with that amount, I now feel deprived. I have far more friends than I did early last summer, when I decided on allowing myself $75 per pay to spend. While I still strongly believe that entertainment is freely accessible, more friends means more invites to events and places that cost money – events and places that I want to say yes to. Within the current pay period alone, I have four friends’ birthdays (the invite to one of which I declined because two conflict) – four! (Recall that before April 2013, I hadn’t been invited to any birthdays other than my best friend’s in years.) Aside from the birthdays, I’ve been out so much lately that I opted for a Friday night in to recover via sleep. On Wednesday night, I didn’t even come home. (There’s this guy . . . I joke! I told you, friends, I have to keep my dating life offline for now. Sigh.)

          Contemplating upping my spending budget turned into a whirlwind of financial reassessment. I knew giving myself more allowance to have fun now would have to take from one of my two biggest financial goals: saving for Europe or paying down my student debt. I don’t like the idea of either, but I dislike the constant feeling of not being able to afford anything much more. Adamant about not reducing the amount I regularly dedicate to Europe, my initial thought was to reduce my student loan payments. This caused anxiety about my financial future to set in, which prompted anxiety about my attractiveness as a marriage prospect. – I kid you not. Because I wouldn’t marry someone who’s in debt (a mortgage being the only exception), I don’t expect anyone to marry me while I’m in debt. – Since I’m prone to internally freaking the fuck out when it comes to money/everything (overanalysis is my downfall), within less than half an hour, I tortured myself by coming up with valid arguments for all of the following options:

  • Reducing my student loan payments by $50 per pay to have $25 more spending money every two weeks and to allocate $25 toward clothes on a biweekly basis
  • Putting all of the money that I can from each pay toward my student loan, including money that I would normally put toward Europe savings, in attempt to be debt-free before going to Europe
  • Allocating less money toward my student loan in favour of beginning to save for a down payment (which I wasn’t planning to do until my student loan is paid off), and consider taking on a mortgage while still in student debt
  • Effing all of it and booking a flight to Europe departing this summer despite wanting to save more money

 
          I’ve been told that I am the definition of flip-flop. I fluctuate between extremes and come up with equally logical arguments for all sides of a pending decision, making decision-making a stressful mess. This week, after a little over a year of putting Europe first, I nearly convinced myself that paying off my student debt should be my top financial priority. I began calculating the amount of time it will take to get rid of my debt based on my current rate of payment: $301.56 per pay. It’s a lot of fucking time. Reducing my payments by $50 biweekly adds on almost another year of debt repayment. The prospect of still having a student loan to pay at close to 30 years old induced panic. I immediately went into I-have-to-get-out-debt-ASAP mode. Between graduation (which I did not attend #Ihateuniversity) and the onset of The Happiness Experiment, I would regularly entertain the idea of suffering in the short term to pay off all of my debt as quickly as possible. Since creating my dream fund, I have not once reconsidered this – until now.

          Last year, I decided that my happiness takes priority over everything, so saving for my dream trip to Europe became my financial priority. Yet, this week, I managed to reason that completely halting my Europe savings to pay off all my debt before travelling abroad is conducive to my goal of getting there. I rationalized that it will allow me to travel Europe more comfortably, without the stresses of paying my loan while away and returning home to debt. – Yeah, as if I’m going to be frolicking Italy, happily struggling to overcome the language barrier between gorgeous Italian guys and I, thinking about my student loan. Let’s be real. In Europe, I am the epitome of YOLO. Nonetheless, I had myself convinced that getting out of debt first was the way to go. Most financially savvy people would probably agree, as evidenced by doing the least productive thing I could have possibly done to ease my financial anxiety: hit the personal finance blogs. Am I dumb? Those blogs, while captivating (I love personal finance), are made by people like me: frugal-minded savers. They promote the exact opposite of adventure: stability. Thankfully, I live by what matters to me, and I most value happiness.

          I had to keep that in mind. If I were to take the money I regularly put toward Europe and allocate it entirely to debt repayment instead, I wouldn’t be putting my happiness first. The idea of prioritizing debt repayment to such an extreme begged the questions: Why am I still here? Why aren’t I leaving for Europe now? Why prolong travel if I’m not going to save more money toward it? Why put it off only to eventually go with the same amount of money that I already have? The mere thought of paying off all of my debt before going to Europe made me miserable. I should have known my plan of action based on that feeling, but I of course had to stress myself out for a few days before making the obvious choice; I had to analyze the cause of my overanalysis. I ultimately concluded that the reason behind my anxiety was my fear that I will die before taking my big Euro trip. (Oh, I wish I were joking. I actually worry about this shit.) This helped me get my priorities straight again. I recalled what got me saving for Europe in the first place: the awareness that, if I’m on my deathbed in a few years, of all the things I’d regret not doing, I’d most regret not going to Europe.

          Decision made: Instead of being in a constant state of deprivation, I will be increasing my spending budget by $25 biweekly. (Before you laugh at how little that may seem, remember, that is a 33 percent increase. #yay!) I will also be transferring $25 per pay to a new bank account specifically designated for clothes, which is so necessary. This money will be deducted from my biweekly student loan payments, reducing them from $301.56 to $251.56. My dream fund, as always, will continue to grow by $250 per pay. (Europe, I’m coming, baby!)

          For personal finance goals to be achievable, they must be aligned with your values and your life must be enjoyable in the meantime. So, fuck reallocating my regular Europe savings to my loan. I refuse to put off my dream for the stupid decision I made when I was 17 to go to university, and the even stupider decision I made to graduate despite realizing the uselessness of a post-secondary education with regard to my life after only one year of undergrad. Oh, and fuck future marriage prospects. Let’s at least stress in logical order. Step one: Boyfriend. (Pre-step-one: When on a first date, consider not mentioning that I think marriage contracts would be better suited to the realities of relationships than permanent marital agreements. Maybe also leave out my opinion that increasing divorce rates are evidence of the pursuit of happiness. – Naw, fuck it! #IamwhoIam!)

 
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  1. Eat-Pray-Loving Life is Not Deadly - Press Play Pro - […] I think I’m afraid to leave for Europe. A what-should-have-been simple decision to allow myself $25 of additional biweekly…
  2. Europe vs OSAP - Press Play Pro - […] (This post originally appeared on The Happiness Experiment on May 31, 2014.) […]

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