I rule at saving money, and suck at the alternative. Please help this frugal girl learn to spend her hard-earned cash without experiencing fits of anxiety.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (34 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
(I know this question might seem a bit ridiculous, but please bear with me.)
Here goes. Over the past five+ years I've managed to save up a decent chunk of cash. Around $40,000, to be more specific, with another $20,000 in retirement savings. I'm 26, so this means that in comparison to my debt-ridden friends, I'm pretty loaded. I have this money through a combination of factors - my parents helped pay for my post-secondary schooling, I worked hard at a good job for the last few years, have no car/mortgage/children/debt, and am generally pretty frugal in my day-to-day life.
This should be a good thing, but instead it's causing me no end of anxiety. I'm currently living abroad and teaching English part-time (on sabbatical from aforementioned job). I could have afforded to simply take a year off to travel, but for an anxiety-prone person this seemed like a bit too much free time on my hands. So the goal was to have the chance to travel and see more of the world, with some daily structure. And, presumably, to spend some of my savings on much-deserved rewards.
Instead I'm agonizing over price tags - whether to buy a dress I don't desperately need but like well enough, go out for dinner or eat at home, stay at a hostel when I travel or at a hotel, etc. It's a constant battle between being a total cheapo and the desire to spend in a worthwhile way, an inner debate on whether something will ultimately be worth the money, or a source of regret. The times I do buy anything remotely expensive (or even average-priced, vs. on sale), it tends to be a bit random and sometimes forced. $60,000 isn't crazy money, but it's more than a need day-to-day, and although I'm proud to have amassed this much, the result is that money has kind of lost its meaning for me. Prices feel arbitrary, and thus confusing.
None of my friends are in the same boat - most are living lives of necessary rather than voluntary frugality, given our meagre paychecks, which makes me even more cash-conscious. My savings are basically a secret, and I don't have a good reference point for what constitutes healthy spending.
I also have no specific goal in mind for this money. I'd like to do an MA some day, but not yet. I'd like to put a down-payment on a house, but later. I don't want a car or anything else with a sizable price tag. I'd be happy to invest my savings (and $20,000 is already invested), but the rates are so awful right now that it doesn't feel like I'm doing much of anything.
Any advice for how to be a healthy saver AND spender, or similar experiences? I'd really like my money to feel like a blessing, and not a burden. I know I could try making a budget, setting monthly allowances, etc, but in the past I've had a hard time sticking to rigid plans in part because my natural inclination is to spend less, which makes a budget feel like needless work. (I could also try to find wealthier friends, I suppose, but I'm a far cry from a trust fund baby, so I don't know if that would do much to engender healthy habits.)
No throwaway email, but I will send follow-up comments/responses to question to mathowie or jessamyn for posting. Thanks in advance.