I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about ways I’m saving money or things I’m no longer spending money on. It’s a function both of being on the FIRE path and also just a fact of life for someone on a non-profit salary. There’s lots of talk in the personal finance community of how to save money, ranging from small things like lattes to the big things like houses and cars.
But saving money isn’t the whole story—sometimes there are times when it makes more sense to spend money than not to spend it. I’m a broken record when it comes to talking about why I spend so much money each month on my barre membership. But here are five not-so-obvious larger-ticket items I’m glad I’ve spent money on.
I’ve complained more than once about how much I spend on rent (in my defense, 50% of my paycheck is a lot!). Why is it impossible to live on my own without a roommate in this city? Why wasn’t I smarter just coming out of college and why didn’t I find somewhere to live that was more like $800 a month? I could’ve saved so much more money since then! Why didn’t I know house hacking was a thing (although to be fair, I’ve never had enough money for a down payment)? Why don’t I make more money so that my rent is more like 30% of my paycheck? Why is this damn building lacking a single speck of insulation, and why don’t I live on the top floor where I wouldn’t have to hear every step the people above me take? Ah, so many questions.
But I’ve now decided to renew my lease here three times. I’ve had multiple opportunities to move but haven’t, and that says something. I love my neighborhood and I can walk to everything. I’m getting a pretty good deal for the area I’m in. I wrote an entire post on why I decided not to move a few months ago, so it’s not just because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of moving.
Plus, it’s cold out. I am supremely thankful for a roof over my head, and a decent one at that. I’ll take loud upstairs neighbors and an occasional cold weather rodent problem in this apartment over a cheaper apartment that’s not nearly as nice as mine (and I definitely prefer my apartment to living with my parents). So, as much as it severely hampers my ability to save money, I’d say this is a well-spent half of my paycheck!
Woah, controversial. I know. But hear me out.
I’m a DC resident, which means the federal taxes I pay are literally taxation without representation. I get furious as hell anytime I think about that, especially in a year where I would’ve been calling my representatives every damn day if I’d still been an NC resident. No one likes taxes—I can’t say I wouldn’t be happy to have my fairly low paychecks be a bit bigger, and yep, I’ve enjoyed getting a hefty tax return the last few years. But there’s no point resenting that: part of being a citizen of this country means paying taxes. They’re going to continue to come out of my paycheck. That’s just going to happen and I can’t change that.
But, given the inevitability of taxes, let’s think about all they fund (yes, I’m going to be selective here): roads and infrastructure. Healthcare, which would be amazing if we could fix the deeply broken healthcare system in this country. Scientific research. Schools. Emergency services. The social safety net (y’all, helping people is a good thing!!!).[*]
And my personal favorite? Libraries. I cannot tell you how much use I’ve gotten out of the DC public library just this year. Stay tuned for a list of all the library books I’ve read this year, which overlaps almost exactly with the list of books I’ve read, period: I’ve read many new books but can count on one hand the number I’ve bought. I am all for my taxes being spent on public services, and the value I’ve gotten from the library far outweighs the amount I’ve actually paid in to support it.
I am one of those unfortunate people who is vaguely allergic to wool: I don’t have a horrible reaction but it makes me itchy and uncomfortable. To say that makes finding warm winter clothes difficult would be an understatement.
Things that aren’t wool but are warm tend to be on the expensive side and historically I was too cheap to spend that money. Thus I’d suffer through winter with cheap, $20 peacoats from places like Forever 21 (an actual purchase I made during college because of course I couldn’t pass up that price for a coat!). For someone who hates winter and the cold, this was, quite obviously, a dumb decision that didn’t make winter any more bearable.
Just before winter last year, I decided that I was sick of being miserably cold every time I went outside (especially given how horrendously cold 2015 was. Thanks, polar vortex!) and that I was going to pony up the money in order to make my life less awful for a good quarter of the year. I bought a decent trench coat, a down coat (this was not cheap but I’m still smug about how closely I watched the prices on Amazon and managed to snag it for significantly less than I first saw it for), and a pair of winter boots. If I’d planned things better, I probably could’ve gotten all of these on sale but I don’t regret a single cent spent.
