Ask the grumpies: Ethics of being “our level of rich”

Cloud asks:

I struggle a bit with the difference between my wealth now and how I grew up so a post on the ethics of being our level of rich would be really interesting to me. For instance, my husband thinks we should buy a second house and rent out the one we’re in and I can see why this is a good idea but I really struggle with the fact that we could afford two houses in our expensive real estate market and whether we’d be making things worse by doing that.

I also struggle with this.  I grew up in an extremely frugal household in which our income was uncertain and every penny spent could end in screaming.  But we always had food and clothing and housing even through lengthy bouts of unemployment.  Genteel poverty.  There have been a lot of sea changes as we go through these different wealth levels.  I gain new levels of understanding of how the next chunk of income will make our lives different and how it won’t.  (Turns out, above the # mentioned in that previous post– frugality starts getting thrown out the window because it is less costly to just buy something than to think about it and I started thinking about all those things that kids I knew with high income parents got to do like fancy summer camps and travel.  Many of my colleagues have built their own 4 and 5K sq ft houses or bought vacation homes which makes them feel artificially low wealth, but we think 3K sq ft is plenty big for us and don’t want the hassle of owning more real estate when Air BNB is a thing.)  There’s less fear of bag lady syndrome.

Like I said in the comments before, as long as you actually rent out the second house, it’s likely ethical.  But you still don’t want to be a landlord because if you get unlucky it can cause no end of grief and anxiety.  There are much more peaceful ways to earn additional money.

Ethics:  Part of me feels like we should be giving half our incomes away instead of stock-piling it. We do donate strategically to a lot of causes, both activist and charity.  And we’re generous with tipping and pay people who do work for us either what they ask or more.  But it is nowhere near what would leave us with only a reasonable upper-middle class income (that is to say, once we have a few of DH’s payments under our belts again– we have been living on just my salary and unemployment for quite a few months).  We’re stockpiling for an uncertain future and because I’m worried about income inequality increasing in the US and want to make sure that our children and our children’s children (if they have them) have a safety net if the US is no longer going to be able to provide one.  I’m like, I want to take care of our own first.  And that’s selfish and money can do so much more for people who have less of it.  But… they’re my children and my potential grandchildren.  And we need structural change and I will fight for that.  I would feel much better about having less of a nest egg if I could trust our government and our society.  But I can’t.  So we need to stockpile money to stay “Haves” even if the “Have nots” need it more and I hate that.  I want everybody to be Haves.  I want all kids to have stability and opportunity.  But fear keeps me stockpiling.

It’s crazy to me that you have to be in the top 2% of household income or higher to be able to afford a high quality full-time legally documented dedicated personal assistant or housekeeper that you’re not married to ($150K/year give or take, themselves in the top 20% of income), but when you get to the top 1% of income, you can afford many such people.  That’s a huge concentration of wealth among a very small percentage of the population.  I think a lot of rich people think they’re not really rich because they can’t afford servants, especially when they remember being middle class back in the day meant having a woman come in to cook and clean and “do for you”– but back then people didn’t really think of the women who “Did” as people themselves.  I don’t want servants, except mechanical ones.  Though I do think it’s great when people have businesses that do a specific task for a large number of different households.  That seems efficient.

Which is to say:  I think hiring people is ethical, and hiring cleaning people and yard work people and so on is ethical.  But it’s not ethical to have a lowly paid personal servant (remember Alice on the Brady Bunch?)– if you want someone like that, you must pay the price for them, and at our income that is not a price we can afford.  We can afford college students or underpaid undocumented labor but the former is a crapshoot and the latter unethical, so it’s best to avail ourselves of whatever services are available.  For us that’s just yardwork because I hate the way cleaning crews cost money and get in my space and don’t clean things as well as I was brought up and grumble about how we don’t preclean before they get there.  (We’re currently not happy with our yardwork either, but have yet to find anybody who is happy with theirs– the crackdown on undocumented labor has really decreased the quality of this kind of service.)

Grumpy nation:  How do/would you deal with income and ethics?

I bought an iphone 12 mini

In what should come as no surprise to regular readers, I finally replaced my iPhone 6s with a newer phone.  After DH’s first paycheck and several reimbursements, the phone would just get hot and it lost an additional 2 percentage points of battery power (from 84% of full charge to 82% of full charge) and I said screw it, I’m not waiting until the iPhone 13 comes out in September.

