What’s worth it to you?

Get Rich Slowly is holding a contest this week (still time to enter!) for a Nintendo Wii.  GRS is one of the few “financial” blogs I read, mainly because I don’t find myself living paycheck to paycheck anymore so I’m not always searching for tips on how to save more money.  I do like JD’s site because while he occasionally shares other posts on dramatic saving (drink powdered milk, hand wash clothes, give up dinners out with friends, etc) his personal tips are more useful to me (HD cable isn’t necessary, save up for expensive dinners, grow and can your own vegetables).

My greatest success story would be my parents.  They provided me with a college education and my car, eliminating both student loans and a car payment which are well-known income drainers.  We also “rent” our house from them.  Renting may be “throwing money down the drain”, but it’s a good rent for a house and it’s not like I don’t benefit.  I just don’t get the tax breaks.

When I first started working, I had an okay salary.  I also had a condo with a mortgage that took up more than half my monthly income.  That’s when I really budgeted and tried to keep costs down.  Basic cable, eating in, walking the dogs in lieu of a gym membership.  New furniture came from Ikea… at one point my dining table was made up of taped together empty cardboard boxes!  The nice thing was that my friends weren’t making a lot, either, so we spent a lot of time at someone’s house instead of going out to bars or fancy restaurants. 

The best raise I ever got was from switching jobs.  Everyone says it, but it really is true: new job offers will give you more than an awesome raise ever will.  That’s not to say you should be changing companies every year chasing money; that actually looks bad to future employers that you have no job loyalty.  But now, with more financial cushion, I have a pretty cushy lifestyle and I’ve stopped cutting corners and learned to enjoy what’s worth it.

HD Cable + HBO: such a splurge and we don’t even get the Travel Channel in HD, but the difference in cost (split between me and T) is so minimal that it’s worth the convenience of a good looking program and lots of movies.  When does Big Love start again?

Shoes: I love shoes.  Good shoes make an outfit and quality shoes will last (unless encountered by a dog).  I try to buy them on sale and I try not to buy multiple shoes that look the same.  As long as I’m not going into debt for my shopping habits, what’s the harm?

Premium dog food: good dog food means healthier dogs, which means lower vet bills and a happier me.  I’m willing to pay to eat really good food, so why shouldn’t I do the same for my pups?

Our food: I’m lucky that T treats me to a lot of dinners out, but we also eat very well at home.  We also belong to a CSA that, while not cheap, is convenient and kind of forces us to eat more veggies before they go to waste.  Good food makes me happy, so it’s worth it to me to spend more on quality meats, seafood, and treats. 

Vacations: We do not go on budget vacations but we do look for good deals.  We’re going on a cruise next year to use our discount from the last one, but we also splurged for a balcony room instead of a cheaper cabin.  We like having the balcony, so it’s worth the extra money.  Our last vacation to Scotland was by no means low-cost, but we tried to stay in less expensive B&Bs and find affordable means (very hard).  The rental car was the bulk of our expenses, but without it we couldn’t have gone to the areas of Scotland that were on our list.  It was, to date, our most expensive trip but we don’t regret any of it and we had so much fun.

The one thing we haven’t found worth it are gaming systems.  We’re both so busy, I can’t imagine either us having the time to play video games.  We barely have enough time to watch the DVR shows!  Or the rental movies!  All our friends have multiple systems with multiple games, but when they start discussing new ones and new systems, we (thankfully) don’t feel like we’re missing out.  However, if we were to bring a system home from winning a contest, that’s a whole different story!

I approach personal finance as sensibly as I can.  As long as I have savings and am putting money towards retirement, why not have some fun with the rest of my money?  It helps that our friends aren’t flashy and we don’t have to “keep up” with them.  So, if something costs a little more but we deem it worth it, we spend the money.  In the long run, I think it helps keep us from feeling deprived and we stay happy at our current status.  We put more money into savings and our 401(k) and hope that gets us one day closer to retiring early!

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