Since I moved to Korea, I’ve written a few posts (here, here, and here) about how
I’ve grown up I’m growing up. After 7 1/2 years of going to college on and off, I’m finally finished and moving on. For the first time in my life, I’m learning what it’s like to really be an adult by working a full time job and living so far away from my comfort zone home that I’m being forced to take care of and fend for myself. There’s one rite of adulthood, however, that I’ve still been struggling with, and that’s saving money.
When I first got to Korea, I told myself that I would put half of my paycheck into my savings account every month so that would leave me with a grand total of $12,000 in my savings by the time I moved home; the rest of my paycheck would go to my bills in Korea, my bills in America, and daily living expenses like food and public transportation. As the days turned into months, I realized how overly-ambitious my goal of trying to save a grand a month was, because in order to make that goal happen, it meant not having a life. Maybe if I was living in Sacramento, having no life wouldn’t be a huge deal, but I’m living in a foreign country where there are many new experiences to be had. So over the summer, I lived a little: I saw half of the sights there are to see in Seoul, I rode on a wine train, I went to a mud festival, and I traveled around Europe for two weeks.
Ever since I got back from my Europe trip, I’ve been doing my best to save money out of guilt: by mid-September (according to my goal) I should have had $6,000 saved, but I was actually far from that goal, and I needed to start making up for it. I thought, “I have six months left here. I still have a chance to save money!” So I’ve been making a conscious effort to be as frugal as possible by eating at home more and not going out as much; if I do go out, I make sure to attend more local events, rather than traveling to Seoul. Otherwise, my weekends consist of doing things that are free, like reading my Kindle, going for runs in the park, and watching the entire second season of Glee.
I’m doing better when it comes to saving, but I’m also starting to feel the wanderlust come back. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my two-week paid winter vacation in January and whether or not I want to go somewhere for it. Actually, the question isn’t “Do I want to go?” because of course I want to; the question is “Should I spend money that I’m supposed to be saving?”
I debated on what to do for a few days, and then I came to a compromise: instead of going to China, Japan, and Thailand for my winter vacation like I had originally planned, I will just go to Thailand because one country is cheaper than three and Thailand would be the cheapest of them all; I will only travel for one week rather than two; I won’t buy souvenirs for everyone and their mom like I did when I went to Europe; I will make it work.
Even though I told myself I would make the aforementioned sacrifices in order to experience visiting one more country in Asia before I go back to the States, I still couldn’t shake the guilt: “Gina, you’re an adult now. You need to save your money for adult things, like going to grad school, getting married, buying a house, and your future babies.”
I struggled with this decision, and for a minute, I decided to just skip the trip and stay home. But then I talked myself out of it for many reasons: When I left for Korea, I told myself I would travel as much as possible within the next year because this year was my year to do so. Before Korea, I was in college and didn’t have the time nor the money to travel anywhere. After Korea, I’m going to be too busy with grad school, starting my career, getting married and eventually starting a family. I’m also going to have more bills once I go home, like rent and a car payment again. NOW is my time to be selfish with my hard-earned money. NOW is my time to see the world before I’m tied down again. Besides, my main objective for moving to Korea was to travel; saving money was also a reason, but it wasn’t the primary one, so I don’t even know why I made that overly-ambitious goal of saving $12,000 in the first place.
Life isn’t just about paying off debt and saving up to buy a house; it’s about living. Yes, I am a 26-year-old adult, and every day I’m becoming a little more mature and learning what it means to really be an adult. However, I’m not quite ready to sacrifice my dream of seeing as much of the world as possible by becoming a slave to my student loans. That might sound irresponsible to some, but I figure as long as I keep on being frugal while I’m in Korea like I have been, pick up another tutoring job, and stick with my money-saving plan for Thailand, I can make this one last trip happen and still have some money saved by the time I move back. When I go home next April and find myself tied down again, then I will focus more on saving. But as for now, I have a trip to Thailand to plan.