Monday, January 22, 2007

Woulda, shoulda, coulda?

Are there things that you would have done if you'd had more money? What are they? How much money would have enabled you to do these things?

There are a few things that come to mind when I ask myself this question. One was a school trip to Greece when I was in high school. I was taking a class on Greek and Roman civilization, and so was among the students who had first dibs on the trip. And I wanted to go. But I remember thinking that it was probably too expensive-- I think it was $800 or something like that. The irony was that later my father found out the school had offered the trip, and told me I could have gone if I'd wanted to. And I knew that money was only part of the reason I hadn't pursued it. The real reason was that I was basically scared. I'd never been outside the US, and had never been on a trip of any length, let alone without my family. I just had blinders on, and couldn't see such a trip as being within the realm of possibility for me.
And with almost everything else that I've ever told myself was an impossibility because of money, it's the same-- there was something else holding me back.
Sure, there may have been moments where I thought it would be fun to have a private jet at my command, and homes in 10 countries, and over-the-top things like that. But there were other things that were more down to earth impulses, and money was probably just an excuse to avoid something I was afraid I couldn't handle. What kind of things? Getting an MFA instead of just settling down into working after college-- I told myself I didn't want the debt, but I was probably more worried about whether I really had the talent. And a few years ago, I almost moved to London. I looked into getting the MFA there, or getting an MBA there... or just taking some time off-- any of these options would have involved spending most of the money that I ended up spending on my condo. Part of me thought it could have been a great experience... but the other part of me, the part that won, didn't think it would be worth it to turn my life upside down, chuck the progress I'd been making in my career, and most importantly, sacrifice the opportunity to bond with my niece, who had just been born. If I'd really had tons of money, sure, I could have moved to London and flown home any weekend I felt like it, and wouldn't have worried that I'd given up my career and my ability to buy a home.
Fortunately, I'm not in a position now where I feel I have to give up smaller day to day things. I'm at a point where I feel financially secure enough that if I see a $500 pair of shoes I like, I know I can buy them if I really want to. But that is because I know I don't do that kind of thing very often (and in fact I've never bought $500 shoes)-- sometimes it's not the individual expense, but how frequently you have the impulse to buy!

So have you given things up because you didn't have money? Or did you give those things up for other reasons?


Tiredbuthappy said...

Funny, my biggest "shoulda" memories are also about getting an MFA (opted for the more practical but more boring library science degree) and travelling more, or even living outside the US.

Yeah, it was probably mostly fear, not money, that held me back. I do have some regrets that I didn't take more chances.

Listen to me talking in the past tense as if all those adventures are impossible now. They're harder, yes, with the financial obligations I have now. But the biggest financial obligation of all will be out of the house some day, and then, the world is my oyster.

Except that by then my partner (wonderful man, but he didn't save much before I met him when he was 37) will be retirement age and my income will be really important. There will always be a reason to just hunker down and work and save and not take any chances.

I hope some day I have more courage!

Anonymous said...

"The real reason was that I was basically scared. I'd never been outside the US, and had never been on a trip of any length, let alone without my family. I just had blinders on, and couldn't see such a trip as being within the realm of possibility for me."

This is exactly why I did not get out of the country until I was 29. But now that I've been once, I mean to go again.

Askazombiehousewife said...

I have in the past given things up or been creative due to lack of money. Who hasn't given up things due to fear?
Now like you I can afford something nice but I fear going out of control. I also don’t like things that are wasteful. I use cloth wipes and pretty rags because I don’t have to go to the trash as much. I’d rather spend money on better things. I’d rather have savings. I’d rather have good food. I'd rather have good books, nice lotions. Though I use the library as well to help know which books are worth buying.

Anonymous said...

After my sophomore year in college my dad said he didn't have the money to pay his portion of my junior year, nor had he paid his portion of my sophomore year. I went to a cheaper school my junior year, lived at home, used my financial aid to pay for that year plus his portion of my sophomore year, and saved so I could pay his part of my senior year, and returned to get my degree from my original school. That was one of the better accomplishments of my life.

If I'd had more money, I would have bought a bigger house. Now I'm afraid to have a bigger house, even if I could afford one, because it also costs more to heat and cool it, pay the taxes and insurance on it, and replace things such as the roof and air conditioner. I'm trying to convince myself that my current house is big enough, either the way it is or with a bit of remodeling so I can have a dryer connection (maybe even a whole separate laundry room).

