By: Revanche

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.)

Family.

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?

Dogs.

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. 🙂

Travel.

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.

Charity.

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.

Security.

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. 

8 Responses to “My Healthier Obsession with Saving”

  1. My thing is that I already feel rich. Good health, decent work hours with equitable pay.. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Would I want more money? Of course, who doesn’t! But I am happy with my lot.

    • Revanche says:

      Your health? PRICELESS.
      I’m not ungrateful for what I DO have, but there’s a LOT of room for improvement on the health side, so I could not begin to say how awesome it is that you have both good health & good working conditions.

  2. moom says:

    We really don’t try to not spend money now and we still only spend about a 1/3 of what we are earning. I don’t have any motivation about earning money beyond being comfortable and secure. We have been looking to buy a house and here the kind of house we would like costs at least $800k. The money’s not a problem any more but we haven’t seen a house we like enough to spend that much money on. The paradox that in say 5 years time we should have enough money to retire unless things go badly wrong. But I really don’t want to stop doing the parts of my profession that I like. However, no-one seems to take you too seriously unless you get paid money to do it. At least that’s my read, so I might just keep working but refuse to do anything I don’t want to do. Within reason, I would be unlikely to get fired for that as long as I perform in some areas. So we’ll see. It’s going to be a few years till our investments can earn enough to replace our current spending. At the moment they would cover about 60% of it. So, I’m not even thinking about what would happen if I earned 10 times more. Well, I would need to think about that. I’d probably start investing in start up businesses which I thought were socially useful.

    • Revanche says:

      Now that’s an interesting thought – I totally left that out of my considerations above but having the freedom to do very specifically only what you want, professionally as well as personally, is a big thing. There are, after all, things that are quite enjoyable about our professions.

  3. StackingCash says:

    First off I always want to be extremely grateful for what I have, my health and the necessities in life (food, shelter, clothing, and transportation). That being said, I’m a spoiled brat that wants so much more. When I read that you wanted to travel “in serious comfort and enjoy all the most delicious and fancy foods,” that hit the nail on the head. To have a life of “quality” is my motivation for saving. I do enjoy the finer things in life and scoff at those who think it is wasteful. Granted, some things I want are quite obscene, like an Audi R8, but how nice would it be to cruise around in that sucker! I could probably settle for the new Acura RLX with the Krell audio system for half the price though LOL!
    I feel the happiness salary level for where I live, Las Vegas, would be around 80k. Because I don’t make close to that, 10 times my salary would definitely make me happy. That level of money would allow me to donate to charity which I never really considered because I feel like I’m the one needing a little charity :/

    • Revanche says:

      I don’t think there’s a problem with enjoying nice things in life. I’m not made to want to live like that, I have relatives who ONLY like the finest things and I feel zero connection w/their personalities, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy some of it if it’s easily affordable.

  4. My motivation about money is time. I know someday I will be too old/sick to work so I save as much as I can. If I could earn 10 times my salary I would bank most of it in my IRAs.

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