I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Treats and Luxuries

I recently had a conversation with The Neighbour's Wife about money. More specifically we were talking about how we really should organise a Girls Night Out, but both we and all our friends are broke so it would probably need to be a "Girls Night In with Potluck." She went on to say that they are actually "haemorrhaging money" at the moment...and I'd be lying if I said the same was not true for us. Both the Neighbour's Wife and the Neighbour are gainfully employed, so they don't have the added issue of less than one income to live off of, and yet they are still struggling to stay afloat.

I'm pretty sure my parent's generation didn't have it so hard.

Of course there are all the usual issues of the increased cost of living, of mortgages being higher but salaries not increasing at the same pace, and of the modern world's need for 'stuff.' We just all spend way, way, way more money than our parents or grandparents did because there's just more "stuff" available to us. Plus you have things like lines of credit, and credit cards, and myriad other ways to live beyond our means. Spending, on a global scale, is just out of control.

Here is the part I find hard to swallow. When I look at my life, I don't see a whole heap of treats and luxuries. I see some treats and luxuries, but I don't see a life of wasteful spending. Let's take my house as an example. It's a nice family home in a fairly middle class area. Nothing at all special about it other than it is closer to the centre of town that not, which immediately makes it more expensive than further away homes. DH and I could have chosen to live far further out of town - and saved a bunch of money on the house - but then we'd spend a bunch of money driving back to town because that's where our family lives, and where our cultural centre is (I'm talking religiously and socially.) So it's either mortgage, or gas/time/wear and tear on our cars. If I were to list other treats and luxuries in my life, I'd list these:

- My kids attend private school (but only do so thanks to generous family, and a generous chunk of financial aid.)
- We have cable tv and internet access at home.
- We eat well. As in loads of meat, and loads of fresh veg and fruit and some boxed items like cereal and dried crackers and occasional deli treats.
- Have two cars, both of which are 13 years old and 8 years old respectively, and decidedly work horses rather than show horses. But still, it's two cars.
- Travel once a year, mostly to go see my family in the US.
- Allow our kids to do one sport or activity per kid.
- We have private health insurance

But what we don't do is:

- go out very often
- smoke or drink (unless it's a bottle which was a gift or out of DH's pre-marriage collection)
- have a cleaning lady every day or even once a week
- hire babysitters (thank god for nice uncles and grandparents)
- shop for clothes unless they are totally necessary
- shop for "stuff" for our house
- eat out very often

Now we've sat down and done budgets - many times, in fact. And every time we do it, we're just shocked at what plain old LIVING costs us. Car insurance, mortgage repayments, health insurance...all things which I think are just basic living costs, are basically eating us alive. I recently paid the car registration on my car and it was over $600. Which is about 1/4 of what my car is actually worth. I look at our lives and I think, "but we don't spend all that much money on fun stuff! We don't have many luxuries at ALL!" And yet, I find that the amount of money DH and I have to earn just to stay afloat is absolutely astronomical. HUGE.

Is it just me who suffers from sticker shock? Are the things which I consider luxuries really able to be cut out of our lives, and if we DID cut them out... then what? What kind of life is it where "good food" is a luxury? Of course, intellectually I know we could cut out some if not all of those and still manage to survive. But I don't want to live a life devoid of luxury. I don't want to stay home every single night, and I want my kids to have a religious education. Suppose I cut out the private schooling. I'd still want (and on some level feel obligated) to send them to some sort of extra learning for the religious bit of it, which will cost money again. Where, exactly, have I saved anything?

I suppose what I'm really saying is, I understand that life is bloody expensive these days. What I don't get is - why is it all so hard? When did the necessities of life (as defined by me, for my life) become such a burden? Is it really the luxuries we've allowed ourselves which is the difference between survival and mounting debt? Is it that we have a far more luxurious life than I think, and really I'm just a whining snob who is living in dream land?

Humour me.

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