As a kid, I never asked my parents for stuff that cost money because I knew things were tight. As an adult, I realize that we could have afforded some of the things I wanted, like those big bouncy balls that cost only a dollar.

That is too bad about your missing an opportunity to visit Greece. I also am afraid of going into other countries because I suspect I am ignorant enough to make bad mistakes. I've been fortunate enough to have friends or family move abroad for short periods during which they welcomed visitors. I let them learn everything the hard way and then show me all the cool stuff!

Anonymous said...

I think this has been one of your most honest posts to date- admitting that sometimes you use money as an excuse to avoid doing something that scares you for other reasons. You only get one shot at this life, and I personally want to see as much of this world as I can with my shot. If you haven't seen it, rent "Defending Your Life" with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep. It is a comedy, but one with a message about looking back on your life with no regrets. The movie is probably close to 15 years old. It changed my life the first time I saw it, and it decided from that point on, I would not let fear be a factor in making potentially life-changing decisions.

Single Ma said...

Absolutely yes to both. I've given up many things because I didn't have the money. Nearest and dearest to my heart right now: a single family home vs. a town home, private school for my daughter, and one more tailored Anne Klein suit from Nordy's. :-)

I've also given up things for other reasons, usually due to fear. I tend to over analyze things then rationalize my way out of it, when in reality, I'm really just afraid to do it. For example, I've never been out of the country and I can think of a gazillion reasons why the timing isn't right. All of them are BS, I can probably afford it if I really wanted to, but I haven't because I'm scared. Of what? *shrug*

Anonymous said...

My regret is also travel related. I am from Asia but went to College in London. And did I use this wonderful opportunity to travel around Europe? Nope, went home dutifully every summer to boring internships. I told myself I felt bad my parents were forking out the huge tuition and that I need the internship for my resume, but really, I didn't have a travel companion lined up and was too scared to travel alone. I mean, we're talking about Western Europe here, even my friends who don't speak English would travel by themselves. This was now more than 10 years ago and never since found enough time and money to travel extensively in Europe (or anywhere else).

Janet said...

My parents couldn't afford to send both my sister and I to college at the same time so i chose the cheaper option of a state school close to home.i sacraficed the opportunity of a real college education.

and there have been other study abroad trips through school i couldn't afford but wanted to go. i ended up going to one that was $2000 something including airfare for a month since that was within my budget and the studies would benefit my major.

i've given up going to high end salons for a good haircut. i cant afford $150 or more for a cut. so i opt for the cheaper ethnic places for $20, and they do a fabulous job much to my surprise.

mOOm said...

Mainly I don't do things because of laziness. The big money question for me has been moving in order to get a job in my profession. Which is why I've moved all over the place, including my last move back to the US from Australia. If I was rich I wouldn't have made the move. So almost the reverse of lack of money stopping me doing something, the need for money made me do it. There were other personal reasons for the move to but they could probably have been dealt with if I hadn't need to move for the money. Now I am glad I came here.

Anonymous said...

My "coulda" memory is finishing up college and getting my BA and instead i didn't for dumb reasons. I know what to go back and get a BA for money reasons...this world is expensive! I have given up alot of things!

Anonymous said...

I am fortunately gifted with a tendency to take risks and go for it. It's nearly always paid off. And when it doesn't, I try to move on with no regrets.

Although I can identify with the post on some level, honestly, I can't think of much that the lack of money or irrational fear has prevented me from doing, at least in the context of making excuses out of fear. Funny, my Mom just said something like this to me when spoke with her this morning. I've always had a thirst for excitement, travel, new experiences, new friends, etc. and a need to push and test myself against my fears. It's not that I am not afraid - it's that the fear is somehow motivating (weird huh).

The most significant thing that ever happened along the lines of letting irrational fear overwhelm judgement was that I dropped out of college for a period of time. I used money as an excuse when it was really me having a tough time adjusting to adulthood. But, I am proud to say that I went back and ultimately finished with glowing honors. I guess you could say that I ultimately conquered my fear in that situation.

I think everyone has a certain amount of irrational fear - especially fear of failure. I know I do. This is the one thing I have to constantly fight in order to push myself to reach my full potential.

If I have one regret, it's that I consistently underestimate my own abilities. This is not so much about fear, but about not realizing how much I am capable of until something forces me to have to step up to the plate.