Coat: c/o Chicwish; Top: Gap (old); Pants: Gap (on sale!); Scarf: c/o Popsugar Must Have Box; Heels: Michael Kors
I didn't grow up with a lot of money. My parents scrimped and saved to be able to afford luxuries for our family (like vacations or school trips), nice back to school clothes (that we rudely demanded - "it just has to be Roxy" - I regret that still), and to feed us well. I think back to the way I grew up and suspect my parents sacrificed quite a lot to keep us healthy and happy. I don't imagine that they afforded themselves many splurges at all. Yet, I don't recall ever feeling like I was lacking anything growing up, and I certainly don't reflect on my childhood now as a time where my needs weren't met. I instead reflect upon that time as a good reminder that you can a) get by on less, b) prioritize your expenses to best suit your family, and c) that excess isn't often the answer.
I remember dreaming, in high school and college, of making $40,000 a year when I graduated. I imagined all the things I could do and buy. It seemed like the end-all, be-all of professional salaries. That dream of $40k was real throughout my entire teens and twenties. Once I actually thought about the fact that at $40k a year, I could buy name brand razors, all the make-up I wanted, and Catwalk's $12 oatmeal shampoo. Looking back I laugh. I still can't afford that damn Catwalk shampoo. My bathroom shelf right now consists of the almost Venus razors (that I can never afford the refills for), a massive jug of shampoo that was on sale, and Irish Spring soap. We even buy the generic St. Ives apricot scrub. Lofty ideals, that college self had.
Graduating from college provided a nice little revelation: taxes. Healthcare. Student loans. Debt. Adult expenses. Rent above $350 a month (college, I swear!). A 2011 graduation date meant that not only was that $40,000 beyond an English major's starting pay, but my less-than-$40,000 was quickly eroded by income tax (really? 25% of my salary?), by my large and mandated monthly student loan payments (1/4 of my paycheck?!), and the price of an apartment that wasn't shared by 6 other college students.
Living with a perpetual student hasn't helped either. I'm the primary supporter of my household and while I relish being the one with the financial decision-making power, I often think back to that dream of $40k. I'm envious of my naive former self. Ever since my tax refund eroded to nothing and I found myself paying semi-monthly bills and groaning, I've dreamed of more and more. Ways to increase that salary by $100, $200, $1000, $2000. And as you working folks all know, it's never easy. Money, after all, does not grow on trees. And there's no magic number that suddenly makes everything easier. For every raise, there's a rent increase. For every tax refund, there's a refrigerator to fix. For every saved dollar, there's the dream of something new - a home, a car, continued education.
The more I dream of more, somewhat ironically, I think about how much I have. I come home to a beautiful apartment in a city. I eat well. I have fun. Ben and I have enough disposable income to be able to go on an anniversary trip to a hotel this weekend. There are certainly luxuries that we (like my parents afforded my brother and I) are able to afford and relish. I think that it's always important to remember what you came from, what you can do with and without, and that despite our ever-growing list of wants (we all have them), we have enough to be warm every night, in a quiet house, under a solid roof.
How do you stay financially grounded? Are you always reaching for more?