Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Are You a "Saver" or a "Spender?"

Earlier this evening, a friend of mine called me. It had been a while since we’d talked. And to be honest, I was starting to think that maybe, this was just another one of those friendships. You know the kind. Somehow, one person is way more invested than the other. And I was feeling that that person was me. I would call and e-mail, never to get a response. But not today. Mayu called me.

Honestly, I was very excited. Because I had been stuck in bed all day. My Guy had to work. And there wasn’t anything too exciting going on for me. Other than me taking My Guy’s mom hostage at lunchtime. She brought me lunch and I made her stay and eat with me. Which turned into a 2 hour gab fest. Before she eventually went back to work. But me, I wasn’t doing much. Crocheting a blanket for my bestie’s baby. But that was it.

I could tell Mayu was stressed. She just gets this very different tone to her voice. And to be honest, she wasn’t much interested in me. Other than when I would be going for a visit. But I didn’t mind. Because I know, sometimes you just need to unload on a friend. You see, Mayu is working her first “real job.” And along with “real jobs,” comes growing up. For me, this all happened very quickly. When I was 18, I moved out. Completely on my own. And I was a proud owner of a new home. Well, not new. But new to me.

So all this stress that Mayu is going through, I’ve been there. Except, I grew up as a “saver.” Not a “spender.” When my birthday would come, I’d get mostly money as a gift. My dad would let me have $10-20, and the rest, we took to the bank. Christmas was the same way. I had my own savings account. Everything went into the bank. I’d pick up change everywhere we went. And I’d put the pennies in a 5-gallon jar. All the silver coins, they went in another. When they would fill up, we’d lug them to the bank. It was a good thing that my parents had business accounts there. And my dad’s good friend, was a manager at the bank. Because when I’d come, it was an easy 2 hour transaction. :)

But Mayu, she never had to work before this. She’s lived with her parents all her life. With a brief stint of living with an ex-boyfriend. Her parents have paid for everything she’s needed or wanted. She’s always had money available. Girl used to go to Europe, every summer to “study abroad.” So I’m thinking, she is much more of a spender. Carrying her designer purses and wearing her designer clothes.

Well, when the whole “recession” happened, to be honest, it hit me. But it didn’t hit too hard. Because let’s get real. I was already a poor college student, who owned a home. I was used to living off of $20 a month. Yes, you read that right. $20! I learned real quick that I could stretch out a case of Ramen to last a month. I would frequent the Dollar Tree for toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and shampoo. Honestly, the only thing I bought at Wal-Mart was Ramen and deodorant. It was tough. The only thing I dealt with when the recession hit, was a big hit to my scholarship money. Ya, very quickly, people stopped donating to the scholarship fund.

But it was OK. I was a saver. Remember? I work crazy hours. Doing just about anything and everything you could imagine. I cleaned houses for the doctors I worked with. I sang gigs. I cooked for Patrick and Brooke’s dinner parties. Whatever I could do to make money. And when I’d make a few thousand dollars from a gig, I was often tempted to go splurge a little. But I knew I couldn’t. I’d pay off my tuition, books, whatever else I needed for school. Then I’d tackle bills. Pay ahead on utilities. You know, they like that. And I’d pay ahead on my house. That’s how I got it paid off in 7½ years. Every penny I had, went to my house. I knew, I didn’t want to be paying on it for 30 something years. And I saved A LOT on interest fees. But it took lots and lots of sacrifices.

There were times that I wanted to go shopping at Target. Or to go out to eat with friends. But I had a goal. And I was raised as a saver. Not a spender. I’ll always be thankful to my parents for that. They taught me one of the most important lessons in life. To save your money, and to prepare for things. I still do this. For example, I buy Christmas presents in May. And I start saving for Mother’s Day in February. I stock up on pantry staples when they’re at the cheapest price. And I clip coupons. I also set limits for how much I’ll spend on an item.

My friend, she lacks all of this. If she wants that Chanel lipgloss, she’s going to get it. No matter if she has 20 at home, that are only one shade away in color. I’ve seen her buy pens, just to buy them. Or to spend countless dollars on Starbuck’s coffee. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do these things. But you have to budget for them. You also have to see them as treats. You know, “once in a while” items.

But when Mayu started to tell me that she was spending something like $800 of her paycheck between her birthday and Mother’s Day, I about died! $250 on groceries for 1 meal! Do you know what I could do with $250? Even now, when I don’t have to worry so much about money, I could never spend $250 on a single birthday dinner. She can’t afford it, but she spent $150 on a perfume. I know it’s a gift for her mom. But seriously, that is insane! The woman was about in tears because her entire check was going to 2 dinners and a Mother’s Day gift. And I was speechless! My mouth hung open so wide, you could’ve driven a semi through there. No lie!

Yes, I would LOVE to spoil my mom on Mother’s Day. In fact, this year, my mom’s birthday is 3 days after Mother’s Day. I would LOVE to go buy her some expensive perfume, some new garden supplies, and a few flats of flowers. But it’s just unrealistic right now. I’ve got doctor’s bills. And in the end, I’m making her some gifts. I bought her a sweet card. And I’ll probably go visit her for a day between these 2 big events. I’ll make dinner for her and a cake. Most of all, we’ll appreciate the time we spend together.

This leads me to wonder, am I a cheapskate? Or is it acceptable to cut corners and save, but still have a nice day together. In my book, I’d rather have the time together than the big gifts. But that’s me. Am I crazy to think that $800 for 2 dinners and gift is too much? Honestly, I’ll probably spend $50 on all the gifts I give my mom. These are for her birthday and Mother’s Day. And I’ve budgeted around $50 for dinner, a cake, and ice cream. It would be less, but there is an extra family member this year.

It leads me to wonder, once you’re a saver, can you ever become a spender? Or once you’re a spender, can you ever become a saver? I’ve always used cash to deal with. I don’t believe in credit cards. I think cash is the only way to go. I don’t borrow money. Unless you count me borrowing from J, to pay my tuition and books. But he’d always be paid before the semester was over. I do save money in envelopes. I have one right now, marked “Mom.” Inside sits $76. I bought some supplies for her gifts on Monday.

But that’s me. I’m a saver. I use envelopes. I save all my $5 bills. And all of my change. I believe in the reward system for myself. And I never buy makeup when it’s not on-sale. I allow myself so much money to spend on clothes for each season. I always completely pay off bills, as quickly as possible. And I balance my check book to the penny. So are you a saver or a spender? ♥

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