Dolla dolla bill y’all

I’ve had a few interesting conversations lately about STUFF and MONEY. What’s up with NO ONE talking about money?

Here’s a brief history of my relationship with work, money and things:

  • I was raised in a household where my mom didn’t shop often, we ate off-brand food and we rarely ate out.
  • I didn’t have a “real” job until mid-college because I nannied during the summers and saved enough for the whole year.
  • Once I got into college, I discovered credit cards and kind of went crazy. I didn’t accumulate a ton of debt (thankfully) but I used credit often.
  • I graduated with a substantial student loan and a car payment.
  • Adam and I got married young and spent the first three years paying off debt.
  • Around that time, I quit my 30-hour-a-week desk job and started working for myself.
  • Welcome to present day! We now make 3x more annually than we did when we first got married by owning a few businesses of our own.

I can be a spender and yet I can also be disciplined. But within the past year, I’ve seen a shift in my spending habits that didn’t exist 4 years ago. Here are 3 observations:

1. I would and do pay people to clean my house or cook me food.

No I don’t have a chef (haha, I wish). But I do eat out more than I thought I ever would. We also pay to have our townhouse cleaned once a month. These are two things that I never experienced growing up as a kid. It’s not something that’s “normal” but it is worth the money. I can actually pinpoint my hourly rate and so paying someone $100 to clean my house for up to 3 hours is worth it if I can be working during those hours. I pay people when it saves me time.

2. Quality over quantity.

A year ago, I had A TON OF CLOTHES. Most of them from H&M or Forever21. Lately I have only a handful of pieces but they each cost more than any of the H&M/F21 pieces that I’ve since sold. I’ll be sharing my wardrobe revamp process next week but it essentially created a framework so that when I walk into a store – I have a method and a purpose. If the store doesn’t have what I’m looking for…I leave empty handed! Hint: I haven’t gone into Target and left with a random piece of clothing in MONTHS!

3. Spending is an emotional action.

The other day Adam was talking about clothes and cars. If the problem is, “I’m naked and need clothes,” then the solution is find something quickly that you can afford and cover yourself. If the problem is, “I have a job but I need a car to get there,” then the solution is to find something quickly that you can afford so you can go to work. But that’s not what we do. People buy BMWs, designer jeans and iMacs. Spending money on something is all about emotions. The emotions can range from:

  • I’m stressed about my finances so I’m going to clip coupons and go to Aldi (btw, Aldi is awesome)
  • I’m stressed about my job where I make a lot of money so I’m going to buy something to reward myself and make it worth it
  • I’m excited about my friend having a baby so I’m going to go buy this unborn baby a ton of sh*t to show my love
  • I want people to like me so I’m going to buy something that will elicit compliments (aka friends? probably not)
  • People who are successful have this kind of purse so I’m going to buy that now that I’m successful

You get the point, right? It really fascinates me. What do people spend their money on?

I pay to get my nails done twice a month.
I would probably never pay someone to design my blog or website. 
I pay $35 to get my hair blown dry.
I would probably never pay to get my car cleaned or washed.
I would pay $7,000 for camera gear.
I would probably never pay that much for a car.
I  pay $100 to get my house cleaned every month.
I would probably never pay to get my clothes regularly dry cleaned.
I’ve spent way too much money on Apple products.
99% of the furniture in my house cost less than $125.

How do you handle money? What would you probably NEVER spend money on? What do you splurge on? What seems reasonable? What seems irresponsible? Be respectful! Everyone is different.

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  • I think you proved the key to spending is picking and choosing what is worthy of purchase. People cannot live their lives where every spend is costly, which is how they spiral out of control. Knowing when to ‘treat yo self’, wisely consider or walk away are paramount to financial success. Nice post!

    • Yes! As I’ve gotten older I know when to think about a purchase or walk away. It’s almost always tied to impulse buys. I think about things for awhile before I actually buy them now.

  • I try to be really smart with my money choices – the last two years I’ve really focused on only buying what I need and if I do need it, putting thought into the level of quality of what I need and if that means something more expensive, then it’s more expensive. Because I feel I make smart choices and don’t accumulate things not needed, then I don’t feel guilty about spending big on something.

