A fresh start

Slowly, I started to change. I moved into an apartment with ugly brown carpeting in a boring neighborhood with a nice roommate. I started an emergency savings account, so I would stop selling off stocks to fund my whims. I made new friends who were struggling to make ends meet on their meager salaries. And I enthusiastically embraced $5 tacos for my 25th birthday dinner. I stopped doing coke.

Shopping … well, it’s still a little bit of a problem. I’m working on it.

Am I happier? I think so. I haven’t had another panic attack. I get satisfaction from watching my emergency savings rise. And I adore my friends, especially since they keep me grounded. Case in point: I’ve learned to love a summer stay-cation.

I’m also grateful for the huge safety net I have beneath me. Let me repeat that: I am so outrageously grateful for the fact that I will never end up homeless, that I can afford to have a job I love, that I don’t have student loans. Money buys me freedom from stress and worry.

But it’s true what they say: Money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s just a tool. If I use it wisely, I can inch closer to the life I want: an apartment of my own in the big city, a byline in a respected magazine and a tight-knit group of friends. As I found out -- thankfully early on -- it can also be a dangerous vehicle for self-destruction.

The name of the contributor has been changed to protect her identity and her financial accounts.

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