To my former self, should you ever read this

Looking back on our 2 years of planning and budgeting, I am constantly amazed by how far we have come. As I’ve said before, we are new people when it comes to financial planning and responsibility, and it is unarguably one of the best things that ever happened to us. Now with our trip lingering right ahead, it’s quite enjoyable to sit back and consider how much we’ve learned so far on this little adventure…

Today is a Friday, which for the last two years, has been our allowance day. Like clockwork, once a week Dave and I pay ourselves a whopping $30 each for spending money. Cash only. Debt and credit cards stay at home so as to ward off the temptation to swipe a card through the machine (be honest, you know it’s WAY too easy to use it ‘just this one time’!). Our allowance can go to anything we wish, but typically is spent on the occasional lunch out, happy hour with friends, bus fare on a rainy day, an hour at the driving range or afternoon movie… The allowance is there for anything that sits outside of our grocery budget- which leaves a lot of options open.

When we first started this, it was hell. We were crying children complaining about how poor we felt, how little we had, and how impossible a $30/week allowance was. I can’t blame my former self. The one week budget was equivalent to what we used to spend in a single evening, not including the twice monthly splurge at a nice restaurant, or a good bottle of Oregon wine. The initiation of a weekly allowance was perhaps the hardest part of our new budget-conscious lives. I recall many Monday mornings when I realized that all $30 had been spent the weekend prior. I remember having to allocate my funds properly for a Wednesday afternoon happy hour or a lunch with friends. Thursday’s were always cursed- there was never any money left on a Thursday. Not even a quarter for a cup of coffee.

Ahhhh, the growing pains. Looking back on the memories of it all I want to laugh. Because when I went to pay allowance this morning, I opened up my wallet to find $15 remaining from last week. $15 that I didn’t realize I hadn’t spent.

Could it be that $30 is now more than I need? Have I adjusted so much that I don’t even notice my own frugality? If only I could properly explain this to my former self. What a difference a year (or two) can make.

On a related note, we’ve noticed some hostility from a few select friends lately (select friends, as the majority of our friends have been incredibly supportive). I’m not sure if said friends were just humoring us all this time when we talked about our goal, but recently it’s become clear to them that the trip is in fact happening, and they are shocked. To say the least. There have been a few one liners slipped our way lately, little jabs.. verbal punches to express how lucky we are and how unlucky they are:

‘Well, WE aren’t rich and don’t have the option of taking a year off’, or ‘shouldn’t you guys pick up the tab if you’re the ones with the big savings account?!’

It makes me wonder where those friends were the last few years. I know I’ve seen them, but somehow our drastic change in spending habits never occurred to them. When they were ordering grande nonfat extra vanilla mochas, I was ordering a small coffee. When they ordered full meals plus an appetizer, I was splitting a starter with Dave. When they went out bar hopping all night, we stopped for a single drink and took the bus home (this has happened so many times, I’ve lost count). My point being that while the changes we’ve made have at times seemed catastrophic to us, they’ve gone virtually unnoticed by some of our peers. So unnoticed, that they are surprised when we tell them that we’ve saved up enough to go through with this crazy idea. It goes to show how small of a sacrifice this actually was. A shorter Friday evening used to seem HUGE to us. But that’s not what people remember, all they remember is that we were there. In retrospect, none of it was really all that much of a sacrifice.

I wish my old self knew this secret. It certainly would have made things easier: to know that the hardest part was adjusting to an allowance, not adjusting to having less. We certainly haven’t had less of the things that matter- laughing with our friends, experiencing the ups and downs of life in our 30’s together, being a support system to each other… And the other stuff? The extra drink at the bar, or the plate of ribs we thought we really wanted? Well, we now know that stuff is easily forgotten about.

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