Indulging My Wants Makes Me Feel Better And That’s Okay

I want to go out to eat at least once a week. I want to buy some land and one day, build a house. I want new glasses. I want a new car. I want some new shoes, new clothes, a fancy smart phone, and I’m really annoyed that I don’t get to have any of those things right now. I work hard — I’m working harder than I ever have in my life. I’m in grad school for my MBA. I’m 31. I deserve nice things by now, don’t I?

I often catch myself living in the land of “I want,” which translates to “this would make me happier/better/prettier/smarter/everything-er.” I tell myself I’ll be happier if I just get new fabric drawers for my cubical shelves. I’m a pen addict and I tell myself I’d write better and my handwriting would be swirls of beauty if I could go buy the latest (expensive) writing utensils. I tell myself I’d be taken more seriously if I had new, high-end clothing and a nicer car. In the moment, it aches to not have these things. I want to pout about the “suffering” I must go through to wait or do without these absolute non-necessities. I recognize that this is completely illogical. I’m stuck in wanting and leave no space for contentment to fill me up. I have everything I could possibly need, but I want.

Maybe you’re in the same position. You want to save money, get out of debt, or just have more money than month left by the 30th, but you also really want new things, fancy things, better things. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

I haven’t cut any of these things completely out of my life.

We always try to allow some “fun money” for me in our budget every month that we can.

In our family, I am the spender and Adam is the saver. It’s not that I don’t want to save every penny we can, but it makes me feel secure to have at least a little bit of money earmarked for me to spend without having to declare a budget meeting. It doesn’t have to be much — maybe $20 — so that I can have lunch with a friend or buy a new pen or scarf. Those small, occasional expenditures calm my fear that making efforts to save money and pay off debt might mean we never get to have any fun.

It might not be the most efficient way to calm those fears, but I am working on it. My fun money used to be $40 a month!

A need is a need. If something is a necessity, we prioritize it.

If I need new clothing or shoes, we begin to push a little into our budget to accommodate. Adam and I both need new jeans and we’re preparing for Christmas gift buying, so we’re arranging our budget to adjust for that. (Want to know what budgeting software we use? We’ll have a post up about that soon.)

Adam and I have been saving for a new-to-us used car for awhile. We know that my car is on its last legs and we know we’re going to replace it sooner than later. We’re not going to buy a brand new car. We absolutely will not finance whatever vehicle we get. We’ll get a nice used Honda or Toyota and be grateful for that. On the other hand, I work a mile from the house and we could manage as a one-car family if we needed to.

My envy can get the best of me.

Sometimes I find myself really upset when I think about friends of mine that have nicer things than we do. We rent our home and I’m jealous of people who own their own homes. I’m jealous of my friend’s brand new Honda Accord with navigation and a backup camera. I have legitimately shed tears because one of my friends went on an amazing vacation and we didn’t even have the budget to take a honeymoon.

Here’s the thing: they’re all in a lot of debt. The friend with the new car has student loans and car payments galore. Some of my friends with new houses have 30 year adjustable rate mortgages that make me cringe. That amazing vacation has an interest rate attached to it. If I have a friend who is debt free, I don’t know about it (and we talk money quite often, so I’d know). Adam’s parents are redoing their house, have a motorhome and fancy gadgets, but they’ve been working for 30 years, have 10 year old vehicles and are debt free.

We will get there one day, I have no doubt. Adam and I have student loan debt and that’s it. We do have a credit card, but we pay it off at the end of each month and only use it for its rewards. We don’t eat out very often, and we drive 13 and 16 year old cars, but we are so blessed. If I sit down and count my many blessings (as the song I used to sing in church says), they would fill books.

I may sometimes find myself living in the land of Want, but with a gentle reminder, I know that I live in a world of Enough.

Posted in The Emotions of Money