Money

I find it slightly strange that, the more I go from having no money to making enough to live comfortably, the more reluctant I am to spend it.

As a kid, the money I made was basically my (admittedly large for the time) allowance and birthday checks… yet I loved to spend it and had next to nothing in savings.

In middle school what meager savings I had was eaten up by the Pokemon TCG craze, and I spent way too much money. Still no income.

In high school, I started working a part-time job. Spent a little less, but still had rather large purchases relatively often (such as dropping $300 in one trip to Best Buy to get lots of games) and would splurge on random things like CDs and cafe items at Barnes and Noble.

In college, I worked more regularly and gradually spent less and less each year as I made more and more money from internship experiences. I self-imposed a $50/month spending limit (excluding essentials like food and toiletries, and excluding larger purchases like my DSLR and laptop) and stuck to it (at times dropping it to $30 when I wasn’t actively making money from jobs).

Post-graduation, I have an awesome job that pays well, but I am extremely reluctant to spend it. I still stick to the $50/month spending limit and, if anything, include more items under that now than I did in college (generally resulting in me buying even less now).
I’ve wanted a new computer since I started work over a year and a half ago. My laptop, at this point, is relatively unusable due to its lack of internet and ability to randomly turn off or reboot. Yet I can’t justify the $700 purchase to myself because, after all, the laptop *does* still work, and I can accomplish things on it like making cards and tagging photos.
My DSLR is rather broken, as I can no longer shoot with it at shutter speeds over 1/50 (or zoomed in at all) unless I turn it upside down. Yet I can’t justify the $1000 purchase for a new camera. Instead, I purchased a small, crappy, point-and-shoot camera for $80. It doesn’t really do what I need it to (although the portability is excellent), but I was much more willing to deal with the sub-$100 price tag. At this point, it’s kind of my replacement for the SLR.
Food-wise, I used to eat out a lot in college, and even when I first moved here. Now just about every meal is cooked at home (or provided as leftovers free from work courtesy other peoples’ lunch meetings) and I am extremely reluctant to order at restaurants (even when I go with friends).
As far as the groceries go, I no longer go to the store and pick up whatever looks good. I now scour the weekly ads and make a list and effectively buy only sale items (or items that I have coupons for). I buy chicken on sale and freeze it. I buy 10 jars of pasta sauce when it’s cheap. I have saved at least 50% on each of my grocery bills in the past 6 months, with only one or two exceptions (mostly when I’m feeding other people like my parents). On the plus side, this results in me eating healthier as I tend to buy more vegetables and staple foods rather than snacks. But it’s still a huge change from college.
(As far as my large trading card purchases go, the cost gets spread out across subsequent months, so I effectively borrow ahead a couple months’ $50 budgets, then don’t buy anything else in those months. I did the same for my point and shoot… it will be paid off at the end of this month.)

I’m not entirely sure what this says about me.
On the one hand, it’s nice building up a nice savings account in the event that something goes wrong. It’s a good feeling to know that there isn’t much that can hurt you financially at this point, and that you have enough saved up to maintain your standard of living for well over a year should anything happen.
On the other hand, it seems silly that I’m not really using the money I make from my job to buy and do things that make me happy (besides saving it, which I suppose makes me happy), especially because I already have a nice savings account built up. It’s not even about luxuries like a TV (don’t need) or eating out all the time (don’t want)… but little things like a new computer or a printer that I’ve been wanting for over a year and can’t justify to myself.

So yeah. I guess I’m just really strange or something.

Am I the only person who does this (spends less and less as time goes on)?

(Also, seeing as it is almost 3 AM, I should probably try that sleep thing again.)

7 thoughts on “Money

  1. Well first of all, be thankful that you don’t have the opposite problem – it’s hard to find someone who grows up in the first world that doesn’t have all kinds of materialism problems and a bad understanding of savings and credit, to boot. Obviously your responsibility regarding finances is going to leave you way better off than many.

    If I were to take a guess, I’d conjecture that you scrimp and save as some kind of nervous reaction to something else, and maybe it’s gotten to the point where it actually is causing you some unnecessary stress itself (like the semi-functional laptop).

    Maybe you can try a couple of little changes at a time – nothing extravagant, just, say, go to the grocery store once a month and don’t let yourself see the bill. Just focus on the ingredients you want and make yourself something nice (or better yet, for others too).

