So, my thoughts on posting about my spending. In a word? It’s been hard. Really hard. I don’t think I realized before how intensely personal spending money is to me. Or at least, how intensely personal it can feel. There are so many aspects of who I am, how I grew up, what I feel is important, wrapped up in my choices. Some choices happen on autopilot, the results of habits hardening over time and some are well thought out, even agonized over. To put it all out there, for people to know and judge, it’s a lot. (And yes, we’re all judging, it’s what we do. In fact, it’s what I asked you to do,)
It’s hard because I only write down what I spend, not the (many) things I choose not to get. It’s difficult because I feel a lot of shame about my spending. It’s one of the two biggest “problem areas” in my life, and I am not proud of anything, really, when it comes to money. I don’t feel competent. I don’t feel capable. I feel like a glutton. And a fuck up.
So sharing where every single dollar goes makes me feel very open, exposed, raw.
The thing is, I have never limited my spending. Not in any real, productive way. I grew up getting whatever I wanted and I got used it (I’m sure I didn’t get everything I wanted, especially when I was a little kid, but it felt like I did when I was older). I honestly don’t really know how to not get what I want. I feel horrible saying it, but it’s true. I’m spoiled. And entitled. I’m the product of two parents who had next to nothing growing up and overcompensated later in life, giving their kids everything they never had (to be fair, my sister grew up in the same environment and she never buys herself anything, but she does have very high expectations for every aspects of her life, those expectations just aren’t centered around stuff).
I started working when I was in high school, but my parents paid for everything I needed, so I was able to spend what I made on what I wanted. And I wanted a lot. I kept up these irresponsible, sometimes even destructive, spending habits well into my 20s. It wasn’t until I had kids that I started becoming aware of how much I was spending on stuff I didn’t need, and even then I couldn’t seem to do anything about it.
The fact that I didn’t rack up any credit card debt until I was on maternity leave speaks to the fact that my mom was actually REALLY good with money and taught me to never bounce a check or carry a balance. So I suppose I did put restrictions on myself, but even as an adult my parents always helped enough with my “needs” that I hardly had to reign in my “wants.” And I never looked ahead enough to put even a cent away into savings. A meager $300/month retirement contribution was all I’ve ever managed.
When I met my now-husband he worked as a corporate attorney and made huge amounts of money, but continued living within the means of a law student as far as the big ticket items were concerned (he rented a room in an apartment with five other guys, didn’t own a car, didn’t buy nice clothes or things). We got used to eating out at all the trendy restaurants, or just ordering in when we were too tired to cook (which was most of the time). We got used to doing whatever it was we wanted to do.
Now a days we only regularly get take-out meals that end up being $4 (or less) for a single meal (like our local extra large pizza or steamed buns). We treat ourselves to $8 burritos (which is just a regular burrito in our area, nothing fancy) about 2x a month. And yes, when it’s a special occasion we go out to eat. It’s what people in San Francisco do. (And I know it’s not a reason to do it, but it’s hard to ignore).
Really though, it’s true. All the people we know in this city live this way. Everyone is making the choices we make. All our friends go out to eat, see shows, and go to events. They just do. It’s what people in this city do. It’s why they live here, because they want to do these things.
I don’t know how they afford it. My guess is they don’t. Some of them still don’t have kids, so that helps them make ends meet. Some of them definitely make more than us, but most of our parent friends are in our socio-economic bracket. They all order in, or go out to eat. The do date nights. (And the vast majority have to pay for a sitter to do it! I bet we save over a thousand dollars a year by having grandparents around to watch our kids for us–and we have more opportunities to go out because of it.)
I’m not saying that because we see other people doing it, we should be able to as well. I guess I’m just trying to explain some of the choices we make. I don’t think we’re trying to keep up with the jonses, we just see people living a certain way and we assume we should be able to live that way too. It’s why we’ve never looked closely at what we spend, because we didn’t consider our choices extravagant. It all just seemed normal.
Creating a budget that includes savings is going to seriously alter the way we live. We will have to make so many different choices. We will have to determine what is most important to us, and what we actually need We’ll have to learn to say no, to others but most importantly to ourselves. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going make us feel uncomfortable, and upset, and angry, and frustrated, and depressed. In the end we need to find a way to make it work. It would be irresponsible not to.
Posting my weekly spending is just the first baby steps of a thousand mile journey. I’m not going to get it all right in week two, or three, or even 15. It will be a work in progress and slowly, but surely I will move in the right direction. Already the idea of ordering from a Thai place we used to frequent seems like a luxury, I’m sure the idea of getting a pizza will feel that way in a few years.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep posting my spending, even though it makes me feel a lot of things I’d rather not feel. I’m going to put it out there, because it does help. When I know I’ll be held accountable by all of you, I’m better at holding myself accountable. There have been times I’ve wanted to get something, something that would absolutely break my spending ban. I’ve even toyed with the idea of buying something and just lying to all of you about it. A simple omission and it would all be okay, no one would be the wiser. Except for me. I would know. And I have to remind myself every time that lying here, in this space, is only lying to myself. And that is what keeps me from doing it, every time.
So I’ll keep posting an inventory of what I spend. I’ll keep writing about this budget journey. There is still so much for me to do and it’s going to take a long time to do it. One budget post at a time.
Do you think spending is a personal thing? How much do you feel comfortable sharing about it?