Something strange has happened. Somewhere along the way, Mr. P and I have turned into adults. Real adults. It’s not just because we’re up to our eyeballs in dirty diapers. Nor is it because we
shackled ourselves to the bank are proud homeowners. It’s because we have what our family and friends have deemed “good jobs”. The problem with these good jobs? Apparently, we can afford anything.
We Can Afford It
It started when I bought our house five years ago, and there were resurgences with every vacation we took—whether it was Vegas on the cheap or something a bit more exotic. It would pop up every now and again as I scooted down the aisles at Target, mustering what little willpower I had to tell friends that the items they were pointing out were cute but weren’t coming home with me. But as of late, the chorus of “you can afford it” has reached a crescendo that is nearly deafening.
When people comment on my maternity leave, or my three-month vacation as one person put it (insert all the side eye here), they are often under the impression that it is a paid leave. Even after I point out the reality, I often hear those four words: you can afford it. In fact, I have been told that I can afford everything from grocery delivery services to $800 strollers, with assurances that both of which will revolutionize my life. . Truth be told, we can afford it.
But Do We Want It?
Having the money to buy something is not reason enough to purchase it. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. Realistically, it was one of my greatest financial missteps. Though I never fell into consumer debt, my future financial dreams—from vacations to retirement planning—stalled out because my savings account balance was stuck in neutral. After my bills were paid, I traded the surplus dollars for stuff. Stuff that I could afford but assuredly did not need.
Now, when I hear people tell me what I can and can’t afford, I challenge the conversation by asking if it is really worth it. What value does it add? What are the benefits of owning versus borrowing? How will that purchase change my life in a way that something I already own couldn’t? It turns out that identifying what we can afford is one thing, and explaining why we might need something is an entirely different matter.
Some Things, Not Everything
Now I’m not saying that every extra dollar you make should be earmarked for saving or investing. (I’m saying a lot of it should be.) It’s silly to deprive yourself of things or experiences that will add value to your life. But it’s worth remembering that akin to the YOLOs of years past, this “you can afford it” mentality is a slippery slope.
If you’ve made smart financial moves and secured a strong foothold not just in saving, but in investing as well, there are many, many things that you can afford. The real challenge is figuring out not what you can buy but what you should buy. When it comes to what you can afford, it’s best to spend on some things, not everything. Once you grant yourself permission to start spending, you must also know where you will draw a hard and fast line. Because if you don’t, you truly won’t be able to afford it much longer.
So Tell Me…What do you do when people tell you what you can afford? What do you pass on even though you can afford it?