    It’s a blessing that you have both a pretty good economic situation and good financial habits. Just remember that money is a pretty superficial thing in the first place, and spending it all or locking it up are both wastes of it in the long run. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle :-)

  2. I like your attitude, don’t change it!

    There’s something to be said for living lean in times of fat. It shows that you have excellent control over your finances, which is something quite rare in a time when banks and businesses are imploding left and right.

    There’s also the reduced environmental impact of buying less stuff. The fewer things you replace, the less garbage you add to the system — making everyone else who has to live on this world a little indebted to you.

  3. “and maybe it’s gotten to the point where it actually is causing you some unnecessary stress itself ”
    Yeah, that’s kind of my fear. :P

    I guess there’s also the entire “I don’t need this stuff so why would I buy it” thing. If you’ve seen my room, I have a (small, Ikea) computer desk, a couple plastic drawer units, and a chair as far as furniture goes. In general, I try to be minimalistic with what I buy (well, as much as you can be when you’re a software engineer in silicon valley :P). There’s no reason for me to get things like a bed or dresser because I have no need for them, and it’s only more stuff to deal with later should I move.

  4. Holy crap, you’re turning into me.

    (Although I actually went through a phase where I needed to support myself and couldn’t, which probably had a profound effect on the value of money in my eyes.)

    I recently bought a new laptop. The day before, my previous laptop died a horrible death. I am happier on my new laptop, and also happy that I didn’t need to make the difficult judgement about whether buying a new laptop would be worth having two laptops.

  5. My last computer started to go, and I decided I would replace it before it completely died so that I wouldn’t HAVE to get a computer during a time when bills and savings would mean I couldn’t afford it.

    I love my refurb macbook, it’s been serving me very well, and I intend to get 4 years out of it before buying new.

    Alan, I’ve been in the same situation as you. I’ve never made as much money as you, but I’ve been working for a while, and since I live with my mom or on the funds of an annutity fund created for just this time in my life, I’ve been able to save up quite a bit of disposable income. But, like you, I hoard it away, putting it mostly into a savings account, checking my account twice a week or so, and even getting shocked last Christmas when I spent $350 in December. Paying for car repairs is also like pulling teeth, even though I know I need my car to get me to work and school, or impromptu cheap vacations. There’s a Kennywood trip and a Renaissance festival this weekend, and I ask if I really need to go to both, even though my GF wants me to.

    But sometimes you have to think, I work a programming job, I use a computer everyday, and even though this makes the biggest impact on the quality of life (besides food, sleep), I’m working with a frustrating machine that is unreliable and will affect my work if it shuts down in the middle of me writing with it. This isn’t a passing desire for a new gadget, you’ve needed ANY new computer for over a month… over a year and a half!!! So I say not only should you buy a new computer, but putting a little more money into an above bare-bones set up would actually be investing in yourself, because you need to be comfortable and secure with this tool for your livelyhood and entertainment. Plus, a lot of computers come with $100 off a printer, so you can take care of that NEED as well. Sometimes you will not be able to get into the office to get something printed out, and you need a backup.

    At this point in your life, I don’t think you should be saving for retirement if it’s going to mean you’re going to have a lot of problems when you get there. You can think about the future, but not at the expense of where you are, what you are doing (thanks Yoda!). Maybe you only need a desktop rather than a laptop, maybe your current computer would compliment a new computer, but you’ve gotta take your job and your stress level out of the hands of something known to be unreliable.

    I’m buying an E-520 today. I sold an HG lens that doesn’t provide a practical benefit over the kit lens, along with my old E-500 (which was still working perfectly btw… what happened to your D50?), so I’m only going to pay $30 for the new camera with the smaller kit lens. I figure since my last one was such fun, and because I made more money working with it than I spent, then this new upgrade will be very worth it.

    Where do you sleep!?!

  6. Oops — posted my last comment on the wrong post! This is what happens when you open like 20 tabs at once because you have over 100 Live Journal entires to look at!

    But yeah, I think someone above mentioned the stress of trying to control spending… that happens to me. I spend so much time, typically, worrying about how much things cost that once in a while the fuse just blows and I decide I don’t care anymore for a while. Then the cycle resets…

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