    But the one thing I don’t really “need” but makes me the happiest? A housekeeper. I would give up so many things before having to give this up. Walking in the front door after a long day at work and seeing all those perfectly straight vacuum lines gives me such joy it’s kind of scary.

  • I really enjoyed this post. I also find it interesting what people spend money on and financial matters is something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the past 10 or so years of my life. I can definitely relate to some of the reasons for spending that you outline in this post.

    Ultimately it’s not about the money, money, money which is why this post inspired me to write my own money post. :)
    http://www.designingalifeblog.com/2013/10/its-not-about-money-money-money.html

  • i don’t really splurge on anything. i am the cheapest of all the cheap asses. i grew up in a project and i just can’t seem to get past that mentality of “can’t have.”

    i guess i did splurge on a nicer pair of roller skates for after my knee surgery. i needed a new pair, but i definitely got a nicer pair than i had to. :D

    but drew buys new vinyl, cd’s, books, etc. for us on a regular basis that i would NEVER buy new. so that helps balance out my empty shopping cart syndrome.

  • What a lovely post! I think money is something the 20-something cringes when talking about it. We’re told to rely on so many things to save or spend, it can be overwhelming. The best thing we did was take Dave Ramsey’s course. I’m not on a strict budget but when I was making a lot less, having that budget helped me continue to buy the things I wanted while still being responsible. Now, I’m all about quality over quantity and recognizing what means most. IE – I’d rather pay for a trip than to have an expensive handbag. Love this post!

  • I happily spend money on eating out with friends. I value delicious food and good company highly, so a lot of my budget tends to go that way. I balance it out by packing a lunch from home almost every day. My ex thought this was totally insane, and spent money on lunch every single day rather than have to take the time to make one. Different strokes!

    I’ve never gotten into the habit of paying money to have my nails done since I rather like doing them myself and since no manicure, no matter how expensive, lasts more than a couple of days on me, so it would seem like a waste.

    • I love spending time with people over dinner too. We eat at home for lunches every day which also helps. I didn’t get manicures until gel manicures. Now they last 2 weeks (while before mine would only last a few days too). Obviously I could just STOP wearing polish if I wanted to save some cash :)

  • Balancing and maintaining a budget has been hard for me, but it’s something I really want to keep working at, especially now that I live with my boyfriend and we have to split certain costs. It’ll be easier in the future when we combine our finances but we still have to keep track of where our paychecks go.

    I’ve developed a slightly terrible habit of online shopping as of late. I too had a lot of old clothes from Forever 21 that I got rid of after I moved this month and my wardrobe needed some updating. And with winter coming up, I still need some essentials. Still, I know it’s important not to go crazy.

    The one thing I spend money on that I technically don’t need is my car. You really don’t need one in Chicago but it’s really nice to have, especially since I go to the suburbs quite a bit to visit my boyfriend’s parents. I would rather spend money on car payments, gas, and insurance and make my own coffee and meals than spend money on lattes and going out to eat every night (I have friends who do this and it kinda baffles me). But it’s different for everyone. :)

    • I go in spurts when I online shop like crazy. Everlane, Jcrew Factory and Amazon are my weaknesses haha. And that totally makes sense about the car! People and experiences (to get to) are more important than most.

  • Yeah, everyone really is different! I rarely pay for getting my nails done and I try to draw out the process to get my hair cut to 8-10 weeks because I’m cheap on that.

