Other people’s money

(Part 2, the sequel to Netflix and chill – and spend)

When last we saw our plucky hero, a colleague was commenting “You’re a single woman, you don’t have kids, you have lots of money – why don’t you have Netflix? It’s only $10 a month.”

Thus enough content for two blog posts was born. I pulled out my trusty soap box and got started.

soap box

From the outside looking in you have no clue about a person’s financial well-being. In fact, being single is more expensive than being married in so many ways there’s a term for it – we pay the single supplement. Plus there’s the lack of a safety net. (I’m paying 80% of the expenses I had when I was married but with 40% of the income.)

You cannot – CANNOT – tell from appearances what anyone’s financial situation is. You think everyone is doing better than you? Show me the proof, the cold hard numbers. Debt, stress, overspending, living beyond your means – we know they’re big problems in North America. The man with the flashy car and the huge house? The woman who drives a 10-year-old car and patches her clothes? You. Don’t. Know.

When the economy collapsed in 2008/2009, it revealed just how many of us were building our lifestyles on credit and debt. A decade later, the level of consumer debt for Canadians is climbing – an average of $22,837 per person, not including mortgages. That makes us vulnerable.

As The Millionaire Next Door discovered, it’s not the outward displays of wealth that mean you’re rich. People with higher incomes tend to spend more on status symbols, feeling the need to keep up appearances. There’s a difference between income and net worth. Unless you know the intimate details of someone’s financials, you can’t tell what’s really going on behind closed doors.

So stop judging. Stop comparing. Do the best you can, make the best choices, for you.

I’ve heard a lot of “oh it must be nice” and “you’re so lucky” from people who see the trips, the condo, the concerts, but apparently they don’t see the extra time I put into working, the savings I work hard to accumulate or the energy I put into learning so I can make better financial decisions. Plus there’s the whole greener-on-the-other-side thing. Why do I have to justify myself just to make you feel better about your own choices?

Answer is, I don’t.

Jughead and Betty would understand. They’re waiting for me in season two, which I’ll eventually watch – with or without Netflix.

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Pearl Jam and garbanzo beans

Pearl Jam 2016 028

Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder

Figuring out your money starts with tracking how it comes in and goes out, and sometimes you may realize you often buy the same stuff you don’t really need but really like. The book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin calls them gazingus pins but I can never remember the term so I call them garbanzo beans.

Everyone has them. I’ve realized I don’t really need another black turtleneck or gray hoodie, so I’m down to books and music. The library has saved me thousands of dollars over the years. Saving in other areas frees up enough cash to allow me to indulge my music passion with a concert fund.

I set aside a certain amount of money every year to cover the cost of concert tickets. That way my monthly budget isn’t completely derailed and I don’t have to scramble to take advantage of shows when they come to town.

Pearl Jam played the Canadian Tire Centre on Sunday. They are my friend Joanne’s favourite band in the world and we bought tickets back in January. Unfortunately, despite getting into the site within five minutes of the tickets going on sale and alternating between three different browsers to get the best available, we got nosebleed seats.

Sure we could’ve paid twice as much to a scalper to get floor seats, but Joanne said she probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the concert, knowing how much we paid. This way she still heard them live, plus we had money left over for other priorities (merchandise and wine) without a side of guilt or worry.

Money – or should I say, financial freedom – isn’t this mysterious force that’s out there somewhere. It’s in our choices. If you have more money, you have more options and that’s why it’s important. Sometimes we can find more money by making different choices. I’m fortunate that I can create enough disposable income to afford a concert fund. Having the freedom to indulge in your passions is important in life.

That drawer of concert t-shirts isn’t going to fill itself, you know. Rock on.