When you’re a kid, saving your birthday money or allowance (if you get one) is really hard. There are so many things that you feel like you want and a very finite amount of funds to pay for them all. So unless your parents are extra generous, you’re always going to have an ongoing wish list of things that you want to purchase. However with age comes an increase in flexible income; suddenly you’re flush with cash (sort of) and actually able to spend it (sort of).
A friend and I were talking the other day about our wish lists, about the things we wanted to have, the DVDs we wanted to own, and the multitudes of things we were to saving up for. And as she was recounting a particular desire for something (I don’t remember what it was), I distinctly remember saying to her, “Being an adult is finally having the finances to buy the toys that you want.”
If I could go back now though, I would amend that statement. “Being an adult is finally having the finances to buy the toys that you want, but also about being realistic when you buy them.” Sure, I have the funds to shop at Barnes & Noble on the regular; I could flood my personal library with new additions if I wanted to. But do I really need to? Do I need that book right now? Do I still have unread books on my shelf? What if I just borrowed from the library instead? Being an adult means making smart choices with your money, even the money that isn’t already earmarked for bills.
Does this mean that I have to pinch pennies every minute of every day? Of course not. I’m not going to stop going out with my friends or having fun just to be Queen Frugal. But sometimes when I’m really on the fence about something, it helps me to put my purchases into a frame of reference.
In addition to creating an emergency fund for myself and a nest egg for student loan repayments, I’m also saving up for a trip to Iceland. On average every dinner I purchase out with my friends costs me $15 (including tax and tip), but every meal I make at home costs only $5. By reducing the number of meals I eat out, I’m actually redistributing my free money to the places that I most want it to be spent. By waiting for half-price pizza Mondays instead of weekend splurging on delivery, I’m actually investing my limited resources into my trip to Iceland. By being smart, I’m setting myself up for future satisfaction at the expense of a short term spree.
That said, keeping myself on track is still a work in progress. It’s really easy to fall into the “live for the weekend” mentality when you’re working nine-to-six every day, really easy to let yourself splurge to get over the daily grind. You might think, “I worked so much today. I need this” when in reality, hard work shouldn’t be consistently rewarded in the short term. Not at the expense of future happiness. It’s not impossible to cut back. I can still see my friends and have a good time without spending excessive amounts of money and I’m getting better at it every day. I’m looking into free events, making smart choices about concert tickets or the movies I see in theatres, and walking when I can instead of calling for a cab.
I’m an adult now and with my fulltime job came moderately flexible finances. I can afford to buy all the toys that I want with my adult-sized allowance, but I’m learning to be realistic and growing into the habit of non-indulgence. It’s going to take me a little while to completely get there, but this is what real adulthood is all about.
Note: For those of you wondering about the picture for this blog post, let it be known that a bookstore is my idea of a grown-up toy store. So many treasures!