What is your happiness factor worth?

by Erika Torres

When it comes to spending money, Eric and I usually have different opinions.

I am uber responsible to a fault. I like to spend a lot of money, so I like to make a lot of money (one of the reasons my salary has doubled in less than 4 years). I would rather spend money on trips and life experiences than material things, but I still would like our house to look like a home rather than someone’s guesthouse we’re renting out.

Eric is more lackadaisical toward money.  He isn’t as passionate about paying off our credit card debt as I am, although he does want to pay it off. If he wants something and there’s money in the bank, he’ll buy it. If it’s something that he knows will make me happy, he’ll buy it. If I complain about how I need a new pair of jeans, he’ll tell me to buy them (rather than me wait till I babysit and save up for them, like I intend to do). When he goes to the grocery store, he doesn’t look for the best deal or wait till it’s on sale, he’ll buy it because he wants it.

It’s not that he’s purposely trying to ruin our “pay down the debt” plan, I think he just doesn’t look at the big picture like I do. Perhaps it’s also the oldest sibling mentality (ME) vs. the youngest sibling mentality (Eric!).

This month, we’ve paid a huge amount toward our debt. In fact, I can’t wait till our results post at the end of the month, where you can all go “whoa, go you!”

However, while I do want to contribute as much as we can to pay down our debt, there are also certain other items that aren’t needs, but are major MAJOR wants. Gym membership for Eric and television for me (I also want a gym membership but I’m willing to gain a few pounds for the sake of getting my TV first).

This month, even while putting a ton of money toward our debt, I’ve still managed to scrounge $300 for Eric’s gym membership–from a $195 refund for something we paid back in July and never received, and also from a $90 babysitting check that I got earlier this month. His membership cost us only $15 out of our budget this month and that’s for two years! Since we weren’t expecting that money anyway, I count it as “free money.”

However, when it comes to the TV…well, we’ve sort of disagreed. Eric knows how happy a brand new flatscreen would make me. And we found a bargain on Amazon (no 8.25% CA sales tax!) for a 32 inch, for $330.

Eric was all “Let’s just buy it today. Or let’s go to Costco and buy one right now. Let’s just do it, I’ll set it up and you’ll have it for the weekend!”

Do you know how hard this was to turn down?? It was like someone putting a piece of 0-calorie Red Velvet Cake in your face. Of course you would take it, right?? I mean, what kind of an idiot would you be to turn it down?

A responsible idiot, I guess. Because as much as I want a brand new TV to complete my cozy living room (and I also need new curtains but that’s a different post!)–how responsible would it be of me to add $330 to our debt, knowing I may be losing my job in two months?

We already took $300 to buy Eric’s gym membership…we could have put that money toward debt, but we chose to use it for “the happiness factor” (that’s Eric’s term, by the way).

And a new TV would make me extremely happy…but the 19-inch hand-me-down that my parents are letting us borrow performs the same function. $330 for a new TV would make me happy TODAY, but when I got the bill and saw our debt slide back, I’m sure the happiness would fade. I don’t think my happiness factor is worth $330 today; I’ll settle for “content.”

I know I’m making the right decision. But sometimes, it’s so freakin’ hard to be so damn responsible.

What is your happiness factor worth? What are you not willing to give up in order to save money? Would you have bought the TV?

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Serendipity October 30, 2010 - 10:53 pm

Although Rambo is insanely good with his money, he could easily drop money on a television, game console, accessories for said gam console, etc. It irks me but I think maybe it’s because I have to save for that type of purchase unlike him. He already has the money. But, in a weird way I think I treasure it more because I worked hard for it.

As for what I’m not willing to give up because I have debt? Starbucks coffees ( 1-2x a week is really okay and nothing to beat myself up over as long as it’s coming from my misc money) and going out. I’m 25 and I refuse to not experience my youth just because I have debt. As long as I’m only dropping 25-30 bucks a week and this as well comes from my misc money, I’m going to have some fun damnit!


