Moving is, without a doubt, one of the most stressful events in life. But when you find yourself moving two times in one year—stressful becomes an understatement.
And that’s exactly what happened to me.
I made the first move to my tiny apartment in the west end of Toronto due to an unfortunate breakup. In a race against time, I secured a one-bedroom unit above a restaurant in the adorable community known as The Junction. I had lived in the neighbourhood on my own when I first came to the city, so in a time of crisis, it felt like the most secure place to be. The only downfall I had faced throughout this ordeal (aside from a broken heart) was a significant hit to my bank account. As someone who was financially unprepared to move so suddenly, I relied on my already bleeding line of credit to provide first and last month’s rent. Now I found myself in debt in conjunction with higher living expenses since I was no longer splitting the cost of rent, bills, and groceries with a partner. I sold what I could to try to bring down the cost of moving, but I was still left with a glooming balance each time I logged into my bank account.
So, I did what any elder millennial with poor decision-making skills would do—I made a plan to get myself out of debt—while still attempting to live my best life. This meant I was still spending money on nights out, and city events I most certainly could not afford. But I figured, as long as I am happy and paying down some of the debt, I should be able to cruise through the year and somehow find myself debt-free by the end of it.
But fate? She had another plan for me.
In a twisted turn of events, I received a form from my landlord that stated the building I was living in was going to be destroyed, and I was to vacate from the premises within three months. Now, whether this was a stroke of bad luck or karma rearing its ugly head—I had no choice but to pack up again and leave after four short months in my new pad. I worked quickly to secure a new apartment, but the rent was higher, and my stress was through the roof as I began borrowing from my line of credit again to pay for my mistakes. I was now further in debt and more worried than ever that I was never going to be able to catch up.
I sold more of my belongings, and I took on additional freelance work to create a buffer that would help me sleep at night, despite the fact that I was destroying my credit regardless of how I played my cards. So when it finally came time to move into my new apartment, I found myself without the many items that make a house feel like a home. My living room, in particular, had nothing but a chair and my shelf full of books. I told myself that when I made a decent enough dent in my ever-growing debt, I would begin to furnish my living room.
Luckily, my bedroom furniture had remained in my possession, and I was able to create a peaceful sanctuary as a result. Instead of binging my favourite shows in front of the glow of the television, I opted for the tiny screen on my MacBook Air. I tolerated this routine, knowing there was an end date. But again, fate had a very different lesson in store for me, and this time, the world as well.
Five months after I moved into my second apartment, I decided I had paid down enough of my debt to justify the purchase of a television. I made plans with my friends to head to IKEA to purchase an inexpensive entertainment unit before running to the next store to find the TV of my dreams. As my weekend plans crept closer, the news of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) changed swiftly from a distant concern to an impending global pandemic. As more and more offices began to move to a work from home mandate, I felt that deep, unsettling feeling that everything was about to change. And as much as I wanted television to watch from the only chair in my living room, groceries and other essential supplies seemed more important to secure. So I skipped the television trip, and by Monday, I found myself working from home
Dealing with the impact of self-isolation is a very slow burn. The first two weeks weren’t so bad. But as the news began to paint a more distinct picture that we, as a community, would be self-isolating for the unforeseeable future—I suddenly began to panic. In that panic, all I could think is, “I can’t get through this without a television.”
Now, I know that seems selfish and petty, but hear me out.
My condo is already small. It’s 450 glorious square feet of nothing, and at this stage, I was already confined to my room since the living room was just books and that stupid chair. A television would provide entertainment I felt I would need to distract myself from the world when necessary, and it would also provide background noise for the nights I wasn’t able to spend with my friends and family. Living alone is, at times, lonely, and sometimes just the murmur of Michael Scott in the background, while you cook dinner, can make you feel less alone. This is part of what drove me to purchase a television and entertainment stand during a global pandemic. I toyed with the guilt for days. I talked myself out of buying these items multiple times for fear I would be judged for ordering a non-essential item from Amazon, and for spending money on frivolous things during a time when some individuals can barely get dinner on the table for their family. But my justification for wanting to create a space I could tolerate alone for an unspecified amount of time drove me to the purchase.
On the day that the television stand and entertainment unit arrived, I was still battling my guilt. I felt ashamed as I secured the television from the lobby of my condo, and I felt even worse when the gentleman tapped on my door to drop off a large package that was clearly not food or toilet paper. It took me more than two hours to set up the stand and program the television, and after the job was complete, I took a step back and admired my work with tears streaming down my face. What had started as shame and guilt had changed to pride and happiness. I felt pride because I had built everything on my own when I would usually rely on my best friend to help me. And I felt happy because now I had something to keep me company during the inevitable lonely nights, a welcome distraction from the world when I needed it.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know how a purchase will make you feel. However, I’ve come to find that trusting your gut is often what can lead you to the right decisions. It can also bring you moments of joy during a time that is anything but joyful.
Discover the behaviours that impact your spending habits. Wellspent can help you prioritize and assess your spending during these unprecedented times. Value the money you do have and learn how to make mindful decisions in the process.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.