Family Fun, Financial Friday, Reflection, Simple Living, Thoughts On...

Why I’m (Mostly) Okay with Having a Small(er) Income

Lately, Matt and I have enjoyed having a series of “What If” conversations, the most frequent of which has been, “What if we got gifted 20 million dollars? What would we do?”

While it’s proved to be an interesting character study into the values of both of us (and provided many an enjoyable conversation while on long car rides), it always eventually circles back to me saying something to the effect of:

“You know what? Although it would be nice in a lot of ways to not have to budget every penny, I’m really happy exactly where we’re at. The great thing about living like we are now is that we’re able to appreciate the value of everything so much more.”

Now, that’s not to say that people who are well off can’t appreciate the value of things, especially the small and simple things—

All I’m saying is that when you have to be pretty careful with every dollar, you really appreciate the treats you’re able to give yourself when they do come up.

A few months ago, I hit upon an interesting weight loss strategy—I discovered that when I bought the huge bags of Hershey Kisses from Sam’s Club, I actually ate much less sugar and fewer calories overall than when I didn’t. (My reasoning? I know I’m a chocaholic, and I know that when I hit a certain point, I’ll want to reach for sugar. So rather than try and deny myself of it entirely–which usually leads to me binging a bunch of other snacky stuff to try and satisfy the craving in another way–or looking for whatever sugar we have around–which leads to me inevitably baking something–I could just have a Hershey kiss or two and be done with it. This strategy wouldn’t work for everyone, as some people might be tempted to inhale an insane amount of kisses in one sitting, but I find that I’m often perfectly satisfied after one or two and then can move on with my day.)

Anywho, when we were still getting two incomes, I would simply go pick up one of these nearly $15 bags whenever we were close to running out without even thinking about it. But the thing is, when we went down to one income and had to really rein in the spending (especially on groceries and eating out), it was one of the first things to be cut. (And–side bar–sure enough, I started doing exactly the two things I mentioned above to try and satisfy the urge.)

With our birthdays coming up, we’ve been getting some birthday money from our folks. I spent some of mine on some things I’d wanted for awhile, and I had about $15 left. Even though it seemed kind of weird, I chose to spend it on my bag of kisses.

And you know what?

I felt so HAPPY about it–it was such a small, silly thing, but it’s made me happy all week just having that bag of kisses cozily sitting on the shelf where it did for all those months before, and already, my eating has gone way down, and my appreciation for the little pleasures in life has been renewed.

The point is, sometimes I can get hung up on all the things I have to sacrifice by me not getting a paycheck anymore—bags of Hershey kisses, pizza runs when I don’t feel like making dinner, fun day adventures to places that have a high admissions cost, the peace of mind that comes from being able to put several hundred dollars every month into savings…

And, if I let it, the feeling of longing and sense of sacrifice only grows, as I think about how nice it would be to have a house of our own so that Raven would have a yard to play in, or how great it would be to be able to take that trip to the hot air balloon festival in New Mexico we’d wanted to go to this year.

But when we really start having these discussions about what we would do with so much money (if we ever got it), I think about our life now, and how sweet it is—

Because we don’t have a yard of our own, I take Raven to multiple different parks every week, giving us a built-in excuse to explore the city and get out and see new things (not to mention get some exercise by walking to all those parks).

Because we hardly eat out anymore, I have learned to be even more creative and efficient in my cooking, and because our grocery budget is limited, I have learned to not waste nearly as much food as before.

Because things like ice cream and Hershey kisses and new clothes are not usually in the budget, it truly does feel like a treat when we get them.

Because we don’t have the budget for too many crazy family excursions, we plan simple, cheap (or free) outings more frequently, which have been just as gratifying as one big trip, if not more so because they’re more frequent.

The truth is (and always has been) that although more money would be nice in many ways, it wouldn’t likely do too much to increase our happiness—that is and always will be largely determined by us, and our appreciation for the way our life is going exactly at this moment.

And right now, I’d say we’re pretty content to be just where we are…especially with that unexpected bag of Hershey kisses.

 All pics from our latest family park outing last weekend

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