My first job was at Crossroads Store, a convenience store/deli/gas station in North Garden. I worked after school a couple days a week, from about 5:30-closing, and came in at 5:30AM on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week, I ran the cash register. On the weekends, I waitressed and helped out in the deli. I loved waitressing. I could make $75 in tips in a morning. We had quite a few regulars, cute old men for the most part, who always tipped well. John Grishom was also a regular.
For the record, he’s a very good tipper.
I loved that job. I had fun with it. I met my first boyfriend working there. All the money I made – which wasn’t much – was mine to do whatever I wanted with. What I didn’t spend in gas, I used to buy clothes, CDs, and concert tickets. In hindsight, I was choosing experiences as a teenager.
Somewhere along the way, I became an adult and my paychecks went to less fun things, like rent and student loans. My former employer set up financial advising for all of us and the advisor I met with managed to scare me to death. “You spend what on barre classes?” “Do you see how much money you could save by saying no to those dinners with friends?” “There are a fair amount of concert ticket purchases over the last year. I’m sure you bought drinks at those concerts, probably dinner beforehand. That’s a lot of money you could save…”
You get the idea. He was throwing around a bunch of acronyms and telling me to live in a cardboard box under a bridge so I could save money for things like houses, weddings, and future children. And, for a while, I took his advice.
I went to college with Dave Ramsey’s daughter. If you’re unfamiliar with Dave Ramsey, look him up. He has great financial advice, but I believe the financial advisor I sat down with took a page from one of his many books. Ramsey is extreme with his saving plans, essentially believing that you should spend nothing, pay off all your debt, build a giant nest egg, and live happily ever after. His daughter, when someone said it was so cool that her dad was Dave Ramsey, said “yeah, but I can’t spend any money. Ever.”
Here’s the thing.
When I tried living like my financial advisor suggested, I had a severe case of FOMO (“Fear of Missing Out” – I had to google what that acronym meant. Not up with the times, this girl). Skipping out on drinks after a Junior League meeting, not buying my afternoon cup of coffee, saying “no” when friends asked me to dinner… It was like living in a bunker with no contact with the outside world.
I realized choosing experiences over saving every last dime made me happy. There has been a lot of research as of late on this very topic. According to science, people who choose experiences are happier, and even healthier. If I bought a new car tomorrow, I wouldn’t spend the next 10 years telling everyone about the time I bought a car. It’s just a thing. No more, no less. But will I still remember my first trips to New York, London, and Paris and talk about them 10 years from now? You bet.
I don’t want things. I’m choosing experiences. I’m not being irresponsible with my money, by any means, but I would rather travel, see things, do things. I don’t need things. I’ll probably never buy a luxury car and will probably always live in a modest house. When I was in my early 20s, I had visions of massive weddings with elaborate receptions. Now that I’m older, I’ve realized a wedding is no more than a party. A simple ceremony with family and friends is all I want – and all I need.
Things don’t last. Experiences do. I think there’s a balance, between being financially responsible and choosing experiences. As long as my bills are paid on time, my credit card balances are low, and I’ve got an “emergency” savings, I’m choosing experiences.
That $2.76 I spend on an Americano at MudHouse every afternoon – $4.14 if I get a power ball, too – isn’t going to send me into financial ruin, no matter how much math the financial advisor tries to show me. If I would have followed his plan, I most certainly wouldn’t be going to New York, London, and Paris over the next few months as “travel is a frivolous thing that can wait until you’ve funded your children’s education.”
I’m not waiting to travel to Europe until any future children I have are in college.
But I will be able to tell them stories from my travels and, hopefully, inspire them to choose experiences of their own.