Month in Review,  Personal Finance

Month in Review: March 2024

Every month, I track my spending and share them openly here. In my Month in Reviews, I go over notable (and often discretionary expenses) for the month and reflect on some key areas of life tied to money, either directly or indirectly: career, health, relationships and personal growth.

Spending breakdown

My expenses hit $3,811 in March, which is $311 higher than what I initially budgeted for the month. 

One area that continues to stand out is my food expenses. Despite cutting back on dining out and going for drinks, my spending on groceries, food delivery, and – somewhat surprisingly – snacks increased. 

Honestly, it doesn’t FEEL like I’m spending a lot more money because I don’t go out as often as I used to. But the numbers tell a different story. 

I went back to my expense tracker in 2023 to compare and found that I spent an average of $460 on food each month. That’s a good deal less than what the data from Q1 2024 shows, which currently stands at about $860 a month. I’m not celebrating this change but I’m adapting and adjusting my budget accordingly. 

Anxiety and depression rears its ugly head

Personal finance took a backseat in March. What was more challenging in March was navigating another bout of anxiety and depression. 

This isn’t a new battle for me and up until a few years ago, it used to bother me so much to admit that I am an anxiety-prone person. But therapy has helped me reframe my perception of my mental health struggle, recognising that this is part of who I am and my life’s journey. 

As the month progressed, I noticed my mental health deteriorate slowly. This made it increasingly difficult to engage in self-care practices that usually help – healthy eating, exercise, meditation, therapy, and seeking support. 

Realising that anxiety is having a tighter grip on you is irritating AF, but I find accepting this state tends to be more beneficial than ignoring it. 

But this meant that even the most basic tasks felt overwhelming on some days. Other days I was feeling so apathetic that I just didn’t care at all. So to nobody’s surprise, my productivity and work were affected. 

And it really doesn’t help recovery when there is constant pressure (and constant reminders) that we HAVE to perform in a relentless capitalist system. One that doesn’t pause for personal struggles. 

You can’t just tell the system, “Hey I’m in a bad headspace at the moment and need time to rest, reset, and think, could capitalism stop capitalising while I do this? I promise I’ll be back to 100% soon to participate in the system again.”

But that’s not how the world works. Bills still need paying, groceries need buying, and work must be done in order to afford being alive. 

So I just push through, and do the best I can. Even if it is just the bare minimum, which was completing client deliverables. Everything else, well, they fell by the wayside. 

I try not to beat myself up over not getting bigger, more important, needle-moving things done. After all, it’s hard to plan for the future when there is a thick haze in your mind clouding your thoughts and judgement about the now.

Letting go of the idea of hustle

This period of heightened anxiety has also forced me to reevaluate my ideas about work and success. 

On an almost daily basis, I found myself getting anxious over not being productive enough, or not working “hard” enough. Minor tasks such as doing administrative work would send me into a tailspin, and every mistake I made was magnified. It was exhausting. 

I’d tell myself, “You’re not hustling enough for an entrepreneur.” You see, I had this mental image in my mind of what an entrepreneur looked like. 

This is the mental image:

This grainy photo exhibits the telltale signs and hallmarks of “hustle”. A guy looking harried and tired, at a computer desk. Behind him, in place of sunlight, the windows reflect the fluorescent lights in the office, indicating that he’s probably working well into the night. 

In the early days of Amazon, it was said that Bezos worked 12 hours a day, up until 3 am and even 7 days a week

You might be familiar with Bezos’ story or you might have heard similar tales about other successful entrepreneurs. 

The message in these stories was clear. To get anywhere in life, you had to work relentlessly. 

This was the mindset I had going into my own entrepreneurial journey. But as I grappled with anxiety, this mindset completely backfired on me. 

Anxiety is a stress response, your body goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode. In other words, your body signals that you’re in danger, thus shutting down higher cognitive functions needed for critical thought. 

Being in survival mode just exacerbates negative thoughts – if I am not able to push through and get work done, I am not trying hard enough. And if I don’t try hard enough, I’m not going to be a successful entrepreneur. 

Obviously, this line of thinking leads to a worse outcome – the cycle of anxiety and depression worsens because I am not meeting the standard I’ve set for myself. 

But in a conversation with someone over this very topic, they asked me:

Why are you measuring yourself against male billionaires who are biologically different (it’s well known that women’s energy levels are impacted by their menstrual cycle), psychologically, and economically different, and whose circumstances and business goals vastly differ from yours? 

You know what, she’s right! Also, I don’t even like Jeff Bezos! So, why the eff am I comparing myself to him?

That prompted me to explore other alternative models of success – perhaps ones that prioritise balance, well-being, and long-term sustainability over relentless hustle. 

So I’m practicing giving myself some slack as an exercise to help pull myself out of this depressive hole. I’ve also been reflecting on defining an alternative idea of success and what it means to be an entrepreneur. 

I don’t have all the answers yet, but I’m letting my values guide me, and I’m committing to unlearning harmful thought patterns and – ugh, I hate that I’m going to use this phrase because it’s so overused in wellness circles – limiting beliefs. 

That’s it from me. How was your March? What were your revelations from the first quarter of this year, financial or otherwise? Share your thoughts in the comments, or follow me on FacebookTwitteror Instagram. 

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