By: Revanche

Shifts in money attitudes and life priorities

August 6, 2012

Subtle shifts have been happening in our lives over this past year and a half, underneath all the big stuff, and I’ve had a hell of a time processing the whole of it.

The part about us….

PiC and I spent a long time circling the table, not outright talking about the money issues in detail.  We didn’t make time, between the overworking, the travel, the other life stuff, but it seems we’ve still ended up on the same page, or at least in the same chapter.

We want the same things philosophically:  financial stability, the ability to care for ourselves and our family (whatever that family is), the freedom to live our lives with some choice and reasonable amenities.

We want the same things materially in the near future: a home where the Doggle can roam (he gets everything), a chance to improve my health so that we can make decisions about life a little less under duress, more time for him to dedicate to his hobbies.

And that’s good. The details aren’t always exactly aligned but that’s part of the process. And you know, partnerships.

The part about money …

There comes a time when Bag Lady Syndrome fades a little. It doesn’t go away entirely. But it fades. I look at our retirement accounts, and I see that they’re not piddling. I look across all our accounts and see that they’re not astounding but they’re a variety of vehicles and growing incrementally despite the fact that I know we are spending money every month, and not necessarily on things I always approve of.

Guess what? We can spend on necessities, save, support my dad, spend on non-necessities and it’s not the end of the world. Heaven forfend, we haven’t combined finances yet either. Shut the front door. We’re not hiding anything from each other, the small things are small things, the big things don’t happen in the dark, and we haven’t crashed our cash flow or our savings. Bit of a shocker, to be honest.

It’s like we just ran an experiment on ourselves. We can live in an universe where my heart doesn’t stop if I don’t know where every single penny goes, and he doesn’t spend like a Spender chafing under the restrictions of Revanche, CFO. Certainly it could use some fine-tuning but that’ll happen as it does.

I don’t know if it comes to a greater surprise to anyone than me that this is possible. Among other surprises:  He still tracks all of his expenses. I don’t anymore, I know when I spend cash and I note it somewhere but make it a point to nearly never do that, and just keep an eye on my CC statements.

I still don’t track our combined Net Worths yet.  That’s a Mount Midoriyama for another day.

The part about self care….

Everything under the subject of my health has been a slog this year. I would say a challenge but I rise up to challenges. This has been more of a death march.

I’m happy that I’m able to function, but that’s a loose use of the word function. There are indicators that even for me, even with my typical ability to power through pain, enough is enough.

We passed “enough” several weeks ago.

I worked with my doctor on a variety of treatments. It’s hugely time consuming (opportunity cost) and sometimes expensive, but if I’m going to make it through this period until I resolve the bigger underlying problems, I absolutely have to do it.

If I hadn’t made some of the choices I did earlier on with my career starting with leaving my first industry to go white collar, moving into the roles that I have, cultivating the position and support, setting up and training my team, etc., I suspect that I wouldn’t have the choice of taking that time out or spend my money without anyone balking or questioning me. So I’m grateful not to worry as much about my job security as other people would have to. This is a combination of work, luck, skill, and privilege (On privilege: Oil and Garlic and Cloud) The daily stress is bad enough without adding that particular type of stressor to the mix.

My FSA account has been getting worked over and when we got married I added more money to it. I’m certain it will be drained by the treatments before the year’s end.

This is new – taking care of myself and spending real time and money to do it. I’ve been living with this pain since long before I’ve taken care of my family.  For the first time, not that I don’t still have responsibilities and people depending on me, but for the first time, my health is finally a real priority for me and not just an obstacle to get past.

I suspect it was because I never wanted it to define my life, to limit my life or to be the focus, particularly because I dealt with ignorant doctors for umpteen years who dismissed the problem as “all in your head” and refused to diagnose it, leaving me with no answers and no possible solutions. But by ignoring it, that’s still exactly what the health issues became. Now, it’s time to really deal with it as best I can.

It’s no coincidence that this is a priority now. Without the Iron Fist Grip on the finances loosening, survival would have remained the top priority, not thriving.

Nicole and Maggie and feMOMhist both talked about this.

The part about having and doing nice things ….  

Lots of my old habits still hold: I still don’t go out to eat, especially alone, making do w/freezer or pantry. I only buy strictly utilitarian clothes. I buy books if I have Amazon credits. I occupy free time by working on projects that make me happy instead of going out (and spending).  These aren’t deprivations – these are habits I keep because they make me happy or not unhappy.  But I can spend a little now, and so I will.

The happiness value of PiC buying things on sale from his favorite shops or my shipping a package of Cheer Ye Up goodies to a friend cost about the same. They also don’t happen every day or week, so they add up slowly.

