Growing up, we had a pair of special couches in our living room. They were the no-touching-no-sitting-no-breathing-on-couches. It provoked many a question in a five-year-old’s brain: Are those couches as soft as clouds? Will we get eaten by them? Are there fruit roll-ups hidden between the cushions? It was like the forbidden fruit — and we did eat. After a few years of disobeying, my parents gave up, and their couches became our couches.
I was reminded of these couches a few years ago while we were living in NYC. It was Thanksgiving day and a group of friends decided to play a game of football at Central Park. When we arrived, we discovered newly erected fences surrounding every grass surface. Hastily posted signs read, “Grass closed until Spring.” Excuse me? You can close grass?!! We resorted to finding a dirt patch to play our game, but us tax-gouged Manhattan-ites were ticked.
What good is grass if it’s closed? Last I checked, it’s not an endangered specie. I’m sure there’s some horticulturist out there shaking his/her head at my utter ignorance of the danger posed to grass by us barbaric human pedestrians during the winter. Fine, whatever, I’m sure they have their reasons. But the point remains: what good is grass, or a couch, if it’s not used and enjoyed?
Cool stories, Johnny. So what gives? I don’t think what I’m about to say will be popular, but I drank a lot of Diet Coke today so I’m not going to stop myself.
Money is meant to be spent.
That wasn’t easy to type, but I think it needed to be said — for my sake. We, and most personal finance bloggers, write in circles about saving and resisting spending. Some take it to extremes. Others turn it into a game. And while us bloggers sometimes admit a splurge or spontaneous purchase, it’s typically done apologetically.
Don’t worry — I haven’t jumped off the deep end. I still believe the Debt Monster should be avoided like the plague, that an emergency fund is a must, and that we should invest/save for our family’s future. But if saving money is our only pursuit, we’re not living. We’re merely collecting and obsessing over pieces of paper.
Joanna and I sometimes get so caught up in numerical benchmarks and shaving budget margins that we forget why we’re saving. And no matter the explicit purpose or goal, it boils down to one thing: we are saving to spend. In other words, we’re putting money away now that we can spend later. Later for some might be after retirement. Later for others might mean a Caribbean cruise this spring. Only you can know when later should be. And “spending” shouldn’t have negative connotations of reckless, selfish purchases. Spending might mean buying a home, putting money into a 529 (toward future education), or making a charitable contribution. It can also mean buying a stegosaurus pet costume — and not feeling guilty about it.
I realize that many don’t have a problem with the “money is meant to be spent” philosophy. In fact, your problem might be that you’re too ambitious with it. We’ve been there, too. But as we all work at being smarter managers of money, let’s not forget the big picture. Money is a means to an end. I hope Baby Girl never knows how much money we have (or don’t have). Rather, I hope she sees us exercise financial discipline and understands the happiness that stems from living within one’s means. It’s a tall order, but worth working toward.
Couches are meant to be sat on. Grass is meant to be walked on. Money is meant to be spent. Life’s too short — let’s carpe the diem out of it.
One year ago this week, a very pregnant Joanna and a less fatigued me quickly scanned over our sad excuse for a website. I double checked design and made sure links didn’t land in an Internet black hole, while Joanna reviewed our content to make sure we didn’t sound like idiots — we did. A few tweaks here and a few tweaks there and then we we were done. We published Our Freaking Budget in incredibly unspectacular form.
It began as a side project. In our 5+ years of marriage, we had always been pretty independent with how we approached projects and hobbies. When I presented the idea of starting a personal finance blog to Joanna, I was surprised at her willingness to give it a shot. I saw it as an opportunity to flex my incredibly weak design/coding/nerd muscles and Joanna was excited to try her hand at writing since she was typically at the other end of that process in her full-time job as a copy editor. And more importantly, we wanted to connect with like-minded folks who love-hate budgeting and help to encourage each other to be smart with money.
We didn’t really have expectations. We hoped a few strangers would poke their heads in every once in a while — before swiftly turning around and mouthing silently “They are WEIRD.” We hoped we would write and communicate financial topics the way we think and talk in real life, which is probably on par with 6th graders. We hoped our families and friends wouldn’t find our blog. And we hoped we wouldn’t quit after a few months.
Our Freaking Budget has been an awesome experience. We genuinely enjoy reading your comments and suggestions, and we feel like we’ve grown more in our resolve to be smarter with our money this last year than any other. We didn’t expect blogging to take so much time, and we’ve definitely almost called it quits on a few occasions. But it always seems like there’s a perfectly timed email from a random Internet stranger that helps us remember why we started all of this in the first place.
So thanks to all you Interneters who have stopped by or commented or not laughed at us. And thank you for allowing us to soak in all of your tips and experiences and advice, and allowing us to share our own, this last year.
Here are a few numbers that help tell our first year OFB story:
43,064 comments marked as spam
7,249 comments (not written by LeVar Burton)
43 emails to our prior host about our site being down
1 baby born
Those numbers really don’t mean anything, but we thought we’d share what a year looks like around OFB. Here’s to less debt, more awesome, and a great OFB year #2!
Happy Cyber Monday! I’m hoping to get some major Christmas shopping done from the comfort of my living room. Yesterday afternoon, Johnny and I finished up what was left of our Thanksgiving leftovers. As you may recall, I’m not usually a fan of leftovers, but Thanksgiving is the exception. I could eat those for days — and did. We contemplated getting away this weekend for Johnny’s ...
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This time tomorrow, I’ll likely be buzzing about our kitchen, whipping up some pumpkin pies and corn pudding. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will be on in the background, and Johnny and I will be contemplating just how much we should allow ourselves to eat for breakfast so that we’re still amply famished come feast time. And then later, as we stuff ourselves with, well, ...
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32 hours total. 18 on the road. 10 in a hotel. 4 listening to the sweet, acoustic jams of Ben Harper. And all sans baby. That should give you a glimpse into our recent half-weekend getaway to Denver. Hopefully that’s not our new reality of vacationing, but on this particular occasion, it meant the difference in going or not going. At first glance, it might ...
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In The OFB 50 States Project, you the readers spill the beans about your state: the good, the bad, and the delicious. And thus provide “forever place” seekers (like yours truly) a useful resource in their search. We’d love to hear about your state! To be a part of this project, click here to fill out the form! The Facts Low State Taxes Ranking: 35 Low Cost of Living ...
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