Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Money Thang---

Tatyana had a great post on $$

Money is always an interesting subject for me as so many people hate to talk about it or their own circumstances around it. So much of how we feel about money comes from our upbringing, but then we grow up and get our own thoughts about it.

I used to be much more cheap than I am, hoarding my money and was much less likely to share it or to buy something nice for myself. In my mind, it was my security blanket and helped me deal with my anxiety--if something bad happened, I'd be okay because I'd have money to pull from. The problem with this mindset is I lived my life expecting the worst (something I've done since I was a child & something I've been spending my adult life trying to get over), always waiting for the next tragedy. It is very hard to enjoy the moment or live for today believing pain and sadness is lurking behind the next corner.

So I've tried to come to a middle ground. To be good to myself in small ways-- buy the chocolate I love for an extra $1.50 than settle for the bag of M&Ms. Always have fresh fruit in the house. Always have enough money for a spontaneous dinner out or a nice bottle of wine and takeout. (I'm realizing as I type this, all my luxuries focus on food...) And maybe that's because when I was the poorest I ever was, in college, I couldn't afford food (and was too proud to tell my parents).

This was before grocery stores took VISA, so I used to go to Bartell Drugs and stock up on Top Ramen and whatever dry food I could find in their aisles. I would use my gas card (a bill my father was paying) too. I remember asking the gas attendant to disguise my blueberry muffin as gas (he did).

Now as a parent, I realize my parents would have probably wanted to know how broke I was and that I wasn't eating well, but back then, I just wanted to prove to the world I could make it on my own. And I did.

So yesterday I did something I haven't done before. At the grocery store, if you bought $25 worth of certain products, you received a $10 gift card for your next grocery purchase. Since I was already at $20 with these items (and they were all on sale for great prices), I decided to buy $5 more of other items to get my $10 gift card.

But what happened was, I didn't realize you couldn't just buy ANY product by that brand, but I needed to buy the specific product (for example, my 4 cups of Activa yogurt didn't count, but the big tub of Activa did...) When I got to the cashier to happily receive my $10 gift card, it didn't print out. She explained why and said, "You can return the items you bought and repurchase the correct ones." I had my daughter with me and had just spent a good hour in the store, did I really want to go to all that trouble for $10? And then it occurred to me. Yes, I did.

I must say, the cashier who returned my food then helped me repurchase it was completely understanding. She said, "Times are tough, we do what we can and each little bit helps." She's right. Small savings add up. Like cancelling our Netflix acct ($19 x 12 months = $228 - seriously, right now, I'm just paying to hold onto Little Miss Sunshine, we haven't watched a DVD in months and if we do, we tend to get the 99 cent new movies from RedBox).

So I guess I'm thinking smaller these days. How to save $ here and there. And it's helping.

* * *

When I was in 2nd grade, the teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote down three things. A poet. Rich. A dental hygienist. (note: I never wanted to be a dental hygienist, I just used to say that because adults always seemed so impressed with my answer.) So that leaves me with "a poet" and "rich"

What I realize now as an adult that I never saw as a child, that "rich" has many different definitions. Even without a lot of disposable income, you can still be rich. And do we really want to "dispose" of our income? I feel rich in time, friendships, satisfaction, words, and connection.

But Tatyana asked this week on her blog:
When I say I want financial freedom, what exactly does Financial Freedom mean? Better yet, what does it look like?

It's a different question than asking "how are you rich?" It's dealing directly with the money thang.

She wrote a great list and I decided to write mine--

1) To never worry how much money we're spending on ferry tickets

2) To not feel guilty when I spend money on something that's not a "need"

3) To have enough to make a difference in others' lives

In certain ways, with the exception of #2, I feel pretty close to these. 1) The ferry tickets (it's now $14 to take the ferry to Seattle one way, so $24 round trip)--this one just happens, if we need or want to visit friends on the other side of the water, it just happens without the worry of cost and 3) is the organization that helps me make a difference in someone's life, one person at a time. So even without a lot of extra money to give, I can feel as if I'm making a difference in someone's life.

I wonder if I'll ever come to feel #2. There are some things I purchase and never look back on, but other times I feel as if that money could have gone to something more important... But I guess that's a judgment and could depend on how one is feeling at the time.

I think I could really have fun brainstorming on this list, like adding "being able to purchase art I can't afford right now" or "a house on the water," but what I realize is I guess that's not actually financial freedom for me, but just extras in life, which are great, but I'm realizing more and more that I need less and less.

It's that favorite quote-- The best things in life aren't things.
Yet, isn't this what our culture tries to make us believe?

For me feeling rich and financial freedom is #1,2,& 3 on the list, plus being able to choose if I want to pay people to do the things I don't want to do (i.e. pull out the blackberry vines, wash my highest windows, fold my laundry - okay, I really doubt I am ever going to get anyone to fold my laundry, but I realize it's my least favorite chore). But even just writing that makes me feel a little guilty.

I don't know, maybe I'll just always have the Forrest Gump feeling about money--there's only so much we need and the rest is just for showing off.

But I've been thinking more about it lately and I'm interested in how everyone is doing and what changes you've made (if any) to get by. (I wrote "to get buy" - and maybe that's true too.)

Anyway, just some $$ thoughts for the day, though honestly, as I write about this, I realize me and $$ have a funny, fuzzy relationship. Money is like cousin I love to have over and yet, he always worries me-- will he stay or go? And sometimes, he forgets to show up. And sometimes he arrives with a giant fruit basket. And sometimes we are writing letters to each other and enjoying each other's company never really thinking about each other, but just existing together. And sometimes he's standing on a cliff and I'm trying to reach for him. Sometimes he turns around and smiles at me and I am comforted, other times he jumps.


1 comment:

  1. Kelli,
    Wow, this is great stuff. Thanks for sharing it.

    I have to say, I can relate to that relationship to money as it ties into Preparing for the Worst. As I read your words I thought of my Depression Era MEntality (something that might have been passed down from my parents). And knowing that I sometimes have to catch it, laugh and move on. Another shift was: After I lost my job in January I went into "How can I save money?" and I saw I could turn this into, "How about: how you can MAKE money?" Small but huge shift.

    Loved reading the start of your list. HOpe you keep having fun with it. When I tell myself the experiences I want with the money I want to make doing work I love, that is a very creative, fruitful place to live in. And inspiring. Hey! Who says money can't buy happiness?! It can buy freedom and experiences which can support a lot of happiness.


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