Relationships Are Needs, Not Wants

juneau

If you read last week’s Friday Chat, you probably noticed that I spent the weekend visiting friends in Juneau, Alaska (with a side trip to Sitka due to bad weather in Juneau).

Of course, if you’ve read any of my other recent Billfold posts, you might be thinking “haven’t you spent most of last week describing, in detail, how little cash you have? What are you doing jaunting off to Alaska?”

First of all, I’ve never been to Alaska and I’ve always wanted to go, and second of all, this trip was planned long before I sat down and calculated my discretionary income for the rest of 2015. The plane ticket was paid for months ago, lodging was free, and I only ended up spending $130.06 while I was in Juneau and Sitka, all of it on food.

Still, it’s looking like my December expenses are going to exceed my December discretionary income. The month isn’t over yet, but there are a lot of items that need to be purchased before the end of the year—and only some of them are Christmas presents for other people. I also need to pay for a professional development workshop I want to take in 2016, I need to buy my Hamilton ticket for the trip my friends and I are planning next fall, and now that I’ve gotten hooked on the Gilmore Guys podcast I need to get tickets to their live show in Seattle.

At this point, you’re probably thinking “Needs?” Those look like wants to me.” Sure. These items are not necessary to my human survival. But let’s put it this way: going to a professional development workshop will put me in contact with other writers and editors in Seattle. Going to see Hamilton will put me in New York, where I’ll get to visit my NYC clients and (I hope) say hi to Mike and Ester in person. These are wants, but they’re also relationship-building wants—and I need relationships.

So much of what I do these days falls into this intersection of need+want+relationship+business, including the Alaska trip. (We did friendship stuff, and we also talked about our creative work and business goals.) It makes it hard to say no to opportunities like these, because these are the friendships and business relationships on which I’ll build the next few years of my life.

I will tell you what I’m saying no to instead, though: since I’m going to Hamilton, I’ve decided to say no to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter; since I’m going to Gilmore Guys, I’ll skip a Seattle Lit Fix event. I skipped using my Old Navy Super Cash because it was “spend $100 sand save $40,” and I figured I could use that $60 on something else. My next batch of soup will be acorn squash, not chicken or beef.

Am I making the smartest financial choices I can, right now? Considering that I will very definitely overspend my discretionary income this month and have to choose between paying the extra out of savings or credit cards, maybe not. But I am trying to be as smart as I can about what I value, and where I want to invest in myself and my relationships, and how I can pull back in other places to keep the impact of these purchases as small as possible.

What do you do, in these kinds of situations?

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