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Condition of the Month–August

August 3, 2013

So, money. Necessary for so many things in life, but almost always a source of stress and consternation, no matter how much you have. Managing your money or lack thereof is a central part of being in your twenties, so this month the Princesses weighed in on how we spend our hard-earned cash. As it turns out, our ideas about money aren’t so different.


little merskank tile Okay let’s just say it: I’m a hoarder.  I tend to hoard money (‘save’ *cough, cough*).  I almost always go for the cheaper option.  I’m at a restaurant, what do I buy: the cheapest item.  Recently I had my pick of rooms: what do I go for, the littler, cheaper room.  In some ways this proclivity can be okay- I like the idea of simplicity and avoiding excess, not buying things I don’t need.  My closet is small and part of me loves that.  But I think I can take the whole spend-thrift too far and become, well, a hoarder.

Funny story from the other day:  so it my PhD supervisor thinks I am destitute.  We were at a bar (chilling with visiting scholars, as you do at Oxford), and the time came to order food.  I took a glance at the menu, my first though was ‘$18-20 for a meal- thank-you, no!’ So I ordered soup. I figured, whatever, I can eat more at home. Somehow though- combined with previous spending activity- this moment confirmed the fact in my supervisor’s mind that I was poor: too poor to eat.  He pulled me aside before ordering, and offered to buy me a big meal.  I was like ‘no, no- it’s fine’ but at the minimum he insisted on buying my soup.  It was sweet of him, but for me it was one those moments when I was like ‘Merskank, maybe you need to work on not being so cheap’.  Here was my supervisor thinking I’m broke and buying me food- when I am studying at the University funded by a fancy scholarship.  Half of the other people at that table were sitting under a pile of debt to get their degree.  Comparatively, I am much better off.  I just somehow.. can’t spend $20 at the drop of the hat on dinner without feeling like it was a waste.

Okay, so now that we have established a list of some of things I don’t like to spend money on (dinners out, nice clothes, shoes, housing, buses, etc), perhaps I can finally get around to answering the question: what do I prioritize?  Well a couple of years ago this wouldn’t have been my answer, but recently I have come to prioritize travel.  Of course, I try to travel cheaply, but if an opportunity comes to go somewhere I haven’t been- normally I won’t let my pocketbook stop me.  Additionally, this includes travel back to the US.  I go home a lot.  To my friends, it probably seems pretty crazy the amount of money I spend on plane tickets back home.  But what can I say, I miss my dogs, my mom needs me.  Travel home is simply a priority to me, and I’m willing to pay for it. 

But the benefit of cutting corners in so many places is I feel I can afford to travel.  If I wanted, I could raise my standard of living a few steps, buy some new things, get a nicer room- but I would rather keep things how they are- and get to see my family, and the world!

 –The Little Merskank

snowwhore tileI would consider myself somewhat of a cheap person. So when it comes to spending money, it’s not about what I’m spending money on, but how much I’m willing to pay for what I need or want.  I know that sometimes it is wise to invest in quality items that will last you a long time, however I will rarely do this unless provoked.  My husband is the exact opposite. He will spend months researching products in order to find the best one that will last the longest. If he knows it is the best out there, then he is willing to pay for it.  

What usually ends up happening then, is that I will need something like rain boots, but refuse to buy any for myself because every time I see how expensive they are in the store I convince myself that I don’t really need them.  And so, since I won’t get them myself, my husband spends $150 and gets me really nice rain boots for Christmas. This happens time and time again. (Sidenote: since he always gets himself what he wants, it is very difficult to get him presents sometimes).

I know that being stingy isn’t always good, but I will say this. I may be stingy with things I get for myself—but I always try to be generous with things meant for other people. Whether that means buying a nice gift for someone, or always stocking up on snack food when people are coming over—I want to give to other people no matter the cost. 

–Snow Whore

sleeping booty tileMoney, money, money, money, MONEY! Great question Cindy. Well, since I’m living at home in order to save money I obviously have decided not to prioritize my independence, social life or all around ability to eat pasta out of the pan. It’s been an interesting few months to say the least, but everything I’ve given up is nothing compared to the fun I’ve had getting to know my parents again. I used to fight with my mother all the time but since moving back home we’ve become closer than ever and carpooling with my dad to work has been so much more than saving the cost of gas. Living at home isn’t for everyone and it isn’t permanent, but for how much money I’ve saved on rent, laundry, eating out, going out, transportation and even general supplies like groceries (not to mention the fun I’ve had with my family), it’s been more than worth it. I’ve even saved enough to invest in my ROTH IRA retirement account. I got an adorable email from my financial advisor telling me how rare it was for someone my age to invest in my future like I did. It feels good to put money towards something worthwhile.  

As for splurges… Movie theatre popcorn is ALWAYS worth it for me, and I spend a decent amount of money on greeting cards and craft supplies and I really can’t help myself from buying the occasional $20 dress, but when I look at my bank account over the last few years the one thing I’ve consistently spent money on is travel.

Flying to visit friends and taking trips to see my family is what I hope to always spend my money on. I’d much rather take a weekend trip to Seattle than live in the nicest apartment or own a fancy TV. We’ll see if things change as I get older, but right now every extra penny I find is going towards experiences.

 –Sleeping Booty

cinderslut tileLike my fellow princesses, I tend to be a saver and consider myself a frugal person. Since living abroad I have come to miss and appreciate all the sales American stores have, the wealth of items available cheaply via online shopping, and all the variety of things you can spend money on in general, thanks to our great distribution networks. But the life changes I’ve gone through in the last year and a half or so have completely changed my financial situation—I went from being your typical fairly poor college grad to benefiting from my husband’s solid job with one of the world’s richest companies. Living abroad introduced me to a whole new world, a world where you don’t have to pay for your water, electricity, garbage, or any medical costs. A fantastic world in which a modest amount of rent each month gets us a huge house we wouldn’t be able to afford back home for another 10-15 years. And gas? Yes, it is literally as cheap as water.

So these odd new circumstances have certainly impacted the way I look at money. I won’t lie, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that there is plenty of money in the bank and more coming in every month. If there’s something I need, I can buy it, end of story. But at the same time I have tried not to let that burgeoning figure in our bank account change my fundamental financial philosophy. My husband is even cheaper than I am, so together we do a pretty good job of making the frugal choice, except for the occasional splurge, like buying a TV or a car. It still stings when we book plane tickets back home twice a year, to the tune of $3000 per trip, even though I know it’s worth it to see our families (and hit up sales at Costco!). In that way, I guess I’m similar to Sleeping Booty and Merskank—travel gets the lion’s share of my budget, both by necessity and choice.

Living abroad has also introduced me to money frustrations, though, namely that certain things are just flat-out too expensive for me to justify purchasing, despite the health of my bank account. A lot of food items fall into this category, since so much is imported instead of grown locally. For example, berries. A tiny container of blackberries, blueberries, or raspberries will cost you at least $10, sometimes more! When I compare that to the Northwest, where my relatives often have all three of these kinds of berries growing in their yards for free…I just can’t do it. There are numerous things like that which have completely disappeared from my diet, simply because I refuse to pay five times what I would back home.

So that’s me: frugal, but comfortable. Willing to make big purchases when I really want something, but totally unwilling to waste money on little things I could easily live without.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2013 9:29 am

    I love that all of us talked about saving our money for travel (Snow I KNOW you and your hubby want that too). It really is all about experiences, I hope I still believe that when I’m older too.

  2. August 10, 2013 10:02 am

    Maybe our similar spending philosophies are part of the reason we’re all friends. Way to go, princesses, for being smart with our money. This will definitely pay off in the future!

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