I've been thinking a lot lately about how we spend our money. Tim and I are not misers, but we are very mindful of where our money goes. We are glad to reward ourselves with things that make us happy and improve our life; and we are happy to give to others too. But we are also putting away a lot of Tim's income -- some for the girls' college, some for a nice house when he retires, but mostly just for security in a future that is more and more uncertain. When Tim got his raise on the first of the year, the extra money just went into savings and investments. When he's promoted to major sometime in the next year, we plan to keep living on his captain's salary. We're not the best at stretching our dollars -- we can't get our grocery expenditure to budge below $140 a week -- and even if we do, it just means follow-up grocery trips later in the week. But we are pretty disciplined for the most part. We have no debt besides one car payment. I divide things I want into "need to have", "nice to have", and "really nice to have". The "nice" and "really nice" things that are under $100, I mull over for a bit and then walk or click away. If I forget about it, then I'm not getting it. If I come back later at least a couple times, then I'll get it. My Ergo Baby carrier and this nice little purse I just bought fall under that category.
Here are some examples of what I won't part with money for:
First, there's the cleaning lady that we considered several months ago. Some friends of ours -- busy moms with little kids -- managed to find a cleaning lady who would clean a 1700-square-foot house for about $100. That's dirt cheap if you didn't know. You have to provide your own cleaning supplies. There's another catch, as I found out later from one of the couples -- she will break your blinds and then not tell you; and she will leave debris in your backyard, and not put things back where they belong. But the idea of vacuumed floors, dusted surfaces and squeaky clean toilets even once a month appealed to me. Tim and I discussed it at length over the period of a few days. He was, not surprisingly, completely against it. I couldn't seem to make a good enough argument as to why I needed help cleaning this house. Finally, we agreed that we would clean together -- field day, if you will -- every week. He said he would try to be more involved. He said that just to placate me and get me off the case; and he does pitch in from time to time even though the weekly field days never came to fruition. But I'm over the idea. No way am I paying someone to go through my house, roughly cleaning my house with no regard for our things. So, my conclusion for the economical cleaning lady -- nice to have, but not even necessarily "nice" if she is so careless as to break things and not have the decency to tell you. And I definitely won't pay twice as much for a good cleaning lady. Maybe I could do a little less blogging and more cleaning.:)
Another person that we've entertained the idea of hiring, is a babysitter. We even created an account on Sittercity, and interviewed a good candidate for the job of just occasionally taking these children off our hands. After creating this nice profile with descriptions of our kids, we left the account dormant. Now here's where I reveal how I'm a cheapskate. Do you know what babysitters charge? $10 to $15 an hour. Try as I might, I can not imagine what awesome, life-changing thing I or we could be doing out by ourselves, that would warrant paying someone $10 an hour to enjoy the company of our little ones. And I know I ought to be ashamed of that attitude. Babysitting is how I got my start, and it's hard work. It's how I earned spending money as a 12- to 15-year-old. Money was tight growing up and my parents weren't just handing us money. Many mothers weighed the cost versus benefit of hiring me for between $5 and $10 an hour to watch their kids, and decided I was worth it. So I ought to be more supportive of the babysitting industry. As I told my mom, maybe if the right teenage babysitter comes along, I'll hire her in that spirit. I'll support my local 14-year-old babysitter.. if I ever find her. And I will not be cheap when it comes to paying her. I'll round up to the next hour. Until then, we have agreements with other parents around here, to watch each other's kids for nothing. All we have to do is quit being homebodies and make plans, starting with our anniversary next month.
As for Tim, he's wanted many new things for a long time, and they are all expensive:
- A motorcycle. It's very annoying that anytime I ask him what he wants for his birthday or Christmas, this is the answer. He says, "Can't you just picture us riding around on one?" Yes, we'd make such lovely organ donors.
- A new truck (his '02 Chevy Silverado is starting to fall apart, but still runs and is paid off, so that's not justified).
- A new TV, which I've always said no to, but he's wearing me down. He's told me once they come out with 3D TVs -- and he says it's imminent since ESPN is going to start broadcasting in 3D -- we're getting a new TV. To that, I just yawn and roll my eyes and think, 'Boy, what fun will it be to watch Dora and Snow White in 3D!'
Tim wants all kinds of big ticket items, but says he'll wear his clothes until they fall off. Priorities.
Now here is one of my crazy what-ifs. Sometimes on a weekend morning when Tim and I are sleeping and we hear a little voice calling, "Mama, Dada, the clock turned yellow!" I think, 'What if there were a button I could press on the nightstand that once pressed, would summon a nanny to come to the house to get both the girls out of bed and feed them? (Once pressed, the button would also put a $20 charge on our American Express -- I have to make it somewhat realistic. After the first hour, an additional $10 an hour would be charged.) The nanny would care for the girls until one or the other of us finally made it downstairs, probably two hours later. Then I think, good thing we don't have that option! We'd go broke. How could we have the discipline not to press that button and roll over and go back to sleep?
I feel like I'm sharing a lot here. So, what are some things you save on and what are some things you splurge on? How do you decide on the expensive ($100 or more) items?