by a.b.

Because I have debt, it’s been a long journey to get my responsibilities under control, to the point where I can choose where my money goes. Because I make choices that are not mainstream, I constantly subject myself to the oddest assumptions and inquiries.

For instance, my mother-in-law (who is the sweetest, most wonderful person, and could probably make Harriet Nelson, Patty Duke, and Donna Reed feel inadequate) was very worried that we weren’t doing well financially. They are currently saving for an international trip, literally a once in a lifetime experience, but were willing to sacrifice their trip for us, because she worried we were in financial danger. Why do people think these things of us?

The Studio: Mr. B, B-dog, and I live in a 484 s.f. studio. We don’t take up a lot of space, so we didn’t want to pay for square feet we wouldn’t use. When we lived in a 2 bedroom apartment, we used the second bedroom as storage, and ended up selling everything in it when we moved.

Going Out: We don’t like to go out all of the time; it’s more of a personal decision than a financial one. Mr. B and I work conflicting schedules, so time that we get to spend together is precious, and alone time is even better. Our friends like to go out a lot. When we do make it, they try and pick up the tab because they assume the reason we didn’t go out before was based on affordability. The truth is I am an old fart in a late 20s body.

Happy Hour: Happy hour has been one of the greatest pleasures and debacles of my life. I simply don’t see the benefit in paying more for the same food to come in later, or earlier. My penchant for happy hour became so well known, that people started to wonder if I had a drinking problem. When I explained that it was because I don’t want to pay extra, they confused desire with ability, and we’re back at tab wars.

Clothes: I hate to shop with a passion. I don’t even like to shop online; I despise everything about the process. I’m not anti-consumerist in any way. I just hate shopping for clothes. They never fit, I hate standing in customer service lines for returns. I really can’t find anything good about the shopping process. I buy classic pieces that last a long time and take care of what I have. When my friends or family ask me where I got a tank top, I have to explain I have no idea because it’s six years old, and they stare at me in stunned silence. I can afford newer clothes, but I don’t need anything new, so why should I shop? More stunned silence.

Honesty: I don’t shy away from financial questions. Our friends and family know we are paying off student loans, credit card debt, and an auto loan. I think that media hype has them more concerned than they need to be. When my mother-in-law starts to get that concerned look in her eye, I turn on a big smile and let her know that it’s okay, we should be debt free in about three years without any major strain. Debt also isn’t keeping us from living any part of our lives. We spend time with friends, and are even looking at houses. But darnit, you can’t keep a mother, or mother-in-law from worrying.

The truth is, I know I am very lucky to have so many concerned citizens in my life, and I wouldn’t trade any one of them….maybe one or two. I understand that my choices aren’t the mainstream. I also understand that many of the ways I choose to live, are ways other people live when they have no other choice.

To me, frugality is about choosing where my dollars go. I like the notion that my pennies have thought behind them. I would rather go to a Happy Hour special and leave a larger tip for the waitress, than feel my pocket pinched at dinner hour. I would rather take care of what I have than go buy new. I believe in using, not abusing my possessions. I also believe in slipping the waiter an extra $20, so I don’t have to keep fighting my friends for the tab.