We will eat out at our local ethnic restaurants together when we’re too tired or pressed for time to cook. The food’s good and meals will come under $25 for two.  That’s a nice thing we can do for ourselves.

One or the other of us can buy a semi-big ticket item once in a while as well. He was of the belief that it was never a problem if it was a need (trumping cash flow) while I believed it was always a problem regardless of the need (cash flow trumps). We’re in agreement now: it’s ok for it to be a sometimes thing.

Packing at the last minute for work travel earlier this year, I realized something seemingly trivial but rather embarrassing. I didn’t have any decent handbag in good condition that could double as a lightweight travel bag.

It’s just not something I think about – I use whatever comes to hand, lightweight totes or old purses, on personal travel because I don’t need nice stuff. It’s going to get tossed around in a car, a plane, a train, or wherever else I’m going.  Nice stuff is for the aspirational me.  Or so I had decided, dismissively.

But, in business as in most formal settings, one shouldn’t show up unkempt if you’re meant to be taken seriously. Well, unless you’re the eccentric genius or much-lauded brilliant whosifer in which case you could have half a head of hair the wrong way on and it wouldn’t much matter. That is not me.

So when I showed up to that conference, with fraying bag handles on a decades-old bag that I didn’t notice until I got there?  It was like showing up to a formal interview with a hole in my shirt. Igh! That bag was tucked right under the table with a silent promise to take care of it when I got home.

I don’t call consumer goods “investments”, but having a good set of clean, crisp clothing and a set of decent accessories to go with it is, I will ‘fess up, worth something. I’d come around on the clothing thing a while ago, but had a blind spot when it came to the accessories, particularly the handbag thing. It’s one of those things that is invisible until you bring an eyesore.  (As it turns out, I should have learned my lesson about three years ago.)

I returned, hangdog on the matter, and grumpy that I had to find something *just right*.  Only complicated the search by insisting it had to cost under $80.

PiC endured my online shopping plaints for a week, helped searched for bags, then told me to shut up and raise my price point. No, he was nicer about it. But even I was sick of the whole thing by then. It took nearly a month but I ended up spending – I wasn’t going to say but, this is still a finance blog – $400.  I bought gift cards at a discount first but it was still a hefty whack.

I would probably have had an mini-aneurysm over that out of context except:

I haven’t purchased a purse in 4 years.
I won’t buy another one for probably at least another 5-7 years.
It’s a very sturdy, lightweight bag from Nordstrom so, should there be any quality issues I won’t have any issues returning it.

The most important point, though, is that I didn’t need to stress about this relatively high-ticket purchase – it came out of my cash flow and didn’t impact anything.

Even though it wasn’t planned for, it was within my means because I’ve not been spending much of my disposable income.  So once I committed, and determined that it would suit the purpose, it was fine.

The part where I realize …. 

We are in wealth nurturing mode. At some point, even I stopped needing to stay in survival gear. For twelve years, I drove in multiple gears: saving, maintaining survival gear, and investing, all simultaneously for various parts of the family.  It comes as a surprise that maintaining frugality is, for the moment, a practiced preference and habit, not a need.

We can afford to invest in my health, speculate a little about our future, and think about trying new things rather than just doubling down if we’re willing to stretch ourselves in different directions.

It’s time to start evaluating those options, those roads I didn’t even peer down once upon a midnight sky, because the only road I ever set my feet down was the one I was sure would keep my family under a roof with food on the table.  It’s time to marshal the resources and start dreaming. For the first time, maybe.

32 Responses to “Shifts in money attitudes and life priorities”

  1. I love that you’re finally letting up a little control. It’s hard to change a mindset. Mine is the opposite mindset — not spending so much (on stuff I DON’T NEED!!!) that I don’t meet my lofty PF goals.

    Also. PiC was right to tell you to raise your price point. Even if it’s $400, you have to take your health into account as you DO need a lighter bag as not to hurt yourself. Well worth it.

    Dream on!!!

    • Revanche says:

      I suppose I never learned the idea of spending so much on stuff I didn’t need except in the context of spending on cheap stuff or gifts for others.

      And yes, the trade off on cost was definitely because of the weight issue. So. Difficult.

  2. oilandgarlic says:

    I’m glad you reached a point in life where you can save and enjoy your money a bit, too.

    • Revanche says:

      Thank you. It’s been and will keep on being a journey. And I’ll look over it retrospectively when I can, I think.

  3. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and I find your sacrifice both inspirational and heart breaking. You do so much for your family, and hold yourself to so much responsibility starting at such a young age. I hope you take care of your health more and indulge a little bit, now and then. You’ve worked so hard for it, and have pulled more than your fair share.

    Take care of yourself, k? 🙂

  4. Karen says:

    You know I want to see what bag you picked 🙂 I love Nordstrom. I wish I could afford it more.

