I Spend My Money to Be There
July 2016 Monthly Money Check-In
In October of 2011, when I had about $132 in the bank, my boyfriend’s grandfather went to the hospital, and it looked like it might be the last few days of his life. I wanted to hold his hand through it, but I was stopped by the $500 wall of a plane ticket.
I listened to his tired, scratchy, sad voice over the phone for a week, wishing I were 3,000 miles from where I was, close enough to hold him.
He kept telling me it was ok, I didn’t have to be there. But I knew it would be the kind of thing where, if I had gone, he would have said, “I’m so glad you were here” and we wouldn’t be able to imagine me not having been a part of it.
Yesterday I dropped $750 on plane tickets. I knew the feeling well, the “Oh shit, this is so much money,” feeling. The I-don’t-really-have-this-much-to-spend-but-I-know-I’m-going-to-do-it-anyway feeling. I haven’t seen my best friend, who lives in Key West, for almost two years. I have barely had any time with her daughter, and, as of yesterday, she has a son I have yet to meet. We were going to a wedding in Georgia anyway, so I added a leg to the trip.
Relationships are my weakness. Experiences are my weakness. Travel is my weakness.
My dad died in an accident when I was 17, I saw an entire world disappear, just one day. I will never not be a person who saw this at that age that forms your world view.
Life is such a gamble all the time. I hope that if I live to 81, I’m not homeless by the end because I squandered all my money. But I also hope that if I die at 35, I don’t think, why did I spend so much time waiting to live? Moderation and excess are both a kind of risk. I think I go for moderate excess.
I’m conflicted about this trait, because it is something that both helped me get into trouble with money, but has also created some of the most beautiful memories of my life. I don’t regret the $740 in student loans I spent to fly to Hawaii as a college freshman to crash on my sister’s couch for the summer. I don’t miss the money I spent to find out what a sunrise in Thailand looks like, or an elephant’s fart sounds/smells like. I don’t regret the wages lost when I joined Peace Corps; I gained so much else.
That grad school residency I just went on was 10 days of feeling so much more alive than I normally do. The money became a shrug, as it does in the wake of the experience I traded it to get. This is who I am.
Back in 2011, the answer to travel was no, definitively. But now, it’s kind of “Fuck it, why not?”
Me and my family, we always vote for the experience. Whether good (vacation) or bad (funeral), we say hey, this is your life, this is your one chance to ____, vs. some number in your bank account that floats up and down. In short, we don’t care about money. Perhaps this is why we’re the broke ones. But it’s also what makes us who we are.
- How I’m feeling about money this month: I was spending a lot at the grad school residency. My bank account got down to $32, and I was like, “What are you doing???” I know what I was doing, anticipating a big freelancing check I was about to get (but I didn’t have it yet!)
- Checking account over $500: Yes, now
- Biggest expense this month: Plane trip to see my best friend tacked on to a trip to Georgia we were already going to take: $750 total.
- Expected to save this month: $656
- Did save this month: $656
- Saved at least 10% of income: Yes
- Made a budget for next month? Yep
- Reviewed my bank statement: Yep
- Best thing I did for my money last month: I put a big chunk of my latest freelancing check into my tax savings.
- Most important money task for next month: Having summer fun without going apeshit.