This morning, I logged on to my online banking.
I did that thing where you hold your breath and wince while the page loads, and then half close one eye so that the little numbers don't look so scary when they finally appear on-screen -- until you realise you can't actually read the little scary numbers because you're squinting too hard and then have to look properly.
What happens next is either a) sudden nausea followed by cold sweats or b) much rejoicing that you can live to eat another day.
Does everyone do that? The holding your breath when you go to withdraw money at the cashpoint, until the whirring noise notifies you that yes, you can have a tenner today?
Even though I am finally in a position that means I'm not always skint any more, I still view my bank balance in the same way as I always did. As a massive challenge.
I have a particularly dicey relationship with money. From the age of 13 when I had my first job (waitressing in StarBurger, I think it was probably illegal), I LOVED money, and I LOVED spending it even more.
My very first pay-check ever ever ever was £11.65 from a morning of serving greasy-haired, smoking men bitter coffee in the aforementioned burger joint, and I left there after my lunch (eggs and chips, I still remember it) and walked straight across the road to Round Sounds where I bought myself the single "American Dream" by Jakkata. I then spent the remainder of my earnings on nail varnishes. I didn't have a penny left when I went home.
I followed that template for the next 10, 11, okay, 12 years. I would get paid for whatever work it was I was doing at the time, be it working in the sunbed shop (15-16), working on the tills in the supermarket (17), my first full time job as a receptionist on leaving college (18) to the job I have now at 26.
Between the ages of 19 - 22 were the worst. I would get paid, spend EVERYTHING within a week and a half on rent, food, going out clubbing, new dresses and occasionally the odd bill or two, and then spend two and a half weeks crying on the phone to my parents in the hope that they'd come and bring me food parcels and pay my phone bill for me. (They did. I am ashamed.)
My Dad would come and drop me off a bag of food to my office and a little money bag with a few coins in that I'd use to go and buy wine with at the weekend with my housemates. I was really very lucky that I had my parents to bail me out when I was being a fucking idiot and spending all my money on crap.
I was earning a pittance though, in my defence. OK, that doesn't really work. I should have still been more careful. But I was young and ridiculous and to me, there's nothing greater than that feeling of having a full bank balance on payday and thinking up all the fun and innovative ways to get rid of it all. Gone. Back to zero. Zero, but with lovely new things.
I could buy some new boots! But I don't really need any. OK, SKINCARE! But I do have some I need to use up...Gigs! Trips to the zoo! Bottles of vitamins and supplements that will make my hair grow faster! Nail polishes! Music! Filling up my Kindle! Strawberry laces and a dress from ASOS! Scented candles! NEW CUTLERY!
Now, as I am a cohabitator, I am a lot more careful. I still have these impulsive thoughts but I try not to act out on them as much, because it's never fun having to borrow money from your partner halfway through the month because you're a massive greedy idiot who can't stop online shopping. I am trying to be more responsible and keep aside a little every month -- how novel -- but I am now finding myself thinking up ways of spending that.
As I see my savings grow little by little, I view my bank balance as a bigger challenge -- I need to think of new, high value things to buy to get rid of it all and get back to zero! Maybe I'll buy a laptop? Or a dog! MAYBE I'LL HAVE A BABY! (Not yet, stop getting excited, Dad.)
I'm finding it really difficult to change my mindset and stop my frivolous spending. I know I need to realise that having some money does not mean I need to go out and spend it all immediately. How do I do this? HOW DO I BECOME A PROPER GROWN UP? When do you become able to look at your bank account without fear and/or nausea?
Tips on how I can learn to save money and stories of your own financial hell/shame below in the comments please.
Pretending not to spend money on Twitter: @Natalie_KateM