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Nicole October 23, 2010 - 3:19 pm

Good for you! You can get an even nicer TV once your debt is gone. It’ll feel even better then. You will get a fancy new TV eventually and it’s great you’re looking at the long term instead of the short term. That means the long term will be a whole lot easier than if you just focused on the weekend ahead.

Weekly Favorites and Gratitude! «Budgeting In the Fun Stuff October 23, 2010 - 4:05 am

[…] on a Budget with What is your Happiness Factor Worth?  For me, a lot.  She is way more responsible than I would have been with the […]

IntrigueMe (Quarter For Her Thoughts) October 19, 2010 - 3:56 pm

I’m commenting on the last couple of posts here as for some reason I can’t click to comment on your more recent post.

I think the phrase “pick your battles” is key, here.

When I was living with my ex, we had the same issues. I like for my house to be clean, presentable to guests, and uncluttered. I would come home from work and still be in work-mode so I’d start to clean. If I didn’t do it then, then I’d never get back up again to do it later. He was the opposite. He liked to come home and relax and decompress for a while, and then he would do some things around the house later in the evening, or he would do it on weekends.

For a while I nagged him to help me after work, but then one day I decided to “pick my battles” and drop this one. Once I stopped nagging, he actually started helping out more. I think what it took was me stepping back and realizing that we were two different people with two different work ethics. I worked all week and relaxed all weekend, and he liked to spread out his work/play time more evenly throughout. He actually turned out to be quite a neat freak in the end.

I bet it would be the same with Eric if you took a step back… play to both of your strengths, and in the long run it will all come together.

In regards to the spending money thing… I would have bought the TV, because I am whoa-impulsive like that… but then I would have been mad at myself later for my lack of self discipline. The shitty thing is, you guys are in a tough spot right now. You both have to be happy or else you’ll start to resent each other, yet you have limited funds so it’s hard to afford happiness (people who say money can’t buy happiness are not living on planet earth!).

I think that you don’t really have all that much debt compared to most couples in our age range. You’re probably being too hard on yourself in that regard. Perhaps your expectations about paying it off, are a tad too high? Maybe if you lowered that expectation just a little, and allocated yourselves a bit more “fun money” (that’s my term) then you’d be better able to balance happiness and your debt. He could be able to buy his lunches again and you could afford to get your nails done. Getting married shouldn’t have to mean putting all kinds of financial pressure on yourself. We are our own worst critics. 😉 xoxo

Shannon October 18, 2010 - 1:21 pm

Oh man I sooo understand you both on this one. There are those times where I just have to think, yes, but I want to LIVE…because I’m 28 and damn it life is short. You just have to choose carefully.

Cait October 18, 2010 - 12:09 pm

Go you, not buying that tv! Go you, putting money towards your debt!

I draw the line at missing out on experiences that are within my ability to afford (so long as I cut back in other recreational areas) – i.e. live music. I love going to concerts, and I’ve skipped out on 2 shows in recent-ish memory because I couldn’t afford them – or rather, I couldn’t justify the $30-50 to see a band that wasn’t my favorite. I’ve regretted it both times. A lot.

So, last week, I spent $140 on 2 concert tickets, despite the fact that I don’t have anyone to go with yet. Knowing it would sell out, I decided to splurge on the second ticket just to ensure that I can go with someone. Luckily, I don’t have any credit card debt, so that’s as much as I have to pay on that card; however, I am up to my ass in student loan debt. At least that has a lower interest rate.

Kim October 18, 2010 - 12:02 pm

I just found your blog – I can really relate as newlyweds. Wow, you could switch Eric’s name for my hubby! He wants to pay off student loans, but he’s not as aggressive as I (I am also a first born!). I wouldn’t buy the TV because once bought, you’ll just want something else. Don’t let a limited time good price ever, ever rush you. Not to mention, the price of TVs is supposed to plummet during Christmastime like last year: http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20101017/NEWS/101019782/1011/NEWS?Title=Flat-screen-TV-prices-tumbling

jay October 18, 2010 - 11:27 am

I wouldn’t have bought it either… especially if I already had one. We had a 27inch hand me down for 2 years and spent a good portion of that time saving up a little money here and there. We bought the floor model at Target for more than 50% off and it was sort of our BIG Christmas present to each other last year.

