When it comes to finances and money, I wish I could use the following adjectives to describe myself: cautious, thrifty, prudent, frugal, saving—even penny-pinching.
Thankfully I am married to a man who embodies these qualities. For I am impulsive, uneconomical, spontaneous, materialistic, and, at times, excessive, with a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to spending money.
Liam and I both have good taste, I think, and we both enjoy nice things. The difference is, he can wait on a purchase, or go without, whereas I, simply, cannot. Take for example, the fact that Liam has owned an iPhone 3 for more than five years. (I upgraded to a 5 over a year ago). He admitted recently that when he uses his phone at work, he’ll open an app, leave his office to go take care of some sort of business, then come back to the app, which will have slowly opened and begun operating in his absence. I think: ain’t nobody got time for that! But, he just rolls with it. (By the way, just this weekend, I convinced him to upgrade to a 6. I think he is happy with his choice, but I know he is still smarting from the cost of it all).
We’ve begun a dialog recently—Liam and I—about whether or not we could afford for me to stay at home with the kids for a year, next year, if I took an extended leave from work. Liam insists we could do it—we’d just have to make severe cuts and sacrifices.
For instance, he suggests we could eat hotdogs every night for dinner. We could give up cable. We could not go out to eat a few times a month as we do now. We could not purchase beer and wine. These are just a few areas he has mentioned making cuts to our spending budget.
The problem is, I like our lifestyle as it is. Hotdogs for dinner every night would kill us, perhaps literally. I just read an article about how kids who eat more than twelve hotdogs a month are at greater risk of developing childhood cancer than those who do not. It means a lot to me (and to Liam, which he will readily admit) that we eat organic (when possible), whole foods. This, however, is costly.
The giving up of cable is a no-brainer for me. I haven’t watched TV in about three weeks running now. I sincerely doubt, however, the hubs’s ability to go without ESPN, NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, pro soccer and golf leagues, and NCAA nearly everything. Also, I would not want to deprive him of either the occasional beers after work with dinner, or the glass or three of wine. I’d be right there with him if it weren’t for the whole I’ve-been-pregnant-or-breastfeeding-since-2010 thing.
And lastly, let’s address meals out, either just the two of us, or with the girls. We love this time. We love food and adult beverages and restaurants and atmosphere and dinner conversation and food.
I once heard a rumor that a former colleague of mine from an independent school outside of Boston had a wife who wore the same dress every day for a year. I can’t recall if this was for financial reasons or to make a political statement. I bring it up just to say that I couldn’t be that person. I wish I could go without. But I choose not to.
I struggle with this on so many levels. Why can’t I be like the devout Christians who are willing to give up all they own to follow Christ in service to others? I love my king size bed too much. And the yellow chair in our living room. And the fact that I can go out to a fancy dinner with my husband once or twice a year where they serve “complimentary” glasses of champagne for special occasions along with dinner to the tune of almost $200 for an evening of some of the best (local!) food we’ve eaten time and again.
Hotdogs for dinner? One dress for every day of the year? I guess I’m saying I’d rather return to work in late August than to stay at home with my kids in order to preserve the lifestyle that allows us to indulge every once in awhile. Ugh. How depressing is that?
Which brings us to the past week. We’ve gotten our tax refund processed. It’s in the bank now, sitting there, teasing us. Making us think we are millionaires, when in fact, just two weeks ago we had just enough money to pay all the bills.
The plan is to put a little bit down on one of the cars, which we hope to have paid off in a few more months. The rest is meant for savings, for us to live off of once I go on leave in seven weeks and one day, or less (definitely not more), and no longer receive a monthly salary.
It’s been sitting there, that money, begging of me to spend it. And I’ve been hunkered up in this house all blustery winter making lists of things we need before the baby arrives (new dresser, nursing bras, additional King-size sheet set because I’ve had the brilliant idea of pushing the girls’ twin beds together to create another family bed if the need arises once the baby comes; Easter basket goodies, since the baby is due to arrive then and who wants to go shopping after she’s just pushed out a nine-pound baby? Not me, that’s who.).
Lastly, can we talk about how easy and convenient online shopping is these days? Two words: Amazon Prime. I know, I know. I’ve listened to the podcasts and reporting about what goes on in these warehouses and how the employee ‘pickers’ there are mistreated and grossly undervalued. Still. I can order something on my computer, or phone, and two days later, sometimes just one, a box shows up on my doorstep, free of shipping? Well, certainly not free. There is the cost of the workers’ stress, their medical bills, and therapy appointments.
Alas, I find I’ve been willing myself to steer clear of mobile devices until that excess money gets moved to its rightful place once all of our bills have cleared. I hope my husband does this soon. Because all I keep thinking about is the new bag I want to buy to take with me to the hospital when the baby comes. Liam has graciously offered to let me use his very ordinary black duffel. And, I have that bag in my closet which I have used every time I’ve traveled for the past seven years. Again, were I a practical gal, preferring functionality to style, these choices would suffice. As I have admitted though, I am not. I want that new, pretty bag!
But, I also want to be able to afford more than hotdogs once July rolls around and we are nearly penniless again. And so, it’s a constant balancing act for me that must go on in my heart of financial hearts. Splurge, save. Save, splurge.
All I’m saying is that money better be gone from our checking account soon, or else this house will be the owner of another bag too many.