I Put $10K Into a “Me Fund”

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash.

I’ve recently taken $10,000 and set it aside in what I have decided to call my “Me Fund.” The Me Fund is not a Fuck Off Fund; it’s more of a Fuck Yes Fund.

Back in September, you heard from an anonymous version of me, a barista named Kim. I’m now ready to use my own name and discuss what I’m going to do with the $10K that my mom gave me (and each of my siblings). It was an unexpected, no-strings-attached financial windfall.

As I told Nicole, I wanted that money to be for something special. It wasn’t retirement money, or playing around money. My mom’s original intent was for this money to be a $10,000 Fairy Godmother that helped me hit a major life milestone or make a really big purchase. I have no big, expensive milestones on my horizon, though — or, more specifically, none that I’m planning or want to plan.

I wondered if I should just forget about the money until a big plan materialized. I also wondered where I should stash it so it doesn’t waste away with inflation. I decided that I’m going to keep the money close and available on a low-risk WiseBanyan account, and only use it for very, very specific cases.

While I’ve never found myself longing for something that costs $10,000, I often find myself wanting something that’s $75, or $500, or $1,000. Generally, these things are experiences: event or plane tickets, gas for a road trip, a night in a cabin in the mountains, a weekend trip for a conference. A friend just asked me if I’d take an eight-week writing class with her. The class costs $240. I did want to take the class, but could I afford $240 out of my everyday life? Not by the payment deadline I couldn’t.

Enter the Me Fund. The Me Fund is there to grant me access to things that enrich my life, show me a bigger world, or help me learn. The Me Fund is there to pay for things that will make me want to thank myself, over and over, for buying them.

Since this class only costs $240, I’ll pay my fairy-money-godmother back, but with significantly less urgency than I otherwise would need to. It isn’t like drawing off my emergency fund, or maxing out a credit card. However, I wanted to put serious thought into any purchase made courtesy of the Me Fund. I didn’t want to formalize it, per se, but I did want to make sure I had a way to structure my decision-making process, a way to mitigate heat-of-the-moment purchases.

Here are the questions I ask myself when I consider a withdrawal from the Me Fund.

How does this purchase support the things that I love and value in myself and my life?

In the case of the writing class, this is an easy question. Lately, without the need for side-hustle income, I’ve been leaving writing up to whim and impulse. This means I sometimes go months without writing anything at all, and I don’t like that. I haven’t gotten consistent, structured guidance or feedback on writing since college. I have not dedicated any time to formally continuing my education as a writer in years. I’ve learned from editors, clients, peers, and experience, but a class provides something I’m not getting elsewhere. I resolved to write more and examine my relationship to writing in 2018, and a writing class taken with a friend is a way to commit to and support that goal.

The same question must be asked of material goods. The Me Fund does not buy a sweater because I like it and it’s cute. The Me Fund buys pricey, insulated softshell pants so I can be comfortable and safe on winter hikes I’m barely tolerating without them.

Is my hesitation on this purchase strictly financial?

Jeff and I made what was supposed to be a quick stop at an outdoor retailer on our way out of Wyoming in December. While Jeff was grabbing the one small thing he needed, I tried on a backpacking pack — something I’d been looking for and researching for months  on a whim. It fit. It felt organically mine. We loaded weights into it, and rather than feeling like a burden on my back, it felt stable. It made my core feel strong. I thought, this is how a pack should feel.

I’ve been looking for the perfect backpacking pack for months. I’d felt like ripping my hair out trying to find a good one online, and this Deuter pack was right there, before my eyes (and on my back), like magic. Enter the Me Fund? No… not yet.

Before I buy a pack, I want to know I’ve done my due diligence, researched, been fitted, and tried several options before I pull the trigger. If I have doubts about a purchase — doubts I may even be disguising in the form of, “Oh, I don’t know, that’s a lot of money!” — I can’t use the Me Fund until I’ve cleared them. 

Is this purchase impulsive?

No impulse buys. The Me Fund only pays for things that are deeply wanted or useful on a long-term basis. If I had a rich, conservative, cold, pragmatic grandparent who nonetheless favored me, would I approach them to make a case for the thing I want? If the answer is no, I must leave the Me Fund out of it.

Is this purchase time-sensitive?

In the case of the writing class, I usually don’t require a special bank account for a $240 purchase. However, I’d recently had an expensive couple of months — the holidays, y’all — so while I usually do have an extra $240 to spend, I don’t right now. The payment deadline for the class was coming up, so I borrowed $240 from the Me Fund, to be paid back on a comfortable timeline.

Likewise, I may not need the Me Fund for a backpacking pack. I may be able to save up for the pack, especially given how long I expect to research the purchase. If I can avoid using the Me Fund, I will. But if I truly do find the right pack one day, and I find it sooner than expected? Me Fund!

Is this purchase selfish?

I mean selfish in a good way. We’re reclaiming selfish this year, y’all. The Me Fund only makes selfish purchases, purchases that serve me, my heart, my values, and my brain. The Me Fund is there to help me live as the best, most fulfilled version of myself. The Me Fund buys things I want for myself, and things that serve me — like classes and gear — in that journey. The Me Fund is unbothered by the expectations and demands of others. The Me Fund is called the Me Fund for a reason.

Do I need this?

If I had a heavy-duty emergency that wiped out my emergency fund, I would obviously dip into the Me Fund to cover what I needed. The point of this question is more to make me examine my day-to-day financial habits and ensure that those are in good shape. For example: I find myself wanting a pair of non-leather Doc Marten boots. I know a lot of fellow baristas who swear by them, praising their durability, aesthetic, and comfort. My job is surprisingly physical, and our floors are unforgiving cement. I need footwear that leaves my feet and back unharmed at the end of the work week. 

However, this is not a Me Fund purchase because it’s a need, not a want. I cannot opt out of having a job or a skeleton. I need to get the money together and buy a pair of boots, Doc Marten or otherwise. This is something that needs to be built into my budget. The same principle applies to visiting family in other states: maintaining my personal relationships is not optional, and not a luxury. It’s my life, and I’d better account for it. If I can’t, I have a problem unrelated to the Me Fund.

These are a lot of conditions, and that is intentional. The Me Fund is there for the rare, special, and unusual case, to be used (and then slowly repaid) for only compelling circumstances. I want most of it, most of the time, to sit there, waiting, available should the big thing come up. However, I decided to make the Me Fund available now because I couldn’t quite get on board with the idea that big milestones — American Dream milestones, expensive milestones, once-in-a-lifetime milestones, milestones around which our society constructs a collective narrative of a life well and prudently lived — are orders of magnitude more worthy than small ones.

I won’t argue that taking a writing class is as important, as big of a deal, or as much of a milestone as buying a house. What I will ask is this: is it worthy of the money that is there for me to fund the forward leaps of my adulthood? Is it a worthy gift to myself while I’m waiting for the big milestone to come into focus? With six questions, I have decided that it is.

Emily Rose Alvo is a barista, occasional freelance writer, and frequent traveler based in Rochester, NY. She enjoys petting dogs, drinking gin, and hiking, ideally all at once. She blogs at emilyrosealvo.wordpress.com.

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