Holly posted recently about her startling expenses, and I thought it was a great way to think about the big financial picture of your life. Whether or not you realize it, there is something—SOMETHING!—in your financial life that someone else would consider a startling expense. There is something that you value enough to put your cash out for it, and there is someone who would be shocked—SHOCKED!—by your willingness to do so.
I of course have some startling expenses, and I thought it would be fun to share with you what they are and why I am willing to prioritize them. In a follow-up post, I’ll share some of the crazy ways in which I save money. Again, what counts as startling or crazy is all relative—much depends on the individual, methinks.
* Rent. I live in a city with a fairly low cost of living. Nevertheless, my colleagues are sometimes shocked by what I pay for rent. The thing is, I love my apartment and I’ve lived in it for almost three years. It feels like home now. I like my neighborhood a lot; I am within walking distance of the loveliest bistro/wine bar in town in addition to two other wine bars. (Have I mentioned that I like wine?) My neighborhood has sidewalks, which a lot of neighborhoods do not in College Station. I’m a quick bike ride away from my favorite park and close enough to campus to bike regularly. In other words, I’m in a great location and I don’t take that for granted.
Let’s also consider the question of moving. Moving is messy, disruptive, and expensive. It’s a pain in the ass. I’d rather stay put where I am, in an apartment and neighborhood I like quite a bit, than move to get a better deal on rent. My current home is lovely and comfortable, I can easily afford the rent, and here’s the kicker: although my rent has gone up each year, it’s still less than what I paid for rent during my final year or two of graduate school. Ha! That’s what living outside of a major metropolitan area can get you.
* Cooking gear. I love to cook (of course!), and I love beautiful cookware. When I was in graduate school, it occurred to me that I didn’t have to wait to procure the nicest cooking gear available. I could ask for the good stuff for birthday and Christmas gifts. When an unexpected burst of cash stimulated my wallet, I bought a Le Creuset pot. Over the years, my kitchen has accumulated a very nice selection of cooking equipment, much of which I believe will last a lifetime—if not longer.
* Groceries. I believe that few things are as important as what you put in your body. Food matters, people—not that you fine folks don’t already know that! My grocery bill would probably shock some people, but I am happy with it.
* Wine. So, the problem with dating an oenophile for a long time is that he will turn you into an oenophile if you let him. And dear readers, I did. I was Matt’s willing, even eager, guinea pig. We drank many delicious bottles of wine together, and now I have a much better sense of what I like. Through experimentation, I’ve found red wines that I enjoy, and my wine palate has become more sensitive to the nuances in white wines.
I tend to buy a bottle of wine once a week or less, but it’s definitely an important part of my budget. Life is too short not to drink wine.
* Presents for other people. I was raised by a very frugal father. One of the big challenges of my adult life has been figuring out where to be frugal and where to spend. I decided that when it came to other people, I wanted to be generous. I budget money for gifts, but I remind myself to err on the side of generosity. It’s my nightmare that people will remember me as a cheapskate or a miser. I want to be remembered as being generous with my time, love, and money.
* Living in Texas, while my family lives in Michigan. This may seem like an odd item to have on my list of startling expenses, but allow me to explain. I knew, when I took this job in Texas, that it was going to require certain sacrifices. I now budget for $400-500 plane tickets so that I can see my family twice a year. I also have to budget the time for travel and the after-travel recovery period—being in transit for 12 hours is hard on me, and it always takes a few days before I feel like myself again.
* Well-fitting jeans, complete with tailored hems. I don’t spend a lot of time or money on clothes shopping, mostly because I’m happy with what I have. But I will fork out for good jeans. My two favorite pairs are from Gap, and I had both of them hemmed. It’s so nice to have jeans that fit well! And at 5’1” in height, it’s almost guaranteed that any jeans I buy will be too long, so now I plan to have them altered by a tailor. I just wish I knew of a good tailor here in College Station…
Stay tuned for Part II: The Crazy Ways I Save Money. In the meantime, do you have any expenses that might be considered startling by others? Do tell—I would love to hear what you think!