By: Revanche

Frontloading the Pain, Wallow in the Gain: A Saver’s Tale

August 16, 2011

As I raised my fork a last time, scarfing the final bite of my turkey meatball, PiC’s expression registered in my brain.

“You didn’t even cut it up!”
I chewed. I swallowed. “Why would I? It’s the last thing I had to eat.”
“It’s huge!”
“…so?  Now I’ll only remember the best stuff.”

Ah yes, after nearly (counting on my fingers now … 7? 8? years), I can still horrify my beloved future spouse with my eating habits.

Actually, the fact that I engulfed half a “huge” turkey meatball in a bite was less weird to him than the fact that I saved an entire meatball out of my bowl of pasta, brussels sprouts, and cucumber salad.  But it’s what I always do.  At least, it’s what I always do when staring down a food I don’t enjoy.

We all know brussels sprouts have to be done right and they were verily not done right that night.  Facing still-bitter brussels sprouts, I immediately reverted to my nine-year-old self’s reliable strategy: choke down all the bad stuff first, paired with the good stuff in small amounts, save some thing really good for last to eliminate the horrid flavors to save the meal by finishing off with the best flavors again. No bad aftertaste for me!

Plus, I don’t know about your parents but the more you whined about the gross stuff, the more you risked annoying them so you shut up and you ate it.  None of that napkin business, either, Eagle Eyes would give you a few dozen reasons not to sit for a week.  At least that’s what I assume, never having been bold enough to try it.

I got to thinking.  Didn’t he know that was normal?

If memory serves, that’s always been par for the course.  If I had to do something I didn’t want to do and had the choice between Now vs. Later, I’d want to do it now so I could have all of later to myself.

If I came home from school with homework, my desk lamp flipped on and the homework was laid out to be done first … well, because I was a nerd and actually thought it was fun at first. When the shiny wore off and it was just work versus playing with the dogs or reading, I did the work first so that I could play ALL NIGHT.  Never mind that I might actually go to bed in half an hour if the homework took too long, I would still work first, play after. Play after always felt more fun.  It wasn’t tainted by the foreboding of stuff to do later.

As a teen, I came home on Fridays to clean my room and did the laundry. Why? Because if I did all the chores on Friday, then I had the whole weekend to do absolutely nothing I didn’t want to do.  And it didn’t matter that something could come up. It would just be a blip on the radar of all that free time.  Weekends were great because at least I could guarantee it wouldn’t be interrupted by anything silly like something I knew I could have done the day before.

This extended to how I felt about Things: given a cache of candy, I’d hoard it for later. It was insurance that Later, I would have treats.  Same with money: everything went into a piggybank. When I had bills, I paid them and saved everything else. I couldn’t think of anything more sweet than having that cash for later, because that was security. Whatever Later was, it was better.

Time off, oh yes, I definitely hoarded paid time off. When I left one job, I had something like 350 hours of vacation time. I loved that big squeezeable number that meant if anything happened, I could take all the time off I needed to deal with it.

When I discovered Fatwallet and PF blogs in the early 2000s, it was like nerd nirvana, y’all.  Savings Valhalla. So. Many. Ways. To. Save!  Even now, I daydream about making six figures mostly to play-budget how much I can save.

Now, I realize this might sound insane. But this is precisely the mechanism that made it possible to do what I did for those 10 years. It’s like I was engineered to be thrilled to pay off debt (that wasn’t even mine) because “later, I’ll be happier when I’m done.”  I was so focused on the outcome of “later” that the Now wasn’t an issue. The only conflict was in that the paying off debt part meant I couldn’t save, but that eventually resolved itself when I worked a (few) thousand hours of overtime to pay everything and then start saving.


These days, the idea that Now Matters has sunk in.

Balance is still fairly foreign to my vocabulary, but I’m liking the idea.  I think PiC has a lot to do with that because he’s very much the opposite. He enjoys the present and prefers to have his goodies now rather than later; it’s weird to me to keep running out of his favorites. He enjoys sharing good times and good foods with me and family now rather than solely focusing on the future, and this has distracted me from my intense focus more frequently.  We’re finding ways to meet closer to the middle.

I spend a lot of time Now taking care of it Later, but it lies in the background more than ever before. I still love saving the best for last, still hoarding my Kit Kats but now I actually enjoy one when the craving strikes instead of pretending they don’t exist.