    • Revanche says:

      🙂 Yes, I’m getting that sense! It’s not usually my sort of place, thankfully, I don’t find much that fits me physically or mentally so I don’t mind that it also doesn’t fit my budget so much either.

  5. Jenn says:

    I agree with what everyone else has said. And I also want to see the bag! 🙂

  6. Such a poignant blog post. I look forward to being debt free and focusing on wealth building. Less than a year now!

  7. Sense says:

    I agree with all of the above commenters. I have long been hoping that this point would come and you would get to relax a bit (or at least focus on yourself, which can be anything but relaxing). A $400 bag for work? Yes, you have earned the right to that bag (and much more that will make you more comfortable and healthier) many many times over. I will kick anyone who says otherwise in both shins, hard.

    I never sacrificed nearly as much as you have for financial security, but now that I am feeling more comfortable with my financial state, I am giving in a little to take care of issues that I’ve long put on the back-burner. I’m starting to suspect I did so, partly, because it was just easier to hide behind the excuse that I didn’t have the money (or something…that is a psychological trip I’m only starting to think about taking). Three cheers for finally having the means and mind set to take care of ourselves!

    • Revanche says:

      🙂

      So good to know I can rely on someone!

      It’s so much easier to hide behind the money excuse when we’ve trained ourselves to be in that saving mindset. But learning balance is just another way to achieve new, maybe less visible but equally worthy, goals, I guess 😉

  8. I love how PiC balances you out and you do the same for him. 🙂

  9. Katherine says:

    I loved reading this. So glad to hear that things are going so positively for you and that you are finally taking the time out to take care of yourself. Add me to the list of others who want to see the bag in the future – but in the meanwhile happy to hear that you are treating yourself, you’re not feeling guilty (too much at least! 🙂 ) and that you are happy! Hugs.

  10. Wait. What? You wanted to get a handbag for under $80? What kinds of sales are they having in the City these days? 😉 Actually, I also will spend a couple hundred bucks (or, ahem, more) on a good bag, but the proviso is that the thing has to be made well enough to last several years. I see the handbag as comparable to a piece of luggage: it has to be sturdy enough to survive, to carry the infrastructure of my entire life, and, because it also complements my clothing, it has to be presentable and stay that way for a good long time.

    Glad to hear you’re spending on health care. I hope the treatments are working and that you feel a lot better. Life is short. Eternity is long. Take care of yourself now, not later.

    • Revanche says:

      Please to stop pointing out my crazy with regards to shopping. It could happen. …… 😀

      I know, I knnooow. I always start off stupid, though. I simply can’t help but to negotiate with myself first.

      One step at a time!

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  12. Cait says:

    You are one of the most conscious people I know. Thank you for the beautiful insight to your life. It takes a long time, and a lot of experience, to allow your mind to shift its natural thought process. You and PiC sound like the definition of a balanced team. <3

    • Revanche says:

      Happily, relatively balanced though by no means perfect!

      We still have work to do, so I attribute a fair amount to luck considering we didn’t actually talk a lot of it out as recommended by you know, even ME. 🙂 We’re still evolving and I know I needed the time and space to shift first before we tried to make big conversations work.

      We’ve had a solid foundation though and that helps.

  13. Shelley says:

    I’m not sure I’ve read all this right, but what I think I understand from this is that
    (a) you are finally putting your health first, which is where it probably should have been had things been right in your world to start with; (b) splashing out in a very conscious way doesn’t have to be fatal; (c) sadly, the world requires us to suit up as well as show up and one does have to conform just to some extent just to pass as normal; (d) sounds like PiC is turning out to be a good partner even if he’s not exactly like you – some of the best partnerships are ‘complementary’ rather than ‘analogous’ or – perhaps worse – ‘monochromatic’. Sounds like your money is finally buying you a little relaxation, peace of mind and some self-care: the very best uses of money in my mind. Well done on getting to that place!

  14. StackingCash says:

    Ah thanks for this post. Sharing you feelings and ideas regarding having a balanced life. For the past few years I’ve been searching and searching for it but I’m having great difficulty as of late. Well probably for the past two years I’ve (we’ve) been on this slippery slope of lifestyle inflation. I think I attribute it to living like paupers from 2001 to 2010. From remodeling our house to outrageously expensive restaurants we have fell victims to lifestyle inflation. From looking at buying a luxury SUV to considering hiring a housekeeper, I feel like I’m falling into the abyss… I guess my point is to be careful on this new road. It is easy to go to one extreme to the other. Although, it seems to me that you still have a ways to go to even get to that balance of spending and saving, cause you are saving way too much still 😉 which I need to get back to!

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