A Balancing Act

22 Oct

Next to business planning and actual physical work, saving money is one of the most important aspects of our still-forming plan.  Because we don’t know what our living situation will be in the next 6 to 12 months, not to mention what we will be spending on everything farm-related, we are saving every penny we can until the spring.   Don’t get me wrong here, folks.  We both work at nonprofits and aren’t exactly high rollers.  We don’t eat every meal at fancy restaurants and going on shopping sprees at Macy’s, but I have been known to do some unnecessary clothes shopping on our trips to Target and my (rather pricey) Smashbox and Benefit cosmetics are dear to me.  TS isn’t leaking money either, but he was previously buying lunch every day and he often pays for both of us in social settings.  And we both love sushi and hitting estate sales on Saturday morning. 

I used to live by a fairly strict budget, but I’ve let myself get a bit more loosey-goosey in the last couple of years because I was saving a good amount each month for retirement at my old job and had very few large expenses.  Money is for spending, am I right? Then I got a car for my new job in a sketchy neighborhood.  Expense.  Big one.  Then we finally made the leap into our farming dreams and started laying the groundwork.  Even bigger expense, and an unknown one.  Big, scary expense.   So, we’ve been cost-cutting.  For the past few weeks, we haven’t eaten a meal out (except when I had friends in town) or shopped for (very many) unnecessary things.  The only expense we’ve been concerned about lately is joining a gym.  Yes, running outside is free and should make me feel like a frugality champion, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to get plowed by a car coming out of an alley eventually, and the weather is already on its way to freezing.  I can’t be a farmer if I’m in traction or missing my extremities.  It just won’t work.

I’m not feeling burnt out quite yet, but it is funny how paying close attention to your money can shift your attitude for even the most minor purchase.  Recently, I hemmed and hawed for days over whether I should subscribe to Birchbox, a $10 per month service that sends a box of beauty-related samples and goodies to your door.  My friend has had Birchbox for quite a while and I’m always jealous when her tiny rectangular package shows up.  It’s full of secrets!  The service requires you to get onto a waiting list, and of course, my number came up during our save-a-thon.  Unless I made a decision in 72 hours, I’d have to resubmit and wait again.  How I agonized over my decision!  I kind of felt like a traitor for wanting to spend the money on something unnecessary, but conversely, would have been kinda bummed to skip the opportunity.  In the end, I signed up.  Balance is important.  I’m sure the personal finance blogs I frequent would disagree, but if I’m freaking out over $10 each month, it’s time for a bit of a reality check.  Is it necessary? No.  But does it have a purpose, and more importantly, does it make me feel like a pretty, pretty princess?  Yes.   Do I feel silly for worrying so much about it?  Most definitely.

Conversely, I’ve been looking into getting a laptop.  I have a desktop computer, so any work or writing that needs to be done on the move has to be done on my iPad.  An iPad is great for notes, perfect for quick emails, and home to a lengthy game of The Simpson’s Tap Out, but real work is tough.  As we are planning to travel to the farm most weekends and eventually commute into the city during the week, I need another option for both work and farm-related business tasks. The other day, I noticed that my chosen laptop was listed at nearly $200 below retail on Amazon, and was tempted to pull the trigger.  But, I reasoned: I don’t NEED this.  Not yet, anyway.  This would be convenient, but it can wait.  A deal will show itself again.  Right?

It’s nearly Halloween and there’s no way I’m not spending $12 to go to Rocky Horror this weekend.  Yes, it’s about balance and responsibility, but also about living our lives. This weekend we were out at the farm for a camping trip with friends and to get a little bit of work done. It has been a few weeks since we were able to get out there and it was great to be reminded of what we are doing and why.  We have big dreams and it’s super easy to fall into draconian thinking when saving money, but spending a little on fun is okay, too.  All work and no play makes all of us dull boys.

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