To Thy Own Splurge Be True

 

I am frugal.

You are probably frugal too. (You are reading a financial blog, after all).

But here’s the magical thing about frugality. It is personal and everyone’s version is different.

I can choose to cut my own hair, wear my clothes until they are worn through, and cook from home most days.

You could do your own car maintenance, staycation, and keep the thermostat at 55 degrees in the winter.

Our fellow frugal compatriot could bike to work, split rent with 4 randos from Craigslist and drink Folgers coffee.

There is nothing wrong with any of these versions of frugality. Each is a different manifestation, highlighting different comfort levels and skill sets.

Inherent in each variation of frugality is a different thread of splurge.

I love to vacation in not so economical places.

You many love your coffee shop coffee and have a maid service come every two weeks.

Our fellow frugal compatriot has a super sweet gaming PC.

That’s all great! I refuse to throw shade on other people’s splurges. Frugality is a conscious choice to cut back in certain areas of life. To save where we can save. That opens the door to have the ability to spend where we choose to spend.

This is your life.

To thy own splurge be true.

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The Backpack Saga: A resourceful tale.

I’m not resourceful, or at least that’s what I tell myself.

I operate under the mindset to acquire the smallest number of things, by spending the least amount of money without harming the environment too much. Maybe that’s resourcefulness. I prefer to call myself a lazy environmentalist.  Why buy something, when I can find a way not to?

I was faced with a prime dilemma recently, challenging my lazy environmentalist ways. My lunch leaked in my backpack. EEK! My teriyaki meal prepped rice leaked out of the container, leaking sauce all over the rest of my lunch (ew). It leaked just right that it leaked out of my lunch box, on to my library book, bullet journal and all over the bottom of my back pack. Ew. Sticky Ew.

My coworker saw me dealing with my sticky mess. Her suggestion: Throw it out and start over.

What???????????????

No.

She suggested I throw out all my lunch containers (The ones in my lunch box and at home) and start over. Throw away my backpack and buy a new one. She didn’t see my now sticky bullet journal, but she probably would have suggested I throw that away and start over as well. All because of a teriyaki spill.

Never did it cross my mind to throw it all away.

I went to the lunch room and cleaned out my lunch box and all the stickiness. I let it dry in the back of my cube. Good as new.

When I came home, I threw it in the washer and soaked it in soapy water. Simple enough. I forgot about it and let it soak overnight. When I came down in the morning, the water was disgusting. Life Pro-Tip: Maybe wash your backpack more than once every 15 years.

I didn’t want to add any other clothes to the wash, so I ran it on its own. MISTAKE. I forgot to put it in a garment bag or a pillow case. It took a beating. When the wash finished, my bag was sparkling clean, but had 2 rips – a matching one on each side.

Perhaps at this point, I should have throw it out. But that didn’t cross my mind.

So my backpack had rips in it. Its a backpack. I know how to sew. I might even have some fancy contrasting thread I can use to add a little pizzazz to my wonderful backpack. I’m thinking purple Xs on my pink and black pack. Prettttty.

While I waited to let the pack dry and then procrastinated, I still had no plans of getting a new bag. I used my laptop bag for a week and it was okay. The one sided strain was what finally got me to get to stitching. Turns out, I had pink thread that was nearly a perfect match to my pack. I stitched it up while I browsed YouTube on a slow Sunday morning.

Is this resourcefulness? It probably is. I prefer to think of it as part of avoiding this crazy consumerist culture we live in. It’s more important for me to avoid that and the cycle than anything else. What if I did throw everything away after a teriyaki spill? How soon after that would I be throwing it all away again? If I throw everything away at the first sign of trouble, I will be throwing everything away constantly.

I don’t have the emotional energy to always be shopping.

Cleaning up after the accident took a few minutes at work, 30 seconds to throw it in the wash to soak and later turn on the machine. The YouTube video I watched while stitching was 45 minutes and I had video to spare. In total, spending an hour bringing my pack back to life sounds way better than shopping for a new backpack and abandoning this one.

I’m sure the environment thanks me. Laziness for the win.

Avoiding the Personal Finance Underbelly

Let me start by saying that I love the personal finance community. Blogs and twitter have been an amazing way for a numbers nerd like me to find my people. You are my people and I love you.

A side effect of being surrounded by fellow money minders is that some of us had an incredible head start. You may know some of these people.

  •  Someone on a modest income has been saving steadily for years. With a little help from the internet, they found a way to harness their savings and are sharing their financial freedom story with all of us.
  •  Someone was an alright saver but had an incredible income. They cut their spending down the bone for a short period of time and like whoa! They have enough to retire.
  •  Someone worked for a great company at the right time and got an incredible head start investing through 2008-2009 with a 1:1 100% company match. They knew how incredible of an opportunity that was and they took full advantage of it. They may have been scared at the time, but hindsight is amazing and they are leap years ahead of their peers today.
  •  Someone was super frugal and worked their way into an incredible income. They timed the housing market right in a hot market.
  •  Someone was great with computers. They were lucky enough to grow up in a time when the nerd wins. Right time, right place, right interest.

All of these stories or some combination of them may be coming through your feed. They are all great stories and we can learn from all of them. That’s why we follow the stories and the people.

I love these stories because they are inspirational. They inspired me to pay off my debt faster than I ever imagined was possible. They pushed me to max out my 401k before I felt ready even though I was. They solidified my belief that I should turn away from the rat race and make sure what I’m doing and what I’m buying is right for me, my interests, my family and my life.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the community. It truly is the best.

Unfortunately, this amazing community comes with a less than talked about underbelly. The jealousy underbelly. That left behind feeling.

Here I am at 30. Hooray, I paid off my student loans but I’m just starting to get going with my investing. My account balances are still small. I just took on a reasonable mortgage and have yet to make a single extra payment.

If I wanted to, I could look around and find 25 year olds who are already out of debt and saving aggressively. I could find people who retired at an age just a few years older than me. If I cling to the underbelly, it would be so easy to feel less than because of how far I still have to go and how many people are ahead of me.

But let’s not focus on that. There will always be someone ahead of you. Always.

Always.

Let’s focus on how far we’ve all come. Look behind you. Look around you.

The fact that you are reading this post on a blog about money probably means you are aware of your own financial situation or trying to gain that awareness. Finding awareness is the key to starting your journey. That in itself is an incredible accomplishment and you are on your way.

If you only look ahead of yourself, and don’t reflect on your own journey and your own starting point, you’ll miss the point of progress.

So please.

Find inspiration in those that came before you. But don’t fall to the underbelly. That’s where people get squished.