    But there are definitely things I will pay for:

    – Cabs if I’ve been drinking. Not worth the risk of driving. Now that I’ve moved (!!) that’s definitely worth it to me.
    – Movers. When it comes down to $500 to hire movers versus 5+ hours of my time (plus the exhausting part of hefting furniture and boxes about)…let’s just say I will always pick movers.
    – Direct flights. When I was in college I used to book more layovers if it meant saving a few dollars here and there, because my money was worth more than my time. Nowadays I will pay up to $50 more for a direct flight if it saves me the time and hassle.
    – Nice electronics. I know this is stupid and there was a time (actually, when you and I first met!) when I didn’t even have a smartphone. But I use my phone for everything and Apple products are worth it. I also have an iMac that makes home computing a pleasant experience.
    – Clothing. You know this but I will spend $80 on a pair of pants I wear constantly (e.g. the Minnie pants from J.Crew…I live in these) or a couple hundred bucks on a pair of shoes that I will have forever. But this also means that compared to most people I have NO CLOTHING. This also means you see me in the same outfits all the time, but I realized that I’d rather be happy in the things I wear all the time, even if it means I’m not very trendy, than to have endless outfit permutations. I find that too many choices also stress me out so having a pared down, simpler wardrobe keeps me sane.

    Things I won’t pay for (or try not to spend a lot on):

    – A car. This is why I still don’t have one. So expensive – car payment (if you’re financing), insurance, repairs and maintenance, gas.
    – Bobby pins, which is why I always have stray wispy hairs.
    – Books. This is totally a “humble brag” but I’m a fast reader and I would be broke if I bought books all the time. I usually save book purchases for things that will take me a long time, like the Game of Thrones books or a book about religion that I want to mark up and take notes on.
    – TV/cable. Well, this is kind of a lie since we do have TVs and we do have cable, and I pay 50% of satellite TV service and Netflix every month. But if it was me on my own, I wouldn’t own a TV or have cable/satellite. (I guess technically I don’t own the TVs – they’re both Zach’s!) It’s not worth it to me and I don’t get much value from TV shows. That being said, I’d probably still have Netflix and I would watch it on my iMac if we didn’t have a TV.

    • OMG I love you. I love that you said bobby pins. I don’t buy books much lately because I rarely read. Sad problem to have. It’s funny how I could pay $200 for a phone but would never buy a tv haha!

  • Ugh this is too good. Glenn and I just moved into a new house and it has been so expensive. I calculated that I won’t be able to have any real *spending* money again until February. Which totally sucks because holiday season is coming up, but oh well. I sure hope people like DIY pinterest gifts lol.

    • Moving is SOO expensive. You don’t even realize it!! And I’m with ya on the crafts for Christmas. I can’t wait until one day I can just buy my friends and family crazy amazing presents…

  • Allison, I am digging your posts lately. So much good stuff!

    Money is a great way of reflecting what people value and I think it’s important to understand that you only have a finite amount of money to spend (without getting into debt). And people will spend that differently,

    We happily spend £8000 a year or more on travelling abroad. But we spend no money on our car (a 1995 beauty with no power steering, no power locks, and no air con that we were given for free). We prefer to save some money every month, rather than pay a mortgage.

  • I too had a ton of clothes, but in the last few months I have given at least 4 trash bags full away. I now have been trying to build my closet around pieces that are basic, versatile, and durable. I haven’t really thought about things I won’t/don’t spend my money on. I would love to eventually live somewhere where I could get rid of my car and depend on public transportation, walking or my bike. I am a stress shopper so I try my best to avoid going to stores especially Target ;)

    • We got rid of our other car this month and are down to one! I love not having a second. I think I would need to live in a different (larger) city if we went car-less though.

  • I enjoyed reading this blog post – I can’t wait to hear more about your wardrobe revamp!

    Since getting married, my husband and I have had to do a little give + take. I don’t spend my paycheck on a Forever21 spree anymore and he doesn’t buy all the new video games he can lay his paws on, but we will both invest in our hobbies – yoga + drawing classes for me, bouldering for him – or save up together to get that sweet shelf from IKEA.

    We’ve also been investing more in buying natural foods! Instead of looking for the cheapest option, we’ve started paying attention to the ingredients/labels and making the healthier choice, even it costs a bit more because we want to know what’s going into our bodies.

    • Marriage sure brings about compromise, huh? :) I went crazy a few months ago shopping at Whole Foods and realized I can still eat healthy without buying the most expensive options. My grocery bills were so high shopping exclusively there!!

