My Best Self Is a Mindful Consumer

Photo credit: Carol, CC BY 2.0.

It’s been a whole year since my boyfriend Lukas and I moved in together. I thought my lack of experience in co-habitation—along with my rusty sharing skills—might doom our relationship, but apparently I’m a much better partner than I give myself credit for. This year has been notable in so many ways, and I really have Lukas to thank for that. I always thought it was cheesy to consider your romantic partner as your best friend or your ace, but he has definitely earned that title in my life. Together we’ve accomplished many things that neither of us would have done on our own.

On Sharing, Co-habiting, and Adulting

In March we bought an air conditioning/heating/electrical system for our house and paid it off in cash. It was almost $13,000, a project made even more expensive by the fact that we had to stay in a hotel for a week and eat all of our meals in restaurants.

In May, we bought a new car. Actually, we traded in his manual car for an automatic car for me. In return, I gave my old SUV to my sister who can’t afford a new car. We took out over $8,000 in financing from the car dealership, and paid it off in cash in September.

In July, we bought a work truck. Lukas’s family owns an apartment building and, as a family-run business, most of the grunt work is performed by him and his family. It took us a month of scouring Craigslist and countless dealership visits but we finally found a used truck that fit his very stringent qualifications (mileage, make, model, etc.). Our goal is to pay it off in two years.

In October, we paid for a new roof in cash. Like our heating and air conditioning system, a brand new roof also costs close to $13,000. Home ownership is truly for the brave, and apparently for people with a lot of disposable income.

Our single incomes weren’t enough to accomplish everything we did this year. Our combined income is what made it possible to check off our spending and saving goals.

Last year, I wrote about how difficult it is for me to get naked financially. I don’t know if it will get any easier. With all of our projects this year, we both had to be transparent about our finances—down to the last cent in our checking and savings account. Lukas kept us on track by vetoing unnecessary expenses, obsessively crunching numbers, checking in with our bank account totals, and reminding us constantly of the bliss of walking into 2017 with just the truck loan to pay for. When I get too worried about looming expenses, he assuages my fears and reminds me that his money is my money, and I’ll never want for anything.

If there’s anything I learned in 2016, it’s that spending fatigue is real. A few weeks ago I had a mini-meltdown about the money we were spending on home improvement and and yet another hotel room stay. When the roofers showed up in our house, we didn’t know eight grown men were hired to do the job. It was great for us because it meant the roof will be done on time, but also bad for us, because as people who work the graveyard shift, we couldn’t sleep in our own house while the roof was getting put up. There’s not a lot of distance between my head and the roof when I’m standing up (I’m 5’1″), so yes, off to another hotel we went ($300 or so for two nights).

It seems like the older I get, the more I find spending to be spiritually taxing. My twenties were spent burning through whatever cash I had on hand, and now as a brand new 32-year-old, all I want to do is save money wherever and whenever I can.

My best self for 2017 is a mindful consumer.

It’s time I revisited my money traps and outdated money ideas, like my assumptions about the number of restaurant meals Lukas and I share. In my head we’re eating out 3–4 times a month but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s more than that. Also, my pedicure habit. Do I really need to get it every month? Especially in this weather?

I’ve started this practice by cooking and making more food at home. I know for some people that’s a given, but I’ve worked in a professional kitchen my whole life. Some days I don’t want to eat my own cooking; I want the luxury of someone else making my food. But this idea quickly gained traction when I went out to lunch in one of our favorite restaurants. $30 for a mediocre lunch, inept service, and watching an experienced server publicly berate her newbie co-worker? Forget it. I’ll keep my $30 and make dinner (and re-purpose leftovers) for Lukas and me.

Here’s to 2017, mindful consumption, and not having any home projects for two whole years (I hope!). I do hope that this time next year, I’ve really become a better version of myself.

Ruzielle Ganuelas is a writer, baker and PF nerd in Washington State.

This article is an update to The Billfold’s 2015 end-of-year series, “Our Best Selves in the Coming Year.”

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