Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Joy-based spending"

So this is one of those things that came in over the electronic transom.

I have a TIAA-CREF account for (most of) my retirement funds. I have a sizable chunk taken out of my paycheck before it hits my bank account and invested in various funds and things they do. (I have a chunk of it in bonds, which made my dad roll his eyes at me when I did that pre-2008, but he's not rolling them so much now)

And I will say: I got my quarterly statement yesterday and I guess I should be happy I'm getting a 2.9% return. Better than putting it in a savings account, though not as good as what I remember getting back on my first savings account when I was a sprog.

But anyway. Periodically they send out e-mails; a lot of them directed at me are from a program called "Woman to Woman," which I admit I find....not really something I like. I mean, yes, I am a woman, but in some ways I am very DIFFERENT from the "assumed to be spouses and moms" that this usually seems to be directed at.

Usually the e-mails are along the line of "Hey! Did you know if you totally gave up those foofy coffee drinks you like, you could save anywhere from $5 to $100 a month to put towards other things?"

A couple things here:

a. I don't buy foofy coffee drinks; there is no place that sells them in my town on the way to work for me (which seems to be the main mode of people getting them: a reward, I suppose, for dragging themselves out of bed)

b. Coffee upsets my stomach; I am a tea drinker and I most often make tea at home because I'm fussy about tea and I also like the weird flavored teas that some tea-snobs sneer at.

But more importantly:

c. For some people, foofy coffee drinks are a big source of pleasure and if they budget for them and aren't, you know, sending their kids to school with peanut butter smeared on a playing card or something instead of a proper lunch, who are you to tell them to give them up?

I mean: I get economizing. I was taking my lunch to work loooooong before "The New Frugality." (Though in my case, it was more a combo platter of "ugh, I hate fast food"/"I'd rather use that time to sit at my desk and surf Ravelry while I eat"/ "I have some very specific health and dietary concerns that are better served by my having strict controls on what goes into my food"). But the endless drumbeat of having fewer and fewer little pleasures in life to save all your money for some nebulous

(Also, something I read recently that struck me: some of the "Why don't 'poor folks' save more money? Why do they spend their money on junk like lottery tickets and fast food and cigarettes?" is answerable by the fact that people who live in an uncertain and insecure world, who have always only known budget insecurity, are less prone to planning for a future that may never arrive - that people live in the moment because the future is hard to imagine, or something. And I can kind of see that. I think a similar thing was in play when someone I know who worked for a doctor's office said that shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, they saw LOTS of people going off of diets (whether weight-loss or things like low-salt) because they figured, "The world's ending, so what does it matter now?")

And yeah, I recognize that I am privileged in that I earn enough money to put a chunk of it away each month for retirement (Not as much as TIAA keeps nagging me to, though - but again, Nothing You Ever Do Is Good Enough).

But anyway. I was surprised, then, today, to see an e-mail from them titled "Joy-based spending."

Two competing thoughts:

a. "Even they know they world's ending and we might as well use up our money now"

b. "Does this mean I can go to Etsy and order some more vintage G1 ponies?"

Actually, it's an ad for a seminar some person is giving* (where you pay them money to go. Sorry, going to a seminar isn't joy-based spending for me)

(*"A crummy commercial? Son-of-a....")

But yeah. I do think there needs to be room for spending at least a little on things that make you happy. I have been in the other place, and yeah, it does feel a little like The Other Place - even a few weeks this spring of going "Oh noes, furlough days! Pay cut! Do away with all frivolous spending and only buy groceries and medicine and things like cleaning supplies!" was kind of difficult and unpleasant. Oh, I could do it if I HAD to but life is short enough that I don't want to.

The thing is, though, this seems weird to me. For one thing: do we really need to be told, "Yes, it's okay to sometimes spend a little on things or experiences* that make you happy?" And do we really need a seminar about that? And also - after months of sort of dour "if you did without this Small Pleasure of life, just think of how much money you'd have in the future." (Even though the "magic of compounding interest" isn't as magic as it was when I started saving money back in the early 80s)

(*And don't get me started on the people who get all smug about the "things vs. experiences" dichotomy. There are people like that: "Oh, spending on and having EXPERIENCES is great and wonderful and enriches your life! But spending on THINGS is a waste and just ties you more to material possessions." It's not that simple - for example, my piano is a Thing but it also allows me to have the Experience of learning and playing it. And for some of us, for whom certain experiences are not possible, maybe things fill some of that void. I'd rather have little happinesses every month or so with a Doki Doki box or with ordering a vintage Pony than wait for that one shining moment when I have enough time off from work that I can....what? Much travel is sort of out for me as I dislike being in strange and possibly hostile places alone, and I don't have a travel-buddy. Things like skydiving are out (physical fragility). And where I live, stuff like "great restaurant experiences" aren't a possibility, not without a long drive to somewhere unfamiliar and with hostile traffic....)

But it does seem strange to me that after they promote a sort of extreme belt-tightening and a cutting-out of the small joys that maybe make difficult weeks more tolerable, we're now being encouraged to go to a seminar to teach us how to "spend joyfully." (I already know how to do that....)


And there are other ways one can get a bit of joy from spending - I need to surf over to the Doctors Without Borders website and see what they're doing for hurricane relief in Haiti; I want to send some money in the direction of a reliable charity who is going in there to do anti-cholera vaccinations. I don't know why that specifically struck me (the growing Southern Lady in my mentality would say "God put this on my heart") but that's where I want to give at least a little bit....

1 comment:

purlewe said...

TEA?! Let's talk tea. Tell me what you like.

(I loved you got a Christmas Story reference in there)

I wish we lived closer. I would like to meet up with you for one of your jaunts to a yarn shop or craft store, or even an antique store.