…. but I always refuse to eat the last one until there are more.  Because I’m still a saver/hoarder at heart. 😉

Can anyone relate to this?  Or am I also the circus freak among my PF friends?


My thanks …..

to Nelson at Financial Uproar for hosting this week’s Carnival of Personal Finance and for including my post An Annual Evaluation, Belatedly.  Be sure to submit to next week’s Carnival.

11 Responses to “Frontloading the Pain, Wallow in the Gain: A Saver’s Tale”

  1. I am the same way! Although, as an adult, I’m getting more into NOW when I get home from work, and then end up scrambling to prepare for tomorrow before bed.

    But when I was a kid…I would eat the not-as-good Halloween candy first, and make the good stuff last until Easter, when more candy would be on the way! (supplemented with candy canes from Christmas)

  2. Red says:

    Okay, how bad is it that I *still* do that with my food? When I cook a roast with carrots and potatoes, I take each bite with a little bit of roast to keep away the gross (read: healthy) flavor of the veggies. Meh, if it’s the only way I’m going to eat vegetables, I’m okay owning up to it. You’re not alone, circus freak. 😉

  3. I was a saver too. I love brussels sprouts any old way. You will love them too if you sprinkle with olive oil and roast them.

  4. eemusings says:

    Ahh yes. Just another way T and I are opposites! I’ve ALWAYS ALWAYS preferred to get the boring things out of the way first so I can enjoy the good stuff (work, exercise, food, whatevs). He likes to do it the other way around.

    Also, I’ve still never eaten brussel sprouts.

  5. This is so incredibly me, and so incredibly NOT BF. We’re both decent savers, BF is probably the best saver out of the two of us (hello shoes and clothes)

    I save the best for last, and he eats the best first unless I know that I can leave the worst for someone (like prunes in a fruit salad)

    He says it’s a throwback from having to eat with his sister, who loves food as much as he does and has a fast forking technique.

    I always always do this.

  6. brussels sprouts are nasty… these days I don’t eat them at all! I’m a grown-up and I don’t have to. There are plenty of other veggies worth eating.

    I wish I were as good about getting homework out of the way first. Sometimes I was and sometimes I wasn’t. Generally when it was something short I would, but something longer I would procrastinate a bit. I did a lot of last minute dioramas.

    In terms of money we totally killed education debt first and didn’t start spending until we had a LARGE emergency fund. But we’ve loosened up a lot. I’m pretty happy with that balance… if we have a lot saved and a healthy income we can spend more money, if all we have is debt, we’re in hyper savings mode. I think that’s healthy.

  7. elke says:

    I was always a saver- as a kid I’d eat the watery veg and the instant mashed potatoes first, and save the meat for last. (It had more taste.) Now that I’ve been eating my own cooking for many years, I’ve changed. I like everything I make, even Brussels sprouts, so I can eat like a grown-up. Even now, though, I hate to run out of anything, because that limits the possibilities.

  8. I love veggies so it was the opposite for me LOL I would eat the main dish first and save the veggies for last. Also I do the same thing with getting something done first and out of the way so we can play.

  9. Shelley says:

    I don’t know that I’m this disciplined in all areas, but the idea of saving the best for last sounds right to me. Only I tend to eat first what will be least appealing if it gets cold (being a tightwad with the heating in Northern England). I’ve never been big on housework, sadly, but then it never seems to me to be as neat a finite set of chores (hmmm, must think about that one, could be v. useful idea). I did recognise early on that I couldn’t really enjoy watching TV whilst the grimlin of worry sat on my shoulder and nagged me about unfinished homework. Easier to do that first. I like the balance of ‘Live for now, plan for the future’. Both are important! Great post!

  10. This reminds me of a convo I had with my BFF, G, regarding our eating habits.

    I’ll eat moderately switching between favourites & non-faves. If it’s something I don’t like though, i’d eat it regardless but the last bite must be what I love the most so it’s the last flavour in my mouth. And essentially that’s how I spend/save too. Moderately as possible.

    G, on the other hand, argued that stomach is prime real estate and that food is delicious when it’s hot. As such, her favourites get prime spot in her tummy so not only she can enjoy it more but utilizes the full optimization of it too. What she doesn’t get is pecked on later which tends to describe how she spends as well.

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