Can you point to anything in your past about which you remember saying, “When our budget has room to breathe/I pay off my loans/I get a raise, I’m finally going to splurge on ______”? I can think of two, and I thought it might be fun to chat about them today.
I’ve mentioned here and there the idea of our household budget expanding over time, which is both somewhat fiddly to talk about but also something I feel it’s important to be realistic about. And also, isn’t it the arc we all hope to realize over time? I’ve been writing this blog for almost 15 years – it spans from the perspective of a college senior to a mid-30’s mom – so I certainly hope my financial situation has changed over our time together. Yours, too :)
And it has. John and I have moved from a season of paying off student loans and entry-level jobs (where splitting a burrito at Chipotle was a rare treat) to a new season where we have advanced in our careers and can comfortably afford most things we want. (Though you better believe we still live by our budget – in fact, I’m thinking of updating that very old post because so many of you have emailed hoping I’d get the example Google Doc fixed up. Let me know if that would be of interest!)
Accordingly, our budget has expanded a bit, and it’s been interesting to adjust our behavior to fit it. It’s been sweet, but also has required some rewiring, some uncertainty, some resetting of expectations. For example, I was chatting with John about buying tickets to Wicked, which is coming to the DPAC here in August. I have wanted to see it for years and years and years, and I said to him that maybe we could make it an early Christmas present? To which he gently said, “You know, we can just go to a show occasionally. We don’t have to try to shoehorn it into the nearest holiday.”
And he’s right – we’ve made room for it in our budget. But old habits die hard :) Which on the whole, I’m grateful for! I’d always rather set my expectations for spending too low than too high.
There are two seemingly small things, though, that years ago I identified as milestones and said to myself, when our budget feels more comfortable, I’ll do those things. That will feel like a splurge. That will really be living, ha. They’re kind of hilarious in retrospect, but here they are:
1. Pre-peeled garlic. Many years ago – probably pre-kids – I remember having lunch at a friend’s house and watching her cook a noodle dish. She pulled a bag of pre-peeled garlic from the fridge, swiftly chopped it up, and added it to a saute pan.
I find peeling garlic to be one of those grating kitchen tasks that slows down my meal prep flow, leaves annoying bits of papery peel drifting around my kitchen, and makes my hands reek. The idea of being able to pluck a clove from a bag and immediately press it into action? The height of luxury.
Alas, I didn’t feel I could justify a $4.50 or so bag of pre-peeled garlic every week when the garlic head was $.50 and lasted at least two weeks. But about a year ago, I decided it was time, and plucked the coveted bag from the produce cooler.
And friends, it’s been as good as I thought it would be all those years. The only downside? The garlic in the fridge spoiled faster than I could use it. But I found a solution: keeping the bag in the freezer! The cloves thaw enough to slice in a few seconds, and since we’re cooking them 90% of the time, we’ve never noticed any difference in flavor.
2. A compost service. Probably five years ago, I heard about a service called Compost Now, which swaps out your full compost bucket for a clean one once a week. They come right to your doorstep – you just have to leave it on your porch. They process your kitchen scraps along with everyone else in your community, and whenever you’d like, you can request bags of dirt, or donate the dirt you’ve contributed to to local community gardens. Amazing! I thought. The price? Not so amazing. (It’s currently $39/month.)
I come from a long line of composters, and it’s something that matters to me. You may recall that we had a good long run of driving our compost bucket to the compost bins in our neighborhood community garden, but it was a hassle that did not survive the addition of a third child to our family.
Earlier this year, I decided our budget could support a Compost Now membership, and it’s been a dream. The bucket lives under our sink and the whole process couldn’t be easier – you can throw in everything from meat and bones to flour and sugar bags, flower arrangements to pizza boxes. I love that we’re able to live out something that matters to us.
In the end, I hope that that’s always what our budget expanding feels like – living into what matters to us more and more, not necessarily just adding comfort or luxury or ease to our lives (though those things are all nice, too!). I’m toying with another Marvelous Money post about generosity, our role in it and how we think about it, and how it changes over time – would love to know if that would be of interest, too.
But of course, I must know: what splurges, big or small, have you realized over time? Especially ones that are recurring versus one-time? Please share!
P.S. If you’re in an area that Compost Now serves (currently: Atlanta, Asheville, Raleigh-Durham, Charleston, and Cincinnati) and also want to splurge, you can use my link to get a $10 service credit.