You know that saying that there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing? Yeah that’s still bull. But it’s true that winter is a teeny bit less awful with a good pair of boots and a down coat!
Therapy and medication
I wrote about my depression and anxiety before, but I’m going to say it again (especially because now that I’ve talked about it, I’m going to continue to do so, stigma be damned): every single bit of money I’ve spent and will continue to spend (that is, assuming I have some kind of health insurance that means I can afford to) on my mental health is 100% worth it. This is literally life-changing spending!
I’ve noticed the price of my prescription has gone up recently (by which I mean $5/month, which is a big change percentage-wise, but not terribly noticeable numbers-wise), but honestly I’ve hardly registered that change. Because I’m more focused on the fact that I have a prescription that’s made my life easier for the past few months. Thank goodness for the miracle of modern science! My medication means for the most part I wake up each morning and start at the “normal” baseline where people without screwy brain wiring get to start their days. It’s not cheating and it’s not a way to avoid feeling badly; it’s a way to make sure I don’t start off each day completely underwater and unable to swim to the surface.
As for therapy, yep, I’m still going. Still worth the price of admission.[**]
I’ve got a hobby. It’s a very expensive hobby that also happens to eat up every single bit of my available free time. I am, of course, talking about this blog. So far I’ve spent about $120 on hosting fees and the domain registration and I’ve made exactly $0 from it.
You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting regularly in the last few weeks. Some of that is the nature of this time of year. Some of that is that I am exhausted, physically and mentally and emotionally. And some of it is that I’ve been struggling to write lately. Nine months in and no matter how much I’ve thought maybe I should change this, I’m still finding myself blogging by the seat of my pants—meaning I have zero posts drafted in case of emergency or writer’s block or life getting in the way. That is an incredibly unhelpful process during a writing slump.
It’s also the end of the year and I am just done. I want to sit around and watch Christmas movies occasionally instead of freaking out about omg what am I going to write tonight? So, in keeping with the somewhat erratic posting schedule I’ve had lately, I’m going to give myself a bit of a break.
I’m not disappearing entirely through the end of this year, but I’m only going to be posting on Thursday next week and potentially the week after. You may hear from me on January 2nd, but I’m not going to hold myself to that and stress out when I decide I only want to post on the 4th. Maybe that’s counterproductive, since I’ve found the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to get started again—I may decide at some point next year to do a writing challenge where I write something every day just for the sake of writing. But I’m giving myself downtime to finish up 2017.
But back to the part about me not regretting spending money on this blog: I’m not quitting! I just need a bit of a break. What’s way more important than me drawing a blank lately when thinking of posts is that I enjoy blogging. I have things to say and that’s not stopping anytime soon. I also sincerely appreciate every single person who has read the things I’ve written and those who have left comments. I’ve learned a lot since I started blogging and I’ve made a lot of friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise. The PF community is amazing, and it turns out hanging out here is a pretty great use of all my free time!
So thank you to everyone reading and to all of my newfound friends. Not a bad outcome for spending $120 on hosting fees! I hope everyone enjoys whichever winter holidays they celebrate, and I’ll be back next Thursday for a 2017 wrap up.
[*]This is darkly hilarious given the passage of the GOP tax
scam bill. I am not going to go into how sincerely messed up the bill is. I’ll just say this: trickle-down economics doesn’t work and anything based on that premise is inherently flawed. Also I’d absolutely willingly pay more in taxes if it meant we were funding a more equitable society that valued public services, the social safety net, helping people get out of poverty, education, and research, and admitted that climate change is A Thing. But alas, that’s not the country we currently live in.
[**]Sidenote: on a recommendation from Tanja on a Fairer Cents podcast episode, I started listening to The Hilarious World of Depression podcast last week. I’ve been binge-listening because wow what a fantastic podcast! It’s hard to listen to at times, but there have also been times where I’ve said “YES!” out loud when someone’s vocalized something I’ve had trouble putting into words. There have also been plenty of times I’ve laughed out loud while listening to it because it is also hilarious. I cannot recommend that podcast—or The Fairer Cents!—enough.