What’s Your Personal Discretionary Spending?

The past couple months, my husband and I have been easing into a his-hers-ours version of joint finances. As part of that system, we each get $600 of discretionary “allowance” money, no questions asked, shielded off from each other in our own personal accounts.

Spoiler alert: I’m having a hard time with it.

I knew I had inflated my lifestyle since I started working six years ago. What I didn’t realize is just how much. You can see in my previous budget update that I like to eat out a lot, though I guess I’ve documented that pretty well over the months. In addition I go to a fancy climbing gym near our home — it’s so convenient, I love the exercise classes, I guest in friends all the time. And then there are my material wants: nice clothes, noise canceling headphones so I can actually focus in my open office. My wants are overwhelming. I am, very clearly, not frugal.

The other thing we’ve been trying to calibrate as a couple is what actually counts as discretionary spending, like:

  • Clothes: I’ve been putting clothes on my personal account while he needs business casual clothes for work and has been putting on the joint.
  • Haircuts: He has more expensive hair maintenance than I do (dying and more frequent cuts)– is that a him thing or an us thing? We’d previously discussed this as being individual, but lately he’s gone to a cheaper place and wants to put on joint.
  • Gym: I could go to a cheaper gym but I like the nicer gym more, so I’ve defaulted to eating the expense in personal. On the other hand, I go frequently and it is an important facet of my health maintenance– physical, mental, and social. His therapy is a joint expense because it’s important for his self-care, so shouldn’t my gym membership be too for the same reason?

Writing it out, I realize part of the angst I am feeling is that in a lot of these cases we’re defaulting to his self-care as being a joint expense and mine as being an individual expense. There’s a lot there, including how we approach self-care and a lot of differences in our self-image (particularly our own body images) wrapped all up in there. So yeah, some “fun” (read: difficult but probably necessary) conversations to be had there. Whee.

Obviously, I / we don’t have answers to all of them, but we’re sorting through it. But I’d love to hear feedback from y’all:

Do you have a budget for your discretionary spending? If so, how much do you spend?

Is self-care an individual or a joint expense? What type of self-care is a “want” versus a “need”?

How Much Did We Spend On Our Wedding?

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Our wedding has come and gone. We are now married. (This, in my book, was always the minimum threshold of success.)

In terms of cost, I think we did pretty well. I talked with one of my coworkers before the event, astonishingly telling her “average wedding costs” per women’s magazines and the like ($30k+ in our area). As a part-time wedding hair stylist, she didn’t believe those numbers for a second. “It’s at least $80k out where I live on the Cape!” I think we run in very different circles.

As you can tell from the table above, we got a lot of help with wedding costs. His mother insisted on paying for the catering, which was by far the most expensive line item. It costs a lot to feed 60 people! That said, our caterers were excellent. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food; they did all the set-up, clean-up, and serving labor; plus they provided hot apple cider and coffee for our guests, and welcome end to the event on a cool fall day outdoors. And after the event they packed up all the extra food for us, which meant our diet was nothing but wedding leftovers for an entire week.

There were a couple things here and there that didn’t go quite as planned. Because our original musician ended up moving away for conservatory, we decided to go the “let’s play something on our computer” route. Unfortunately, our speakers just decided not to work? So that was kind of a bust.

But overall the event was fine to good. The weather was perfect and the trees in the park had just started turning their leaves, bits of red and orange flecks amongst the mostly-green topiary. I brought a dozen decks of playing cards for people to use during the reception and I think it really helped in keeping our guests entertained. I got to see some out-of-town friends, which was nice. And our families were on their best behavior– a welcome relief.

I might update this post with some wedding photos once our photographer sends us the final copies. Or I might not. If you can’t tell, I’m mostly just glad our wedding is behind us. I love my husband and enjoy being married. But, big orchestrated events? I can do without another one of those for a good, long time.

Did you enjoy your wedding? How much did you spend on “the big day”?

Three Notes On Families

I’m en route to my brother’s graduation in Chicago (activity and food recommendations welcome!) so this one is going to be even more slapdash than usual.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about families.

1.

The administration’s new policy of separating all families at the border, including those making asylum claims, makes me sick. These families come to the US for relief and shelter, and we kick them while they are down. There are some snapshots and accounts reaching the public: this audio clip released on ProPublica broke my heart.

We donated to RAICES Texas, who is offering legal representation and bond money to those incarcerated for their border crossing. We will also be attending our local chapter of the nationwide Families Belong Together protests on June 30th. Our true blue federal representatives are already on the right side of this issue (and by that I mean the left side), but we’ve made calls to them anyway. Even our Republican governor is saying and, on a surface level, doing the right things for now.

At times I cannot believe this country, my country, would do this. But America’s history is full of racial violence, segregation, and cruelty. And yet we must fight for its ideals.

2. 

I recently finished reading Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko. The book has felt really appropriate to this moment.

Pachinko follows a Korean family through the generations, from Japanese occupation and colonialism through the second world war to the nineties. It’s an epic about family– chosen and “blood”– sticking together in a country that is intent on dehumanizing and forgetting them.

The book makes me think about how often we as humans have used ethnocentrism to caste people, even those who have fully integrated into the dominant culture. It makes me think of the intergenerational trauma that gets passed down in every family where no more than a few generations back at any point in history, the family narrative was one of war, genocide, migration, and hurt. And how quickly that is forgotten by the young ones who don’t live through it. How really all families, to a degree, are “mixed” and yet how culturally divided families themselves really are. Human history as waves of trauma and their rippling effects.

3. 

I think to my own family, itself mixed, intercontinental, and broken. I wonder how many disagreements between my parents and myself– on race, on sexual norms, on gender– come from differences in the culture versus a legacy of trauma. Is culture just a product of the trauma of the times?

I’d been taught from a young age that family was the most important thing. And by family, it was meant “blood” family. Your parents, your children, your grandparents, cousins, etc. Blood sticks together. “Blood” family– not friends, not even your spouse– they were the only ones you could trust when things got hard. How much of that message came from trauma?, I wonder.

And yet it is my chosen family– my friends, my partner, my community– among whom I rely and feel safest. Is this a function of my American-ness, my millennial-ism? Perhaps. Papering over the deep well of hurt and resentment from my family’s past makes it easy to start fresh and new, for me to move forward with my own life. But it also feels ahistorical and flippant.

What am I hiding from? What am I unwilling to engage with in my family’s past?

What are you doing to end family separations at the border? Have you read Pachinko? How do you feel about your “blood” vs. chosen families? Any recommendations for things to see, do, or eat in Chicago?