It seriously sucks being responsible(and feeling like you’re sometimes alone in being responsible). We spent $130 at Target last night on groceries – and that’s the responsible thing to do, but we already had some(minimal amounts) food in the house and I watched that $130 slip out of our hands when we REALLY need winter clothes and I really want some new decor.

Ali October 18, 2010 - 11:24 am

You and your hubby sound just like me and my hubby. I am always the one reminding us to stay on track and save and he is always wanting to make me happy. That said, I would definitely not have bought the TV.

I am the girl that still doesn’t have furniture in her front room because it doesn’t make sense to use our savings for some furniture that isn’t a necessity quite yet.

Erin B. Inspired October 18, 2010 - 9:56 am

J isn’t afraid to spend money, but he doesn’t like spending money in large quantities. He nearly has a heart attack when he spends more than $100 at one time. I’m kind of like that, but I don’t mind spending that much money when it needs to be spent.

We also want a new TV, but like a BIG TV. We’re talking 55″. One of our friends recently got one and I felt back for J because he wants a new TV so bad, we just can’t afford it right now. Hell, we want a LOT of things right now that we can’t afford. Hopefully next year we’ll have some more extra money to buy some furniture and items we want.

prettylittlereckless October 18, 2010 - 9:53 am

I’m a bit guilty of buying things when I want them. I suck at telling myself no, but then there’s buyers remorse. Sometimes I regret making purchases. I guess it depends what it is, but generally- if I don’t *need* it, I regret the purchase. I have a pair of boots I ordered waiting to be picked up and I’m already considering returning them. I cringe like no other at the thought I paid $180 for a pair of Uggs on top of the $60 boots waiting to be picked up. So likely the $60 boots will go back, as the Uggs are practical for MN winters. The tv thing though- I wouldn’t have bought it either. I consider a tv more of a big purchase. You can always watch shows online 🙂 That’s what I do actually.

Red October 18, 2010 - 8:09 am

Ha! Mr. Red and I are both the oldest children of the bunch, but he acts a lot like Eric when it comes to money. 😉

I think you DEFINITELY made the right choice to wait for the TV. If you didn’t have a TV at all, it probably would have been a little different. I spent money I didn’t have (using excess student loans) to buy a laptop when mine suddenly died on me. But I had to have a computer for work (I was a journalist at the time and did a lot of work at home.) and school. So some things are worth going into debt, but a TV when you have a functional one already isn’t one of those things.

Like you said, you’ll feel A LOT better saving cash for the TV instead of adding to your debt (Also, way to go one your debt payments this month! I can’t wait to see how you did!) 🙂

FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com October 18, 2010 - 7:26 am

I went through all of that when I was in debt. Wanting to buy, not allowing myself to buy… the only thing I did buy was a laptop because I didn’t have a computer anymore and I needed at least ONE personal computer.

It’s hard to be responsible but it feels better to be at $0 net worth than negative, and completely debt free than having something fun to play with if you don’t NEED it.

As for the sibling mentality thing — I’m the youngest. It doesn’t seem to matter….

Kim October 18, 2010 - 6:27 am

Too funny, we were actually in Costco looking at TVs this weekend. We’ve been talking about getting a second one for weeks now. Unfortunately our dog has to go to the vet and I couldn’t pull the trigger on the TV because I kept worrying about how much the vet bill would be! We even have the cash to buy the TV, but I just couldn’t do it.

I can pull the trigger on small stuff all day long, but any purchase over $50 and I freak out. I can’t do it. I scrimp and save coupons to buy clothes and only buy something when it’s on sale and I have a coupon. I’ve been wearing the same two pairs of pants to work since I had to pack away all my summer clothes, because I can’t even bring myself to buy a new pair.


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