We’re not poor (just incredibly smart about how we spend our money)

by Erika Torres

I had an “aha” moment last week. (I’m an Oprah fan, cut me some slack).

Eric and I are not poor. AHA!

I had been thinking about our expenses lately and how our credit card is over my “comfortable” limit and I thought to myself–we could take the money out of savings and pay off the whole credit card right now and we’d be done with it (For the record, I pay off the card in full every month, but we always seem to be one paycheck behind and so our credit card always has a balance). However, I chose not to withdraw from our savings and instead be extremely frugal so that we feel the impact (pain?) of our credit card purchases.

It would be too easy to always bail ourselves out by simply raiding our savings. I want us to learn to live within our means and include saving as part of our financial budget.

But throughout this inner battle, I thought to myself: Eric and I are not poor. And a lightbulb went off.

And no, I’m not about to write some dribble about how we’re actually “rich” because we have each other, yadda yadda yadda, insert gagging noises here.

No. Financially, as in monetary wealth–we are not poor. The fact that we are on track to save between 8 and 10 thousand dollars  by August should have been my first clue in realizing this. But I think when you allocate all your pennies, and you watch your friends and read other blogs and you compare yourself to others, with all their shiny new toys and expensive trips and homes and cars, you realize “crap, they have something I don’t and that makes me feel poor.”

But, like I said, we’re not poor. We just choose to spend our money in different ways.

Could we afford a fancy apartment instead of the homey shack we live in? Yes. Could we afford to go out to dinner every weekend? Yes. Could we afford to go on $500 shopping sprees every month and have the latest and greatest clothes? It’s sad to realize this, but yes, I totally could!

But we choose not to. Because if we didn’t buckle down and save money like crazy, we’d be in really bad shape come August when Eric enters the fire academy full-time. And even after he finishes the academy, we still plan on saving like crazy for future goals, which may include paramedic school, a new car, a down payment on a house…um *gulp*…a family? Again, this is far, farrr in the future.

But still, I am glad that we have a choice when it comes to how we spend (or don’t spend) our money. And I believe we’re doing it wisely.

Any other recent aha moments out there?

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marissa November 20, 2011 - 4:00 pm

My recent aha moment was the cost of commuting and how much of pay cut I can take. Its eye-opening to see how much money and time is being wasted on commuting. Next step is looking at jobs in my city.

Dmarie March 16, 2011 - 6:54 pm

aha is good. and the ahhhh feeling that comes from no money worries is pretty great too!!

IntrigueMe (Quarter For Her Thoughts) March 16, 2011 - 12:05 pm

I had a smiliar aha moment a few months ago. I realized that I have a lot of bills but I also have a lot of money, and with the progress I’ve made the last couple years in paying things off and minimizing my expenses, I have a lot more free cash. I started putting that free cash into RRSP’s though, so then I was still feeling poor. I had to start thinking of it like this: I have a salary, I have investments and savings, and I have a bit of free cash. That’s not poor, that’s great! It’s hard to realize how far you’ve come, sometimes (especially when you’re used to being tight on cash).

Serendipity February 24, 2011 - 4:16 pm

My aha moment was thinking to myself, ” Wow I have 50 bucks extra out of my paycheck. That’s pretty cool. What can I buy? Oh I know, I should save it and fill my e-fund!” Just myself being able to tell myself to save money was really huge for me. There was really no doubt to myself that I should do it and can. My aha moment is, wow, I have extra money to save so I should do that instead of shopping. Makes me feel good to know I’d rather save than shop.

maggie February 22, 2011 - 8:25 pm

How has mint been going for you? i want to use it but i feel very unsafe about it. Do you feel it is secure and have you found it had been working for you?

Fabulously Frugirl February 21, 2011 - 6:12 pm

I had my aha moment when I was thinking about buying a car.

I could afford one. I could afford a brand new one paid for in cash. But I’d rather save that money now, and buy a used car later. Besides, now my money is earning interest instead of depreciating metal. 🙂

Lily February 21, 2011 - 4:23 pm

You are so right! And reading this post was my “Aha” moment. For weeks, I have been stressing out about money, grad school tuition, and that fact that I don’t qualify for food stamps because my employer has cut my hours too much…..Yet, I have money in savings–I am just choosing to save it for something else (tuition), rather then spending it now on restaurants and clothes. Thank you for this reminder that I do have choices!

Teacher Girl February 21, 2011 - 2:09 pm

Bravo! You have chosen to spend you money in a way that ensures your future instead of on meaningless stuff. Like they say, you can’t take it with you. One day you two will have all the things you want, and you’ll be happier than ever.

My recent “aha moment”- realizing that it’s okay to be 25 and single as all hell!

jobo February 21, 2011 - 11:34 am

That’s a huge a-ha moment!! And you are right, you are NOT poor. You choose to spend your money wisely, and save in areas so you can do things further out and save a chunk of change. You are my budgeting inspiration 😉 I would say that I don’t think I am poor, and I am doing better at getting rid of the bit of cc debt I have, so I can save more. It’s a good feeling, isn’t it?!

Lindsey February 21, 2011 - 7:01 am

I had that exact same “aha!” moment. We could buy all the furniture and decor now but we know building our savings back up is more important. And we could eat out at fancy restaurants but that just seems like a waste of money to me!

missmitten February 21, 2011 - 6:40 am

Having just taken $1,000 from savings & then using the rest of our tax return to pay off $4k+ in credit card debt, I can see why you would worry about a balance on your credit card. You worked so hard to pay it off, WHY have a balance on there you can’t reconcile every month? We plan on putting our ATT bill and the light bill on there, and that’s it to keep the credit going, but paying it off every month.

I know you’re not poor, though I tend to now thing of it as neg debt, let’s say $1k, and pos savings $1k = zero.

Also, I think there is finding balance. You should have dinners once in awhile and also buy yourself stuff–all that figures into the budget so you don’t feel like you’re totally starving yourself.

Daisy February 20, 2011 - 8:53 pm

I need my aha moment, soon.
I am really lacking inspiration to save lately, & I feel like going out & doing all those things that you listed, despite the fact that it wouldn’t help anything.
Your right. Comparisons do nothign except dissapoint. The grass is always greener on the other side – but I personally would never ever give up my future financial stability to have the newest gadgets constantly. Some people might be opposite 🙂 Nobody has everything!

Jessica February 20, 2011 - 8:53 pm

my AHA moment was the exact same one as yours! We could afford dinners out once a week, or shopping sprees… but we saved and saved and saved and we make big payments (usually triple the minimum amount) on our credit cards, so we can be debt-free faster. And our savings helped us buy our townhouse. 🙂 You guys just have your priorities set to the future, like we did!

prettylittlereckless February 20, 2011 - 8:41 pm

My a-ha moment in general lately is that I need to move on and find my passion and a job that suits it. I really want to go back to school for cosmetology school,although I think it’s a bit frivolous. It’s what I’m most passionate about though- hair, makeup, nails etc. I want to take the leap, but not sure. A friend who formerly did cosmo school, said it wasn’t worth the money to do it. So… that killed my mood pretty quick :-/


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