I have small hands, so my choices (assuming I didn’t want to research another brand) were basically an iPhone 12 mini or an SE.  Because we’re rich again, I was like, enh, I’ll get the more expensive one.  Hopefully it will last longer.

In a burst of whimsy I went with a pastel color instead of my usual black.  It will match my wardrobe and be easier to find on my desk.  128GB not because I think I’ll ever use that much, but because I don’t want to run out just in case.

Tom’s guide to hardware said the best case was the Apple clear case ($45), so I got that instead of the Spigen cases we usually get.  One stop shopping at the apple store…

I also needed new earbuds (for traveling) since the old ones don’t have the right kind of plug– I got the cheap Apple kinds again for $20.

As per usual, we got glass covers for the screen.

I also had to get a new SIM card because the old one didn’t support 5G.  (Usually $1.00, but they sent it for free when the one on my old phone didn’t work.  Yay Ting!)

All told it was just under $1,000.  Which is a LOT for a phone!  I had better not lose it.  Argh, if I’d remembered I could lose it I would have gotten an SE!  Oh well.

My hope is to take my current iPhone 6S once it has been wiped to the non-authorized apple store in town and get the battery replaced so that DC2 can use it in the future.  I think we’re going to start hir with a dumb phone (these are surprisingly hard to find!) and if zie is responsible with it for a few months, then zie can use my old phone.  We’ll see.

So far I like the 12 mini, though there were some troubles getting the dual authentication program for my school to transfer, but I eventually got that resolved.  The phone itself is skinnier than the 6S which is a little uncanny valley but I got used to it pretty quickly.  It claims to have a bigger screen, but I think for youtube and other similar videos it does not because those videos don’t fit the entire window because the window box, while longer without the borders of the 6S, is still skinnier.  I am enjoying the battery not dying after an hour of internet surfing and the way that it’s just faster at everything.  I also feel like the autocorrect is slightly less stupid, but my IRL friends say I’m just imagining that.  I’m getting used to swipe-typing instead of hunt and peck typing.

(Also in a burst of whimsy when I was buying the kids the next size up in tennis shoes, I got these for me even though the last two times I tried to order nice shoes online it was a disaster and I swore I would try them on in a store the next time.  But they worked this time!  And that’s a really good price for Pikolinos boots!  And my old brown boots, also Pikolinos Le Mans but half boots, are literally falling apart at the heels, so these won’t go to waste.  Not a sponsored link.)

Are you gonna get an iPhone 13?  Do you like big phones or small ones?  Apple or something else?

Dipping back into being high income

With DH re-employed, we’re back to being high income.  (Not 1% high income, but more than anybody really needs high income.)

You will recall I had just started loosening up on spending and was buying travel not connected with a conference, visiting DH’s parents’ house, or a wedding for the first time *ever* and then the pandemic hit taking our 20th anniversary trip to Portland, OR with it.  And then it sounded like DH’s job was going to go away, so I started stockpiling, and then it actually did go away, and my income was back to my take-home pay just about exactly covering our expenses on average (though some lumpy expenses, like summer camp etc. came out of DH’s unemployment and summer money/honoraria for me).  I was careful to buy the on-sale things at the grocery store and didn’t go too crazy with my jetpens habit.

To be honest, I felt more comfortable on just my income.  High income is freeing, but I definitely feel guilt along with it.  And uncertainty– I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing with it all.  Is it stupid not to spend?  Should I be saving?  How much waste is moral?  Should I be buying more ways to save time?  Laura Vanderkam would not approve!

And now we’re back to DH’s take-home being higher than mine (I have more retirement account options) and us being able to live off just his take-home pay.

If we stay here forever, we’ve hit our savings goals.  Our house is paid off.  Our retirement accounts are being maxed every year.  We finally renovated the kitchen.  Our cars aren’t very old.  DC1 will have to pay full-freight for college.  But we’ve also got a LOT saved in a 529 already and although we will probably save more for DC2; we won’t know how much more until DC1 actually goes to college.  It’s not really clear where extra money should go.