  • Such difficult questions, girl! Let’s just say that I spend a lot -then I realize how much I’m spending and force myself to take a break. It’s a vicious circle, though.
    But when it comes to bills, I pay Cable, cell phones, PS&G. Half support my mom (who lives in her own house and all). Share all the expenses of the kiddo. I blow dry my hair once a week, but that’s it -I destroy my nails within 2 days they are done, so it’d be a waste of money (and it’s a therapy to do my own nails while watching a movie on weekends).
    Husband takes care of rent and all food-related stuff. :)

  • I am so excited for your wardrobe revamp posts! Since I moved with one large suitcase and one carry on, I had to seriously pare down my wardrobe. Once I have money coming in again, I plan to overhaul it.

    I’m willing to shell out for:
    – Great food, either ingredients or prepared in a restaurant
    – Great dog food: My dog is 12 and I want her to live to see 20.
    – Electronics: I refuse to buy a camera until I can afford a DSLR
    – Body, skin, and hair care products

    I will not pay boatloads for:
    – A car: The next car I buy will probably be another old (2000-’05), used Acura.
    – Furniture: I prefer to thrift or hit Ikea
    – Decorating: I’d describe mine and my husband’s taste as minimalist and functional

    • I ALSO pay a lot for Desh’s dog food. I’m so with you on that! And I spend a lot on makeup/skincare too but I try to ration it by not showering daily, using smaller portions and not wearing makeup often.

  • Love this post! And excited to hear about your wardrobe revamp process – after moving to DC, I’ve had to downsize substantially but have found that I really end up wearing the same things over and over so I clearly need to downsize more but as always am scared to let go hah!

  • Quitting my job without a plan b has definitely made me re-think the way I spend money, especially in the way I know prioritize the *value* of something over things like cost or convenience. I’ve come to view eating out as a treat and not a daily ritual, and I’ve rediscovered an appreciation for the things I already have/do, rather than always seeking something newer/better. And I’ve learned to pretty incredible things — the art of saying “no, thank you” and to truly be honest with myself about money.

    • That definitely would make you re-think! That’s how I was when we were aggressively paying off our debt. Love the idea of “no, thank you.” that can free you up in all areas of life.

    • I love it! They don’t accept credit cards to reduce costs, they’re owned by Trader Joes, they don’t have shelving to save costs and you bag your own groceries. Plus I love that you stick a quarter in to use a cart. Keeps them from hunting them all down.

  • I love this post, Allie! It’s really interesting to see what people will and won’t pay for. I think I would be more willing to eat out more and get my nails done more if I was making more money. I think that’s when people see the biggest shift in their spending habits, obviously!

  • loved this post, loved the ideas and reason behind it! i spend too much on my shopping habit…although what used to be a Gap, Macy’s, Marshall’s, etc. is now Goodwill, vintage, antiques, and great sales online. AND, i am realizing more and more that i don’t mind paying for QUALITY stuff. this is especially true with my diet and food nowadays. i am gluten free (it has been an ADVENTURE! :) but, i feel so much better about it, and now, it seems that eliminating stuff that bothers me (wheat, cheaply made clothing, clutter) is working it’s way throughout my life. amazing what a little perspective and rearranging of thoughts can do for that. :) which is making my money issues get better. yay!

  • Love this! It bugs me how evasive and general people are about finances and spending habits, so I extra love to see transparent things like this.

    I will not pay much $$ for:
    -haircuts. I typically go 1-2 years between real, legit cuts.
    -hair things in general. I buy the cheapest blowdryer (since I use it 10 times a year) and only pick up hairties once a year.
    -cars. I can’t imagine ever buying a new one and plan to always be close to or completely paid off on the ones I do have
    -groceries. We stick to a pretty strict budget and usually have bare cupboards by the time we’re due for our next trip. I never, ever shop at real grocery stores like Marsh or Kroger.
    -pets. Rescue all the way!
    -fitness. Anytime fitness and my neighborhood loop work just fine for me!

