yours, tiramisu

tell me, how do you spend that precious dollar of yours?

(Incomplete, incohesive post up ahead because I am all written out after four posts this weekend. I'll post this scary mess prematurely in honor of spooky season. I may come back and clean this up later.)

I went shopping with two close friends recently. I don't enjoy shopping much anymore, because 1. I've learned that buying things won't make me happy, and 2. I now know how much of my soul I have to sell to capitalism to get that new shiny thing. But with close friends I've found shopping to be an eye-opening exercise in seeing how we value different things in life (experiences, things, financial stability, etc). Naturally, these differences stem largely from formative experiences in childhood, and we had a very interesting chat about how our parents influenced our financial mindsets now.

My parents don't spend money on much outside of the essential. They'll spend the extra money to make sure we're eating the best food (i.e. organic, sustainable, healthy, wild-caught), and occasionally buy themselves nice (well-made, not luxury) clothes, but outside of that and some minor hobby spending they're very frugal.

I had a comfortable upbringing and never needed to worry about money growing up, but my mother still took it upon herself to teach me the value of money. She leads by example, reviewing coupon catalogs and tailoring her grocery list/trip to them, checking receipts diligently before leaving the store, disputing any mischarges (no matter how small), and counting every last penny of her change. I've learned a lot from her—I ask for a receipt instinctively for everything I buy and am not afraid to ask about unexpected charges—but I don't go nearly as far as she does. I simply can't be bothered to check every item on every receipt and I don't want to be that guy who spends eons counting every last coin.

That being said, my parents' immigrant frugality definitely imprinted on me and my brother. I consider myself to be on the frugal side, but my brother takes it to a whole new level. Somehow, he managed to spend less than a thousand dollars a month in New York City (which includes groceries, dining out, leisure, everything but not rent). He planned every weekend around the free activities around the city and cooked for almost every single meal. I'm not so austere. I went out to eat frequently and spent money on my hobbies like fountain pens, postcards, and vinyl records.

While I spend my money on various categories (dining, travel, shopping), I don't feel like I derive the same amount of happiness from each. I usually end up regretting buying things for collections (books, perfumes, etc), because they take up space and collect dust. And my least favorite thing to spend money on is food and drink, even though I consider myself a foodie, because it just feels the most ephemeral. You eat it and it's gone. And it costs many times what it would if you made it at home. It rarely creates the kind of memories travel would, and I can't use it again like I could nice gadgets or clothes, so I try my best not to spend much on dining out. When I do spend money on food I often find myself regretting or feeling guilty about it.

I'm sure a lot of this resultant guilt, regret, and self-denial can be attributed to my personality and me liking what I like, but I think a small part stems from the trend in the personal finance community to bash on people for pissing away their financial independence on $5 lattes. Common sense says denying yourself the occasional treat will not mean the difference between financial success and ruin, but my subconscious is hard to convince. Just today I took a friend to a café and didn't get anything myself. I just can't stop myself from thinking, $8 for bubble tea? If I skipped thirty of them I could buy myself a nice jacket.

I'm acutely aware that the way I think about and spend my money is laughably irrational. I'll dismiss $200 jackets as ridiculously expensive, then turn around and buy some cheaper ones I don't like as much while fantasizing about the nice one the whole time. Most of the time I would be better served buying the nice thing I actually want instead of a bunch of lesser things solely because they were on sale. It would save me a lot of trouble, space, and mental headspace in the long run.

Another irrational habit of mine is that I spend more recklessly when I'm on vacation. I don't why this is, but if I had to guess I'd probably point my finger at my mindset that vacations are for enjoying life. And vacations don't feel like recurring expenses. If I get myself a small drink or dessert when I'm on vacation, it's a "special treat". But when I do the same at home, I'm worried it's going to turn into a habit, even though I'm spending the same amount.

I've also noticed that there can sometimes be a disconnect between my lived experiences and my projected experiences. I'll give you an example. I've been to three (?) non-classical concerts in my life and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. But when I see concert dates pop up in my area, even ones for artists I know I would like with cheap tickets, I find every excuse to not spend the money on tickets. Many of my friends urge me to live life a bit more, and they definitely have a point. I don't know why I don't value making memories more.

I don't really know how I'm going to end what amounts to me spouting out whatever random logical bugs afflict my money brain, so I'm just going to leave a list of observations I've made thus far and update it as I discover more:

#english #journal #life #money