I never had disposable income, so I'm realizing I have a weird relationship with money and things. Now that I'm making enough to feel rich (without actually being rich?), what stuff would make my life way better? What do normal people spend money on? I can get over this on my own, right?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (76 answers total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
As a kid, I always had food to eat and clean clothes to wear, but I'm realizing now that I had an abnormally small amount of money and things. In college, I worked constantly, but had almost no disposable income -- spending $5 a week was a rare indulgence. Then after graduating, I worked a full-time but very low-paid job (maybe $14k/year in New York City) and supported myself completely, budgeting everything literally down to the nickel (if I could save 90 cents, I could get a bagel for breakfast one day that week!).
I'm still in New York City, but now I'm making $50-60k/year (for the last few years, in a stable job with benefits, etc.). Needless to say, I feel like a millionaire. But I'm starting to realize that I'm . . . maybe a little weird, stuff- and money-wise.
- Last week I was running errands. I was hot and thirsty and tired, and for the first time, I realized I could go into a coffee shop and buy an iced mocha. For no reason. I didn't have to wait until I got home in a few hours, or hope I spotted a water fountain somewhere. I could just . . . go buy myself an iced mocha, just because I was a little uncomfortable.
- I also recently bought nice sunglasses. I think they're the first sunglasses I've ever had. It turns out that sunglasses are actually convenient -- all the people who wear them aren't doing it just to be fashionable! They're useful!
- This one was the big wake-up call. For my vacation, I went to visit a friend. While I was packing, I said something about how I hoped I didn't forget anything. My friend was like "Whatever, who cares if you forget your toothbrush, we have drugstores here." It took me embarrassingly long to figure out what she meant: If I forgot my toothbrush/shampoo/contact case, I could just go buy another one, even though I had a perfectly good one at home. That mindset is SO FOREIGN to me. I remember on trips when I was a kid, if I forgot my toothbrush I would have to brush with my finger, or if I forgot my bathing suit then I couldn't go swimming, or if I forgot my socks then I'd be wearing my sneakers without them. I wasn't at all a forgetful kid (and I suspect that's why), but this blows my mind. Somehow as an adult, I never put together "forgot toothbrush" + "toothbrushes are like $2" and realized "I can buy another toothbrush," because that conclusion would just not ever have happened in my family. What else am I not putting together?!
To my coworkers and friends, I seem normal (I look professional, I buy girl scout cookies from their kids, I don't gasp at the thought of eating out), which has enabled me to fly under the radar. That might actually have been unfortunate, since I haven't really realized how abnormal this is until now (I'm 25).
So what life upgrades am I just totally missing out on, like sunglasses, or drinks when you're hot? I am a million times more comfortable with one-time upgrades (like a swiffer) than I am with recurring charges (like a cleaning service).
- My professional wardrobe is in good shape since I did a major upgrade when I got this serious job. My non-professional wardrobe is more questionable and might have other blind spots like the sunglasses.
- I have a nice haircut and good everyday makeup. I don't have any fancier beauty routines like mani/pedi, facials, massages, peels, etc. -- should I?
- I recently got Groupons for laser hair removal, and it's been life-changingly amazing, hands-down a fantastic investment. I'm considering having other things done (nose job, breast lift, etc.) -- worth it?
- I don't drink, which I think gives me significantly more disposable income than most of my peers.
- I eat out occasionally (a few times a month?) but I do the vast majority of my own cooking. I have decent knives and pans, but I'm not sure what else might be missing from my kitchen setup.
- I have a (rent-stabilized) apartment of my own, and I'd really love to make it amazing. I plan to be here long-term, maybe 10 years. I have no idea what quality of furniture/goods/amenities is normal.
- I already have a gym membership, a smartphone, and internet at home (slowest speed, no cable). I don't have a TV and my desktop is from 2004 (but works fine).
- I take care of myself medically, including dental and vision.
- I have a few crafty hobbies, and buying quality materials has made a huge difference already.
- Single and planning to be that way for awhile, no kids and no desire for kids, no pets (wish I could, but not home enough).
- No credit cards (and not really interested in building my credit score).
- My time is fairly limited. I spend most of it commuting, working, doing basic personal care, and sleeping.
I'm comfortable with the significant amounts I'm dedicating to savings and charity, so please no suggestions along those lines. And I'm not looking to spend money just for the sake of spending it. I'm just trying to find out what things are normal for other people roughly in my situation . . . because I'm just learning now that what I grew up with is not normal. I don't know what else to base "normal" on.
I'm also concerned about getting used to this higher standard of living. Isn't it going to be really difficult to go back down if anything happens in the future? Yes, I have a savings cushion (let's just say it's more than six months), but I'm worried about a potential longer-term change in standard of living, in case my industry collapses or I become disabled or something. Then wouldn't I be twice as upset, for losing my job and for missing my iced mocha lifestyle? How do people deal with living above the necessary when they know their ability to do so could change anytime?
Thanks again, mefi!