Making more = Splurging more.
Aspiring to be frugal is a funny thing. For all my posting about how I stay entertained in downtown Toronto on the cheap to how by despite making more money nothing in my lifestyle would change, reality sure has been different.
For context, when I changed jobs, my salary jumped a whopping 22%. When I saw the offer letter, I immediately thought to myself: “Yay! Expedited FIRE here I come!”
Well, as nice as that aspiration has been, my spending from January to June 2018 has gone up 21% compared to all of 2017. Mathematically speaking, 21% of a monthly spend versus 22% of an annual increase is kind of like comparing apples to oranges, but nonetheless I realized I’ve basically inflated my lifestyle without even knowing it.
Starting in January financial update post I was making up plenty of reasons why my expenses had gone up, ranging from Christmas gifts, to the need for new shoes, to suits, etc. But all that was a list of excuses. I’m spending more and I think today is the day I’ve figured out why.
Mattress not included.
For the entirety of my adult life, I never stayed in any one spot. I rented basement apartments, condo closets dens, regular apartments, lived at home, etc. By my calculations, I had moved 11 times in the period between 2011 and 2016 mostly due to school and employment circumstances.
The brevity of these living experiences led me to meet many interesting roommates (for another day…), but also adopt the mentality of “own less”. “Own less” meant for every new purchase I made, I’d have to find a way to either throw something away or make it fit in my car upon the inevitable move. This worked very well for a period of time as it optimized my frugal habits but it got exhausting having to live knowing this particular roof over my head was temporary.
Finally when I got a full-time job, I decided it was time to get settled. I signed a one-year lease with a former roommate and we were in business. “No more moving!” I cheered, until I realized a big problem: that I owned zero furniture. Nothing except clothes and a laptop. For the past 5 years of my life, I had been subletting or renting furnished rooms. All of a sudden, I was going to be walking into a completely empty apartment.
Where do I start? What do I do? Where do I go?
I started to think about the things I’d need: a bed for sure. A desk. A dresser. A lamp. Probably a book shelf. Unwisely, the first place I started to google was Ikea and was quickly unimpressed with their pricing.
Then I took a breath and realized a few things:
Not too long ago, I used to work for minimum wage in my spare time lightwalking for the Canada Opera Company. What lightwalkers do is stand on the stage wearing some neutral colours as the lighting designer and crew adjust the lighting to make sure faces are lit and unintended shadows are mitigated. Reason: it’s cheaper than having the actual opera singer stand there doing nothing.
The gig was fun. I’d work a 4 hour shift one weekend and pocket $44 and get to hang out on the majestic stage of the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto and rekindle my love of theatre.
But one day I stopped altogether. Why? Because my marginal tax rate caught up to me. Let me explain.