Having looked at my quasi-busted budget from last month, I’ve made a decision: I’m going to let myself spend more.
This is pretty counterintuitive from a purported frugality/personal finance blog, I suppose. Or just in general. But hear me out.
Rubbing me the right way
First of all, I’ve decided to get a second massage each month. My therapist routinely nags me about making sure that I take care of myself amid my quest to save money. He wants me to indulge once in a while.
I already got one a month, which I guess is already an indulgence. But my back and neck get pretty bad, probably from my being at a computer all day (and on my phone so much). So a monthly massage helps me function better overall.
The issue is that some months my neck has been bad enough that the masseuse asked me to come in two weeks later instead of four. And guys, it’s lovely to get rubbed down twice a month, especially since — thanks to a deal the place offers — I only pay $40 a month ($55 after tip) for any extra massages.
It makes me feel like I’m truly taking care of myself, and it’s probably just good for me in general with my neck/back issues. So yeah, I’m going to get two massages a month starting this month.
That’s the first place the budget is increasing. But another category’s hike is far more noteworthy.
Dates ain’t free
As chronicles of my Tinder-ing have attested, I’m having a lot of fun now that I’m single again — and have been having a ton of fun in general since I got divorced. But for me this necessitates going out more.
I mean, it’s all well and good to curl up with a guy in front of a Netflix movie (or other, er, free activities) once you’ve gotten to know him. But unlike, apparently, a terrifying number of women on Tinder, I don’t invite men I’ve never met over to my house. Nor do I go to theirs.
Meanwhile, I don’t drink more than a single hard cider and drive. And if I’m on a date I prefer to have a vodka tonic or two (okay, sometimes three). That means using Lyft to and from the date. Even sticking to bars that are within three miles of me, which is my M.O., that’s around $17-22 round-trip.
So yeah, dating adds up, which on one hand offends my frugal sensibilities. On the other hand, however, I don’t want to slow down on dates. After the Darryl debacle — and just because I have too much fun in general with pretty young thangs — I have no intention of getting exclusive with anyone for the foreseeable future. So I’m gonna date it up, darn it!
A regular social life
And it’s not just that. My friends like to have game nights, which are great cheap nights in, but once every month or two we also like to go out on the town. And drink prices these are heinous. But you know what? I love being out with my friends. They’re fun. And yeah, so are the delicious and always unique cocktails we discover at downtown bars.
Plus I like to go to MeetUp events. My friend Kevin throws awesome house parties one to two times a month. I usually take a Lyft there and back, which adds up. And there are other MeetUp events held at local restaurants. As readers scolded me in the past, it’s important to support these places by buying something while I’m there.
Yes, this is a lot of going out. And I could easily scale it back. But working at home — while awesome (I’m in my PJs as I type this!) — is also incredibly isolating when you live alone. I have Twitter, this blog and my friend Leila on WhatsApp to give me some semblance of social interaction. But I need to get out or I go a little stir crazy.
Also, I just really like going on dates with hot guys. So there’s that.
The big hike
Previously, my going out budget was $100 in normal months and $150 if I knew I was going to go out with friends or going to date a lot. And that already felt like a lot.
But last month’s date-a-rama completely busted even that higher budget. And my friends and I didn’t even venture out for drinks!
So I’ve made the command decision to increase my Going Out budget category up to a painful $250. And in case that doesn’t make you cringe on its own, let me remind you that this doesn’t include trivia food (a $50 budget in and of itself), dining out ($50) or entertainment ($50 — for Netflix/Hulu and in case I want to see a movie or two a month).
I’m thinking/hoping that $250 is overkill and that I’ll settle closer to $200. If I can find a few core guys I see repeatedly, then dating costs will go down even further, since we can just chill out at home. (Though who knows? Maybe I’ll want to constantly refresh my options.)
Gulp! But also…
Obviously, I don’t want to spend that much money. But on the other hand, I guess I do?
Because I like going out with my friends to try new and interesting drinks, even if the prices tend to hover painfully at $13-14.
And I like Kevin’s house parties. I mean… You’re drunk and there’s air hockey, pool and cotton candy! (Also friends that I like to catch up with, obviously. But, like, cotton candy, y’all!)
Plus I enjoy going to the silly fun of rooftop bingo on top of a local hotel, and that means spending $8 after tip on a quesadilla to support the venue — or its restaurant, anyway.
Meanwhile the MeetUp book club is good for me because, left to my own devices, I rot my brain with too much TV. Alas, we meet at local bars/restaurants, so once again I consider at least a small purchase to be basic courtesy.
Finally, I like going out with (mostly young) attractive guys. It’s fun. They’re pretty. But that means some drinks, which means Lyft. (I feel like maybe I should buy some stock in the company.)
Why this is okay
First of all, I make good money. Very good. Most months I put at least $200 into savings, then $200+ into the emergency fund, $550 toward other savings goals and often more than $1,500 into my retirement accounts.
So an extra $100 to $150 a month won’t derail my ability to build a financial future, let alone put me in danger of debt.
Secondly, even with all of that frivolous spending (or at least spending on frivolity), my budget for the month — including things like $300 in utilities, $200 for potential home repairs, etc. — is still only about $2,150. That doesn’t include my mortgage, mind you, but that’s under $600.
In other words, while I feel utterly indulgent and rather like a spendthrift at this point, I’m actually doing a pretty decent job at keeping overall spending low. Perhaps it’s not amazing for die-hard frugal folks. But compared to most people I’m pretty conservative with my money.
Finally, it’s important for us to remember that frugality isn’t just about saving money. It’s about making important, mindful financial choices, saving where we can so we can spend on what matters.
For me, what matters right now is a social (and dating) life.
So yep, I’m going to cringe while I budget (and while I record the expenses). But darn it, I’m going to go out and have some fun without worrying about busting the limits I’ve set for myself!
What’s something seemingly frivolous that you earmark money for?