When I first started this blog many, many years ago, I filled out an about me page. I will be looking it over and perhaps editing it. I will add new insights and subtract what does not resonate anymore. After all, we are never the same person as years go by, We grow. But one bullet point, in particular, stands out for me right now.
I am constantly amazed at how people can afford to live the way they appear to live. Am I doing something wrong or is everyone I know in really, really massive debt.
I am still amazed, as well as confused and frustrated.
I make a good salary, at least according to recent stats. More than the average U.S. household but a good deal less than the average salary in Washington, DC., where I live. (If you are desperate to know what range that is, it can easily be googled. )
Years ago I was in a unique position with my job. The pay was not that great but the flexibility was. And that was perfect for helping with my parents who had some health issues in their later years. At the time I was traveling a good deal back and forth from my home in D.C. to theirs in southwest Virginia. And of course with my life partner Sadie. For one rather extended period of time, We were traveling every weekend or staying a week here or there.
The problem was, I was not traveling frugally. Nor was I living so. Don’t get me wrong, my lifestyle was not extravagant by any means. I just was not living mindfully when it came to me. Because of the travel, my groceries would often go bad. Or I would buy foods for convenience rather than cost. Drive-thrus were my friend. Well, actually Sadie’s friend but my frenemy. They did a whole lot more enabling than just me spending money (think calories, not cost.) But that is another post for another time.
After my parents passed away, I realized I had accumulated a quite a bit of debt and still worked a job that did not pay all that well. There I was, in debt, single, heavy, and a few other adjectives that are not the most becoming. And not just a little debt. I am talking downpayment on a home debt, travel around the world debt, rock myself back and forth with my hands around my knees in the corner debt.
With the help of my sister I budgeted, I lived frugally. I got rid of EVERYTHING. No Netflix, no cable, no subscriptions, no buying cups of coffee, no to any superfluous expenses. Through a friend I found a freelance job, I took on every dog sitting gig that came my way. I did almost ANYTHING to make money. Well, almost. A new job was not in the cards, for reasons I will share later. I would have gotten a second job but I could not do that and care for Sadie. And Sadie kept me sane those years while I racked up debt. I needed my sanity, and her, more than ever.
So, over the course of a year and a half, I paid off my debt. After the final payment, I let out a sigh of relief. I thought, now I can finally breathe, live fully, take vacations, perhaps a class or two. Yeah, not so.
Turns out, just living a not very extravagant lifestyle and taking a weekend here or there to visit friends and perhaps a class or two is actually pretty expensive. Just as expensive as my lifestyle before. Unless of course Sadie has somehow figured out how to access my money and is living lavishly the hours I am not at home. I wouldn’t put it past her. She does like the finer things in life after all.
And that is where that one particular bullet point comes in. WHAT AM I DOING WRONG? I mean REALLY? I am almost 50 and I still feel like I did in my 20s when it comes to money. Please tell me I am not alone here.
I see people at work buying their lunch and drinking Starbucks every day. I see on Instagram people going out to dinner, getting away for a weekend or showing off their latest purchase. EVERY DAMN DAY! Am I missing something? Is living that lifestyle and not being in debt obvious to everyone but me? I truly want to know. Because how can so many people do all of that, have the latest iPhone, computer and hipster vintage leather satchels, and not be poor. I can barely justify a purchase at Payless!
So I have come to a few conclusions. Either I am vastly underpaid compared to everyone else. Could be. But as I said before, my salary might not be outrageous but neither is it a pittance. Or, I live a far more lavish lifestyle than I think I do. I am pretty sure I would have the Instagram posts to show for it but so far, nothing. Though again, Sadie might have an Instagram account I am unaware of that would explain it all. Or I am the worst person when it comes to money (which is not only possible but probable.)
Or, and I honestly think this might be the reason, or, everyone I know is in massive, massive debt with no savings whatsoever. Between my 401k and what my parents left me I have a small nest egg. I try not to touch it. One of my brothers looks over it and invests it for me. It would be much larger had I been more frugal all those years ago.
So for 2019 I am continuing with the frugal life and finding as much pleasure in it where I can. Who’s with me? I’ll share some insights that have worked for me. And I would love to hear your frugal suggestions in the comments.
Here’s to a frugal and fantastic 2019!