My Healthier Obsession with Saving
October 9, 2013
Katie started me on one of my favorite topics ever: saving and earning more. It’s not her fault, we were talking about the government shutdown and she triggered one of my Happy Dreams buttons saying that she didn’t feel the need to save obsessively. This, of course, catapulted me into the nearly ranty but really excited tirade on why I love saving.
It used to simply be a matter of pride and survival. If I didn’t keep increasing my earnings, I’d never get on top of my parents’ debt, and stay on top of the monthly bills, never stop hunching over the checkbook under a dim desk lamp trying to make the numbers work out, never put a penny of my very own away safe and sound against a rainy day. It was hellish, as anyone who’s squarely faced a mountain of debt can tell you. Powered by the energy of youth and gritted teeth, it only took several years of broke-style living and working 100 hour weeks to pay down near $100K in my parents’ CC debt accumulated over many years of self employment and car loans.
That hasn’t been my life for the past few years though. We’ve been comfortable. We can afford our needs and some wants.
So why keep at it?
It’s not just that I’m coasting on the momentum of the past that I want to continue to earn at high levels and save as much as I can. After all, these days “as much as I can” doesn’t mean what it used to. Once, I couldn’t spend more than $75 a month outside of regular bills: Rent, car loan, insurance, utilities. My friends teased me, calling me the Coupon Queen. Food was nearly optional: I couldn’t afford to eat out so if I didn’t grab some food at home before work or school, I’d eat 1 meal a day, around 6 pm. If I did eat at school during the day, that was it for the day. There certainly wasn’t any money for hobbies or buying books.
Now? I have a $100/month allowance which is purely discretionary, our budget already includes all the essentials AND categories for gifts and travel. That’s just luxurious. (Though when I’m running errands during the day and get hungry, I still refuse to pick up a snack or a meal out. It can wait until I get home. Old habits die hard.)
So why do I still get Warm & Glowy when I think about maximizing income and savings? Because I do. Having escaped from hardship, knowing that it could have been so much worse and I have been incredibly lucky to have all my hard work pay off, I’m still dedicated to saving and earning in a very visceral way.
For me, there’s so much more to life than just my feeling comfortable. (Obviously, this is unique to me, most other people don’t have some or all of these considerations.)
My mom’s last ten years of life were miserable. I couldn’t afford to buy insurance for her, not without stopping paying for rent or some other equally essential thing, and it killed me to see the shoddy care provided through Medicare. It was awful, she struggled to get appointments, she struggled to get adequate medications that didn’t interact badly with each other, her dentists were so horrible I had to pay thousands of dollars later to fix the butchery they inflicted on her poor teeth (she didn’t TELL me any of this until later).
Being poor SUCKED. (echoes of Scarlett O’Hara here)
Now I’m looking at somewhat similar circumstances with Dad. He’s planning to take early retirement so that he has some income and can stop relying quite as much on me, and so that he can get some health coverage. But I remember what utter crap Medicare has been for our family. It doesn’t prey on my mind nightly anymore, and maybe I’m a terrible daughter for that, but he’s still in relatively ok health at the moment so it’s on my To Do List rather than a Why Haven’t You FIXED THIS list.
And further down the road, he’s going to need a place to live, probably with some assistance. I’d feel better if he had access to drivers and nurses like they have at senior communities. This could all cost upwards of $60K, easily. If I were talking no holds barred, cost is no consideration: I would love to be making enough that another $60-80K a year on Dad was no problem.
I know some people think I’m insane. I know some people say that their parents are responsible for themselves and don’t get involved in decisions about their health care or their livelihoods, etc. That’s fine. That’s just not the way I’m built. My peace of mind comes from knowing my loved ones are safe, healthy and taken care of. That doesn’t mean I will break myself or my own family’s budget to do so but I would be much happier if that were possible. Realistically, I’ll probably have to settle for something less than my ideal. But why not shoot for the moon?
I love them. I love them more than I like the people I have the misfortune of being related to. For most of my life, I’ve done rescue and rehab in my own small way but I’m hugely energized to increase my earning power to open up the possibility of doing some serious rescue and rehab work. Whether the money is spent on the animals themselves, or whether it gives me the freedom to work for money less and work for the dogs more, doesn’t matter: I just want to help dogs. And other furry animals, too.
And of course my own dog pack may not be spoiled within an inch of their lives, but any dog I adopt needs to be well provided for: food, health care. A few toys. 🙂
This one’s purely selfish. I enjoy doing certain things on a budget but someday (and not some day, far far away) I’d love to have the option of traveling in serious comfort and enjoy all the most delicious and fancy foods I want. I won’t do it all the time, I’m sure, but the option is awfully appealing. And I don’t want this to eat up all of my income: this should be easily managed without denting my savings goals. Katherine (Feather Factor) is my muse in this area: She’s amazing! Travels in style AND saves huge.
For a die hard fiscal conservative in some ways (I firmly believe in bootstrapping), I’m also very much about helping people. I’ll earn my own way because I can now. But I had a helping hand, or a mentor’s kind words along the way. Sometimes, some people need a hand before they can make bootstraps or learn how to use them. Kids need to eat regularly to learn, people just need to break the cycle of poverty. And I want to be able to extend that hand.
Money doesn’t solve all the problems, but it sure helps. And more than the money itself, the relationships you cultivate in the making of it are likely going to be the linchpin to continued success. Feeling secure isn’t JUST about money in the bank. It’s knowing that you have helped people, and that other people will help you, in some big or small way, should you need it. It’s knowing that you have options. It’s knowing or learning how to create those options. I’d like more security.
When I think about the scale on which I want to indulge myself, and I could probably think of a few more things to add to this list, I’d need to more than quadruple my income. And rather than depressing me, or obsessing me, I’m uplifted. It’s motivating to think that there’s so much more good that can be done and that the simple act of conscious choices will take me there: committing to Savings as an integral part of life, looking for ways to stretch a dollar or at least not wasting the dollars spent, learning and earning a little (or a lot) more each day.
PiC says he doesn’t need to be rich, I joke that I do. But it’s not a joke. It’s a quiet little mantra that someday, I want to be that slightly eccentric lady who can get things done somehow. I don’t want people to KNOW that I’m rich, I just want to make it happen so that I can make other things happen.
This always surprised my dad who assumed that I wouldn’t know what to do if I won a lottery. Are you kidding? I save like this so that I can spend the way I want! Of course I could spend millions quite easily. I couldn’t afford to dream when I was poor. Now, there is a sky and it is boundless.
:: What are your motivations about money?
:: What would you do if you were earning ten times your salary? Assume either the same level of happiness or more.