A friend cancelled a much-anticipated trip this week: a strong wind blew one vehicle door into another and the repairs meant the trip was off.
When it comes to money, I often feel like I live between worlds: I have very wealthy friends and relatives but I also have friends who live frugally below the poverty line, some by choice, some not. We are somewhere in the middle. Realistically, though, we are in the top 0.1% of the world for wealth. And yet, like my friend, I am not ashamed to admit there are many things I simply cannot afford.
Last year, we traveled a ton, and had a blast. This year, we are tightening our belts, stopping the gaps where money was seeping away. We have reinstituted an old habit of giving ourselves weekly allowances. This gives us discretionary spending money but puts a limit on it. We have put a strict ceiling on our grocery shopping. We don't eat out often at all and we don't buy tons of clothes or toys, but we are being far more intentional in our thinking.
We also live in a house that costs more to operate than expected. So, we pull down and build up ourselves. And sometimes, like now, we wait and save.
At least once a year I rethink my subscription to a decorating magazine and the lust it induces. Yesterday was the most recent occasion: the latest issue features photos of a salt-water lap pool, surrounded by a newly built stone privacy fence, because the owners don't want to see the pool from their house. Frankly, I can't relate.
Sometimes I think that if a million dollars dropped in my lap, I would decorate with the best of them, but I'm not certain I would. Or at least, I'm not certain I'd like to be that person.
Dave said recently about something, "we can't afford that" and I corrected him: we choose not to afford that. We choose how we spend the money we have and we choose to be rich in time: he gets summers off, and I work as a freelancer, which means I have more control over my schedule than I would if I worked for someone else. We have time to hang out with our kids, to go to their sporting events, and to garden. We choose to own only one car. We choose to wait before we rebuild our pool shed. We choose to repair rather than replace.
To some of my acquaintances, I am rich beyond their wildest dreams, while others may consider our entire budget to be pocket change and wonder why we aren't traveling this year or renovating more, but I have always considered myself fortunate that I have never felt either rich or poor. Either one can be a burden.
In a time when people hope to start out where their parents ended up and are willing to max out their credit cards in the pursuit of stuff, I am happy to say: I can't afford to do that.