This is the time of year I look over my finances of the past 11.5 months. What did I spend? How happy have my son and I been feeling? What costs went up or down? Are my child and I thriving?
Yep, it’s not just a dollars-and-cents review. Money is absolutely linked with health and well-being. When a person has too little to afford safety, nutrition, social connection, and the option to give, she will likely experience suffering. (I know this well.) Of note, once we have enough for these four pieces, we don’t need more!
So what is the happy medium?
This year was a wild one for my son and me. My sweet child ran headlong into the demon that is new adolescence paired with developmental disability -a tough intersection, to be sure! Despite our utmost conscientiousness as tenants, we then received the first eviction notice of our lives (our landlord was enticed by the possibility of short term gains through a summer of AirBnB). And because that wasn’t enough stress yet, upon a geologically historic event our home subsequently flooded. Ha! With our region in a crisis of housing vacancies, we found we had nowhere nearby to go.
Perplexed, broken, and exhausted, I cried uncle. A friend gently proposed we consider a distant move. She knew of a suite that was almost ready for occupancy. With relief and gratitude, we accepted.
The suite was stunning! Joy!
Unfortunately, we’d arrived during the region’s “down time”, so our first months were intensely lonesome and solitary. The sense of displacement was profound. Now six months in, we don’t feel we’re “home” but we do finally feel settled, comfortable, and connected.
We made it!
When I look at our year’s numbers, I could discount this and that expense as “abnormal”, and disregard it in any financial planning. For example, the move cost us $318 in car fuel and bags, and approximately $500 in capital losses -but life always has one-offs. It’s best to acknowledge this year’s unique fees as part of life’s annual cycle. Our rent is nearly double -however, it’s still a fraction of what most families pay in the same area. To facilitate connection, we’re spending far more in car fuel and recreation -but for now I can assume this is the norm in this region.
So whatever costs have been faced this year, I can reasonably expect those to continue, unless I make specific moves to cut costs. Will I?
Right now, we’re spending less than we bring in and my son is experiencing one of the happiest phases of his life! Me too 🙂 This tells me that what we’re spending is what we need to be spending. We’re relaxed, healthy, engaged. We’ve chosen not to increase our housing costs to the $2400/mo that’s typical for a family in our region, and to reserve the difference for well-being, savings, and sharing.
We’re choosing to live in a (gorgeous, but) small suite outside of the city so that we have plenty of room for more.
We’re choosing to spend a comfortable amount on groceries. We’re choosing to spend a modest amount on clubs, equipment, and activities. We’re choosing to travel to friends each time the region shuts down for school holidays. We’re choosing to share our financial resources. Because exercise, social time, playing with others, and contributing increases our happiness.
I still don’t care about having a bed, but I am choosing to spend on air purifiers to counter the effects of the region’s air quality. I continue to organize activities to limit driving, but we go to the six per week that feel critical. Per my “old age” needs, I am choosing to increase the frequency of my own dental appointments to every three (versus) six months. We’re not, on the other hand, buying passports, flights, and $600 social weekends.
We’re disbursing more,
but we continue to be highly selective about where that money goes.
While our income is still modest, it is also the highest it’s ever been. Years of genuine poverty taught me very well how to live frugally, and also set me up to greatly appreciate the choices and wiggle room we have now.
By mindfully setting in place a relatively frugal “life infrastructure” -the lowest cost housing that’s still healthy; the cheapest transportation that works well; a collection of lower cost activities- we have money for nutrition, social connection, additional aspects of safety, and giving -all the other things that directly create our happiness! It’s working.