Monday, October 19, 2015

One's Sense of "Normal" Spending

via Pinterest
I am endlessly fascinated by how different people my age relate to money, consumption, and spending. It's almost silly of me. After all, how other people "do" money really isn't any of my business. Also, I tend to speculate about the "why" behind each person's different habits, and that's definitely an unproductive exercise. Even so, I do think it can be helpful to me to take a look at where I fall on the spectrum of willingness to spend. I'm not always known for having the best judgment about appropriate use of funds, and analyzing how my habits compare to those of other similarly situated young adults can be a "sanity check" for me.

In our first week at work, someone mentioned their consternation at needing to buy a $200 bridesmaid dress, and others chimed in with tales of aggravation about weddings that required an expensive hotel room, though they generally tried to reduce that expense by splitting a room with their significant other and another couple. Last month, I mentioned a bridesmaid dress purchase, and while I didn't list it in my shopping budget, I gave enough information so that anyone could calculate how much I spent: right around $200. The wedding in question is a Caribbean destination wedding, and the hotel room is... more than the numbers my colleagues were throwing around. (My friend and her fiancee were, by the way, kind enough to subsidize flights for the wedding party.) I didn't think much about these costs, except for a moment of surprise at how the hotel doesn't initially include its sizable resort fee when it lists room prices. Either way, I was excited to be part of their big day, considered it one of my vacations for the year, and didn't worry about it. I suppose its easier for me because, perhaps unusually for a person my age, it is the only wedding I anticipate needing to attend in the next year or two.

Before you think that I'm excessively extravagant, other peers have mentioned carrying a sizable credit card balance at the moment thanks to not having a regular salary this summer, moving expenses, and the like. Whatever else I've done with my funds, I ended the summer in better shape than that, having kept my small emergency fund of $2000 in place after I initially set it aside in September 2014, with another $2000 set aside for my first interest payment, and enough for my moving expenses (including first month's rent, last month's rent and a security deposit). All this after the aforementioned wedding expenses and my sizable Asia trip. The tale is, of course, not as simple as all that: a lot of them had an actual cross-country move and are waiting on the slow process of getting moving expense reimbursements from our company, but either way, I have more liquid cash than most. In other areas, I'm much more frugal on gym expenses than the average, and I also don't consume alcohol as a general matter.

The conclusion here is probably that I spend too much time and mental energy on this topic, such that I might even write another post about how I relate to shopping, waiting for sales, and the like versus how others seem to approach these questions. What do you think: is this even a normal thing to think about? I swear I'm not trying to be judgmental, just interested in how different people approach things. 

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