Spending to your means

Money is weird. Everyone needs it. We all spend inordinate amounts of time trying to get it. But its taboo to talk about. Well, whatever.

Money is really an issue of perspective. When I was in 9th grade, I stopped biting my nails for 6 months because my mom told me she’d give me $20 if I did. And that was a lot of money (worth 6 months discipline apparently)!

I always said that if I ever had a lot of money, I would not be one of those people who spent a bunch of money. I’d live the same way and bank it. Easier said than done, apparently.

This year has been one of crazy adjustments. Last year I was a student. I lived on about $10,000 per year. And I was fine! Somehow… I made my bills. I ate. I drove. I had fun. When I heard about people making five or ten times that without savings accounts I was like– whatttttever. If I can live on 10K so can you and bank the rest.

Then I became a “lawyer” (weird) and started making actual money.. and I can already feel myself slipping. Last year I spent a month analyzing different cameras, and ended up spending around $800 on a Rebel XTI body (Love!). This year, I spent 2 days deciding to buy a $700 lens for that camera (to be delivered tomorrow.. can’t wait!). Just for example.

I was jogging last week with my friend, who is an elementary school teacher. I don’t know what she makes, but I’d imagine it is about half of what I make. Maybe less. She said she was disappointed in herself because somehow she would only manage to save HALF of her salary for the year and she thought she could’ve done better. Ummmm. I didn’t save half my salary and I make at least double what she does! What the hell is wrong with me. I don’t feel like I live an extravagant life.. but the purchases are adding up. Somehow I see my paycheck and I feel entitled. Why shouldn’t I buy that purse or those sunglasses or this lens? I have the money in my account.

But do I NEED them? I know she has far lower expenses than I do, but the truth is she’s also just way better at saving. She is better at shopping. Ugh.

It’s so hard to find balance. Balance between not blowing money, and enjoying what I have. Should I scrimp now to set myself up for a better future? Or should I have fun now while I”m still young and single and childless? How much is the “right” amount to save?

And I know. I KNOW this is seriously not a “problem.” People, tons of people, have a real problem of no job or a job making too little and they can’t make their bills, let alone think about saving. I know that I’m incredibly lucky to be gainfully employed. But it’s my blog, and it’s on my mind tonight.

I see arguments on all sides. Does taking my coach purse (rather than one of my many target purses) to a networking event make me look more successful? And thus help me make connections? Would anyone else really notice? Unfortunately my field is one in which “image matters” and a huge portion of business is generated based on connections and referrals. Or is it all just an excuse to buy another something-or-other that I don’t need?

And how do I spend my savings? Do I really keep a 6 month emergency fund at all times? Or do I use part of that as a down payment on a house? Or on a wedding (assuming, ya know… I’m engaged at some point)?

I guess the answer is… I should not stay up past my bed time and blog. Because I have a whole lot of questions with no good answers and no coherent thought pattern. 🙂

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