    I will pay good $$ for:
    -food and entertainment. Not all the time, but we try to save up for big, fun things.
    -travel to see friends and family
    -the occasional high-quality accessory or clothing item. They just last so much longer!
    -a dog sitter. Lord help us if we ever have to actually board our Weimaraner. Anxiety attack waiting to happen.
    -gifts for others. We really, really love to find fun ways to bless the ones we love.

    • I’m totally with you on all of that! Travel is so important to me and I don’t mind spending $1000 on staying in NYC for a week but would never buy a nice car. So funny how we prioritize it.

  • This kind of really made me think! For me, I used to say I’d never spend money on hosting (since so many people offer nice free hosting [that I know personally, anyway]), but now that I’ve done it, I can never go back because it’s so luxurious. However, some things take priority over one another. For me:

    I’ll spend ~$50 for someone [a friend] to design a theme for my blog/website, but that theme also gets used [usually] for a year or more.
    I won’t spend more than $15 to advertise my site/provide a giveaway/etc.
    I’ll spend ~$100 on domain names yearly, but I won’t spend that much on clothes.

  • I am super behind on blogs so this comment is late.

    Context: I currently have $2.25 in my bank account but my bills are paid and I have some cash for emergencies. No savings. I am separated and trying to finalize my divorce. Expensive. Going from two incomes to one was a shock. I’m still trying to navigate this.

    I love how you listed this all out. I’ve been budgeting like crazy lately and setting goals. I make NOT spending money a competition with myself. Trying to see how long I can ride this gravy train so I can get some money in savings and pay down some debt from the divorce.

    I am a spender when it comes to convenience, and I want to change that. Eating out is my weakness because I really hate to cook.

    I will not spend money on fashion. Lately I’ve been trying to find things at Goodwill that I can modify to work for my wardrobe. Now that it’s cooler, I’m having a little bit more trouble with this.

    I will not spend money on internet. My internet got disconnected because I couldn’t pay my bill earlier this year, and I decided it wasn’t worth it to get it turned back on. I watch less TV and read more. I borrow books. I trade with friends. I’ve realized this helps me wind down at the end of the day and gives my friends and me more to talk about. Deeper conversation. It has been a rich investment NOT to invest. I am still, however, very embarrassed about the internet being disconnected. Not proud at all.

    I am trying to spend less than $50/week on groceries. I have a $20 toiletry budget a month that can move to whichever week I happen to need toiletries. It’s just me. I don’t need toiletries that often. I have an Aldi literally next door.

    I will pay for unlimited data on my iPhone. I do have an iPhone. It’s a 4, and I will not upgrade it until it explodes in my hand. I have a MacBook that I got used from a friend for $400. It is like an inch thick and I will use it until it explodes as well. I make my own home decor (I paint, luckily) and most of the furniture I have was given to me. One of my couch cushions has duck tape holding it together on the back side. I never sit there and no one ever comes over so it is what it is.

    A “splurge” for me these days comes in the form of downloading that iTunes song I’ve been wanting forever…

    • Audrey, I love that you typed it loud. $2.25 in your bank account. You are in good company with mine currently sitting at $2.93! Like you I don’t mind or have anxiety about it because all my monthly bills are paid (and I get paid in two days). I do need to work on having an emergency fund for those what if moments. That’s my goal for 2014, while I pay of credit card debt. An accomplishment of mine is not overspending. In the past two years, I have been much better about not going over budget. It was much easier to do that when I had a credit card. Now it’s just me and my debit card and I like how we work together.

    • I love love love this honesty, Audrey! There are times in life where you have to adjust. I remember paying off debt for years and getting so pumped when we used all our change to buy chipotle burritos for date night. We had all our parents’ old furniture. No cable.

      Since I’ve always freelanced I’ve always needed a faster computer and internet but just recently I started upgrading my camera gear and booking sessions to pay for it all. Life has its ups and downs doesn’t it? Adam and I are gearing up to start saving aggressively for some big life decisions (vague huh? no not a baby) and it’s a challenge.

  • i thoroughly enjoyed this post. (actually all of them so far. a creative/witty/photographing/humor loving/minimalist. girl after my own heart.) but this post was fantastic.

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