I live a pretty darn privileged life, in both senses of the word. Let’s focus on the financial privilege for a moment, shall we? The Frugalwoods wrote an excellent piece about privilege, if you have a few minutes to go read.
I’m not sure about you, but my spending habits have changed as I’ve aged.
Changed a lot.
While I never did live on ramen noodles during university, I did live on a lot of whole wheat pasta and spicy Primo brand pasta sauce. This week, I’ve had avocado cream sauce pasta from the Oh She Glows cookbook (affiliate link), topped with… lobster from the freezer. I think that’s a really solid comparison, plain tomato versus avocado lobster.
No, I don’t eat lobster very often, at all. My attempt to clear out the freezer a bit, in order to keep our obscene grocery costs in check a little bit, is just well timed with me writing this post.
If things went south on us, we are very aware that some of our luxuries would be on the chopping block faster than a Chopped contestant who forgot to include a basket ingredient. The thing about spending is that so much of it is a choice, but a choice to which we become rather accustomed.
Lifestyle change is difficult, but necessary when you can’t afford it. Luxuries are luxuries, not needs. We can self-justify all we want, but that won’t change reality when you’re spending more than you’ve got. Spending has got to go. It is much easier to accomplish when you remind yourself where your spending is a luxury.
Here are some of our current luxuries, but definitely not all.
First on the chopping block would be our food budget. We have quite a few allergies, but I know how to save money on our groceries versus what we do now, while still maintaining a healthy diet. It involves things like fewer avocados and raspberries, and more carrots and apples.
Food is both a necessity and a luxury item, in our case there is a mixture of necessity spending and luxury spending. I dare you to make shrimp etouffée sometime. It cost us nearly $30.
Let me just say that I have very much come to appreciate why my spouse decided this was worthwhile. Having commuted together temporarily for two weeks, listening to CBC, NPR, BBC and Bloomberg makes for a much more educational drive. I learned a lot of things that were fascinating. It was much better than the rock and country that my regular commute involves.
It’s nice to have… but therein lies the problem. It’s nice to have, not necessary at all. Bye bye, luxury.
How quickly can you say “downgrade”?
Say it with me, “downgrade.”
We wouldn’t be able to get out of our contract without penalty, but I’m pretty sure we could find at least $50 a month to lop off of these bad boys.
I like wine. We consume a lot of it. We generously pour wine for others when they are over. (Please do come visit.)
In addition to wine, we have a rather well stocked bar. Lillet? I’ve got that. Pims, sherry, port, sparkling wine, pomegranate liqueur, four colours of rum… you get the idea. Plus a non-trivial scotch collection.
Should things go south, the acquisition of additional alcohol would have to be cut. We do have the benefit of being able to drink down the stores, for quite awhile.
Squash Court Memberships
Similar to a gym membership, this is a luxury. I have a punch card and my spouse has an unlimited pass. It’s good fun, but totally not a necessary thing. I could, *gasp*, try to learn to play tennis, for example. Tennis and I do not have a history of getting along very well, but there is a tennis racket or two in our possession and some tennis balls. We primarily wrap the balls in tape and use them for physio, but there’s more in the canister still.
Tennis = free
Squash = not free
Our Own Living Space
It’s really nice to be able to leave dinner dishes on the table until tomorrow. Some people, though not me, appreciate the pants-optional nature of independent living.
Independent living is also a luxury. How many people lived with roommates during university, and even afterward? Remember why?
It cost less.
We own our own place, but it has two bedrooms. Should push come to shove, we could return to inhabiting a shared domicile, and taking the cheques to the bank. This transition would be a lot easier for me than for my spouse, but it would be on the table. It might be on the table, buried beneath a large pile of more welcomed lifestyle cuts, but it would be on the table.
Nothing is sacred when you have a shortage of money.
Vacations and Weddings
The vacations are a pretty obvious thing, yes, but it’s still important to state that our annual vacations would be gone gone gone. We have family that lives far away and make it to one side of the country or the other at least once a year. In addition to visiting family, we tend to travel internationally once per year.
Most of the time, we are able to combine trips to attend weddings with trips to see family. We are fortunate that we have been able to afford to attend our friends’ weddings (for the most part). Attending weddings is definitively a luxury when there is travel involved. As awful as it is to miss out on milestone events, sometimes they are just not in the cards. We would make things work, or have one of us go, for as many things as possible, but would have to draw a line on occasion.
As a note on our position of privilege, we would also be able to ask our families to assist us in attending crucial family moments. For example, if we were unable to afford attending a funeral.
The fact I can even discuss these luxuries I’d have to give up if things went south shows how many true luxuries I have in my life. It is important to me that everyone keep that in mind. It is too easy to go from labeling things luxuries to labeling them needs.
Reflecting on these luxuries in my life is an excellent exercise, one that forces me to acknowledge how good things are for me, and also ensures I do not drift too far into believing my expenses are needs.