I Already Feel Like Scrooge; Are the Holidays Over Yet?
It’s December 1 and I already feel like Scrooge.
Having a solid estimate on how much discretionary cash I’ll have between now and January 1—the $302.78 of discretionary cash I have in my bank account right now, plus the $153.50 I predict I’ll earn this month—means knowing, in advance, that my cash is not going to cover my holiday expenses.
So I’m asking myself “am I going to do this month on a zero-interest credit card, on my savings account, or by making a lower payment on my debt?” and I’m not quite sure which solution is the best one. (It could be a combination of all three!)
I recognize that I am already in a position of privilege to be making these choices. I’m having to worry about these choices because I am living on 50 percent of my income (and putting the rest of the cash towards freelance taxes, savings, and debt), not because I’m not earning enough income. There’s a difference.
But since none of these are choices I particularly want to make, it also means my mind is actively working on minimizing the rest of my expenses so I can lessen the impact of whatever choice this turns out to be. (This is, incidentally, exactly what Scrooge does.)
Which means dividing things up into “expenses that matter” and “expenses that don’t matter.”
Expenses that do matter: travel expenses for family, gifts for family, gifts for friends, bonusing my hair stylist.
Expenses that don’t matter: decorations. I finally have enough space for a full-size Christmas tree and lights and the whole bit, but that was the first thing to get cut out of the budget. I bought an 18-inch tinsel tree-shaped decoration for $7 and said “that counts.”
Expenses that don’t matter: going to see the new Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker (unlike y’all Nutcracker grinches, I get really excited when they announce that they’re swapping out the Stowell choreography for the Balanchine choreography). I didn’t go last year, either. I always want to, and I never have enough cash left over in December.
Expenses that don’t matter: cooking experiments. I was thinking I’d do cookies and pies and sugarplums this holiday season, maybe have people over to celebrate the joy of soaking dried fruit in Grand Marnier, but that also has to get cut.
Expenses that do matter, but that I have to put off for a while: I have the opportunity to do a handful of cool things in 2016, including going to a writing conference, going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and going to see Hamilton. My mind is telling me that I can’t say yes to any of these until I have not only paid for my holiday expenses but also paid back whatever I used to pay for my holiday expenses (credit card, savings account, debt account).
So yeah, I totally feel like Scrooge right now, forcing myself to say no to everything around me, to grumble at #GivingTuesday, to sit next to my 18-inch tinsel tree and quietly eat my freezer soup, because my discretionary income through at least April 2016 (???!!!) is already spoken for.
How about you?
This story is part of our Holidays 2015 series.