When I started getting a steady paycheck after college, I thought I was living the life. My expenses were pretty low, considering I lived in a semi-crappy apartment with a roommate, drove the same 2001 car my parents bought when I was 16, and had no debt. I was never naturally good with money, and my strategy was purely reactionary—if the checking account got down to almost zero, I just locked myself down until more money came in.
I was extremely lonely when I first started working and made up for it by shopping, eating out, and buying lots of drinks at shows. Since I wasn't going out much, the impact on my wallet was not too severe, but I honestly had no idea how much money I was spending. I rarely checked my bank account, and just assumed everything was fine. I was practicing a lot during this time mainly because I was new to magick and because I was bored. Coming up with new spells and buying crystals was fun and made me feel connected to people, even if they weren't in the room with me. When I started dating, and when I got back into a rhythm with my friends who were still in college, my habits started to catch up with me. I was swiping my credit card instead of paying in cash. I was treating people to things, because I'm nice and generous and this was the easiest way to be nice and generous. However, I wasn't being honest about what I could actually afford on my non-profit salary: I was the friend with the job, and therefore I had the money to spend.
I'm not going to lie to you: this four month fever dream was fun as hell. I tried tons of new restaurants with my new boyfriend, went to shows, partied at SXSW after work for a week straight, bought cute clothes and pins from etsy shops, and overall had a BLAST. Austin is a great city for young people who like to go out, and I was living it up in a way that I never did when I was in college. For our 6 month anniversary, my BF and I got a super cheap AirBnB in New Orleans and road tripped together for the first time.
When we got back, all hell broke loose. The rough roads and long hours ravaged my 15 year old car, and I broke down four times in three weeks. All those trips to the body shop, including a rebuilt transmission, buried me in almost $2500 of debt, despite getting some help from my parents. I finally had to throw in the towel and buy a new car, even though I had already sunk way more than my old car was worth into repairs, because it just kept breaking down. Suddenly I had a car payment each month, doubly expensive insurance, and credit card payments to pay off the old car repairs plus the $400 I had racked up with restaurants and online shopping. I had gone from blissfully ignorant about my finances to swimming in the broke side of the pool in just four weeks.
I struggled for MONTHS to figure out a plan that worked for me. It took awhile just to accept that I was going to have to change my lifestyle and be more mindful of my money. My magickal practice basically ceased during this time because I was so stressed out and angry at myself for what I let happen that I couldn't concentrate on anything I deemed "not productive" for more than 15 minutes. I started following several great personal finance blogs, confessed all my money sins to my mother and asked for her help in making a budget, installed Mint, and researched credit cards for zero interest balance transfers. It took a lot of time and a lot of humility, but I'm finally to the point where I feel in control of my finances. I don't spend money every day, and I don't frantically check my balance to see if my bill autopays will go through anymore.
Getting in control of my money has been essential for my wellbeing and my practice. Money was a daily source of stress for so long that I had honestly forgotten what it was like to feel empowered and happy about my financial situation. Once I opened up more mental energy that used to be occupied by money stress, I was able to see all the other ways I could be mindful and intentional in my life. Instead of lusting over magickal trinkets and spending $40 on expensive herbs and incense that I didn't really need, I got creative about what I could scavenge and collect on walks around my neighborhood. I started using kitchen supplies and scraps in my magick, and explored new kitchen spells and cosmetic glamours that didn't require any purchases. I still buy crystals and witchy things, but I am purposeful about buying from local folks or small etsy shops to better support my magickal community, and the purchases are much less frequent. Some of my favorite magickal supplies have been discovered from secrets I found in my backyard, like a precious wild honeysuckle vine, and eggshells fallen from a robin's nest. I feel connected to Gaia and the true magic of nature in a way that I didn't when I was letting boredom, convenience, and mainstream capitalism drive my magickal practices.
Money is a necessary drudgery and source of stress, unfortunately, since we live in a capitalist society. It makes some things easier, but it also separates us from our connection to nature and the communities directly around us. Capitalism thrives on making us feel bored with our lives, of showing us what we *could* have if we just fork over enough cash. Magick and witchcraft can either fall victim to this capitalist machine, or it can be a small (or big) rejection of its power of our souls, our mindfulness, and our wallets. While I certainly hope I never experience another period of such financial insecurity and stress, it's likely that I will. This time, though, I'm a little wiser and have a much stronger connection to the magick that keeps me grounded and rooted in the things that really matter, not the stuff in my house or the concerts I go to or the number of digits in my bank account.