Numbers

personal-finance
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Last night, we sat down in a tea shop, pulled up a blank excel sheet, and typed in some numbers. Numbers that seemed small in the first row. Numbers that seemed abstract for both of us, Comm majors. Then we added formulas. The small numbers became bigger. Some numbers looked nice. But most of the numbers, frankly, looked scary. Scary not because we don’t understand them, but because we understood them well enough, and we don’t feel very happy about what they’re telling us. 

These were numbers that we know, on a day to day, week to week, month to month basis, but which we never really look at, or count, and worse, even commit to. But now we need to look at them, hard. And we had several realizations. First, that next week, we need to pay for bills, mortgage, and tuitions, and what we have on hand is not enough. Second, a supposed “safety net” that he signed up for last year (at my prodding) is not such a sound investment after all. Third, if we want to make the numbers look nice, and if we want to keep them devoid of negative signs preceding the sums, we cannot go to Pulag with our friends. We might be able to hit the beach. But that’s a might*, italicized for emphasis, annotated for clarification: only if  we get unexpected windfall.

We’re not used to thinking of the future in terms of numbers. We’re used to writing bucket lists, to reading movie reviews, to randomly choosing something fun to do every six days. We’re used to reading books and making plans by writing them in the air, by throwing suggestions back and forth, by agreeing on what we want, and that’s it. We grew up together in an environment where the only thing we needed was to agree with each other, and to agree to disagree on the intellectual stuff.

But lately, we’ve been feeling that we want to change things. So we need to look at the numbers to determine if we can do that.

For now, he’s the scared one. For one thing, he has always been more scared of numbers than me. For another, I’ve been mean to him. I say what’s on my mind, way too swiftly, and sometimes, what it sounds like is not nice. Instead of suggesting, and encouraging, I attack him, for things beyond his control, and especially for him dubbing them as “beyond his control.” I’ve failed to understand that perhaps, this is the area of our togetherness where I need to be stronger. That this is the part where I am stronger, and I should not blame him for that. Instead, I should play my part. I want him to want bigger things, but I can’t push him too hard in the direction that only I would wish for him.

For now, I’m the optimistic one. I’m actually expecting windfalls for both of us one way or another this year. I see his side of the columns and I see no particular problem. I see my side of the columns and I see where I can push, pull, and set aside a bit without compromising the “Big Set Aside Goal.” But most of all, I see us doing it together. And if we do it together, it’s really easier. If we right things now, we have a lot to look forward to at the end of 2016 and at the start of 2017.

I’m writing this to claim that we can do it: that  we can make the numbers less scary and choose to be happy. We can change our mindset and our habits, with sacrifice, but without giving up experiences.

This is the new chapter called Adulting, and I’m claiming that it will be the best one in the book yet.

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