Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day 236 of 365: Fun Money

I'll be the first to admit that my husband and I really lucked out after I graduated college: we never had to budget.

Neither of us had an absurd amount of student debt (his parents helped out a considerable amount; I had scholarship and co-op money to soften the blow, and my mom used part of the estate she inherited from her own mother to help me with my loans) and neither of us had issues finding employment in our fields of interest. Especially once we moved out to New Hampshire (with the combo no-income-tax-and-cheaper-rent), money was never really an issue. Saving up for a house was probably way easier for us than it should have been. We were keen on impulse shopping, impulse vacations, and absurd amounts of gifts to everyone in our respective families.

And then we bought a house and I left teaching.

On top of that, we bought a second car, my husband went back to school to get his MBA, and, at the beginning of this year, I went back to become certified as a yoga instructor. And while I love being my own boss, freelancing doesn't exactly bring in the steady income like being a full-time teacher did. Suddenly, money stopped being something you spend like you're a freshman in college.

I can't help but feel like Gwyneth Paltrow; so out of touch with reality, looking at how normal people budget out money like it's a brand new concept. They make shitty comedies about people like that. But it's a weird thing to get used to: suddenly, we can't just buy concert or comedy tickets "just because". We can't just invest in a new piece of technology "just because". Suddenly, we actually have to be adults.

So we've started doing what one of our friends does (who not only has a mortgage and only one full-time income, but two kids to boot): we're setting aside a very specific amount of "fun money". While we still pool our earnings into one account, we dole out a little bit each week for our respective "fun things". Which, for me, involves things like yoga classes and whatever's on sale at Michael's.

In the movies, someone who is not used to budgeting suddenly having to budget usually results in tantrums and maxed-out credit cards. For me, it's a breath of fresh air. I'm shit at Knowing How to Adult. I'm just getting used to the idea of grocery lists and planned-out meals. I lucked out and got to act like a college student long after I graduated, but that shit has to eventually end. As much as I wish I was some trust fund baby, I'm not, and I never will be.

Plus, it gives me a noticeable, tangible understanding of where the money is and what it could be going to. Because my spending habits are usually limited to the yoga studio and the clearance section at stores, there's a chance I could actually -- and effectively -- save up for the big-ticket items. Like furniture for the house. Or vacations. Things that are harder to save up for when you're just looking at your checking account and incorrectly budget out money for mortgage and car payments.

Because that's what I love. I don't care about retail therapy (which is good, given my impulsive/compulsive personality, as mentioned in my last post), but I do care about visiting the world. I don't care about buying a round of shots, but I do care about buying a round kitchenette table (so our dining room table can finally move into the dining room). And this can mean the difference between getting that $10 skirt because ~it's on sale and it's cute~ and going back home to find an adorable skirt I already own.

This is an obnoxious post, and I fully recognize it. But, again: the beauty of a daily blog project is that there'll be a brand new post tomorrow. Perhaps a less GOOP-like post.

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