That said, we’re in a shakier position than we were before.  DH’s job may not last longer than two years.  We both really want to leave this state and move someplace where the government isn’t actively trying to kill people.  We want to live in a Blue state with high taxes and expensive housing. I’m not sure I can get an academic job, especially one with tenure.  Is there age discrimination in Tech?  I don’t know.  Will DH be able to keep getting jobs?  Probably if he’s willing to move (or if he’s willing to do something outside of his main focus– everyone is shocked at how good a programmer he is)… but will they pay enough to live someplace fancy?  We don’t know.

We would need another 3 million dollars in savings to safely move to one of these fancy blue cities and not worry about employment or health insurance or housing (less with jobs lined up).  That’s a LOT of money.

I asked DH what he wanted to do now that we’re rich again.  He said he wanted freedom most of all.  So maybe we should aim for that 3 million.  I don’t know how long it would take to get it, but the more we put away now, the longer it has to grow and the more freedom we will have if DH’s new company goes under or he gets laid off or I move without a job or etc.

But also he wants fancy J. Herbin fountain pen ink (emerald) and either the Peloton app or that fancy online personal trainer thing Wheezy Waiter is always talking about (he picked the latter, and just bought $300 of dumbbells).  And a workout mat to put in his office ($200!  except then amazon said just kidding it’s actually backordered and he got a cheaper one).  I think we can handle those.  And upgrading my iPhone 7 to a newer model with a working battery (I will do this before school starts in the fall).  And maybe even upgrading my ancient computer (though DH may upgrade his and I’ll take his as a hand-me-down).

But I really need to start some kind of monthly savings plan where I just put money directly into Vanguard instead of letting it pile up in savings where it just kind of stares at me and makes me forget its true value.  (I start saying dumb stuff like, “DH, we could totally just buy this $32K house near your parents so everyone has a place to stay at Christmas.”  Narrator:  We should *not* buy a fixer-upper house in a rural area that we will go to maybe 2 weeks out of the year.)

No questions, just being obnoxious.  Commentary accepted even without questions! 

DH is employed again!

He did a bunch of lengthy lengthy interview processes from job openings former colleagues sent him which all ended with the companies saying, “you are amazing but we cannot have you remote” (even though he was always upfront in the first interview that we cannot move for a couple of years) and then finally got a job offer at a start-up where many of the workers are already remote.  TWO of his professional friends work there and one of them is the former colleague who left when DH’s last company had to temporarily cut salaries (and then left the next place he went when *they* cut salaries because of covid and that cut didn’t turn out to be temporary).  It’s a pay increase from his last job and he will be making about 10K more than I do.  (The first offer was pretty much identical to my salary but then he negotiated!  In theory we will be at par again after I’m promoted, but we will see.)

I’m not sure what to say other than that.  I will probably have really obnoxious posts about being rich again and that adjustment.  Though this is a start-up so it may not last long so DH wants to put a lot towards savings, which is smart.  (And if we move to a coast, selling our paid-off house would only provide a 20% down payment for another house.)  So where do we park that savings?  I guess you’ll find out in obnoxious posts after I figure it out (Vanguard index funds?  probably.  But *which* Vanguard index funds?).

Right now what’s more in my mind is the loss of time.  It was really nice having a househusband, even if he was spending 20 hours/week doing unemployment stuff (he’s now a six sigma yellow belt and has some project management thing, thank you unemployment commission).  I could just put any Ottonlenghi (sponsored link) meal I wanted on the meal plan and it would magically happen even if it took hours to make without me doing any of the cooking.  And you saw all the gorgeous baking DH has been doing.  Now I’m like… we need to eat more spaghetti with jarred sauce.  And when was the last time we had macaroni and cheese with tuna and peas (aka stovetop tuna cheese casserole)?  Also he could be first stop for any questions from the kids.  And he was just taking care of things.  Now we’re going back to 50/50 and it’s an adjustment, though thankfully the school year is over so I have some time to adjust.

The kids have a week off, so I’m having them meal plan for a week and put the necessary groceries on the list.  I’ve given them a budget of $250 which is more than we usually spend, but I didn’t want them to feel like they had to trade-off expensive fruit in order to get ice cream.  They’ve so far only spent $80 after getting our regular necessities (we have a list of bread/eggs/milk/bananas etc. that I put on before they started) and ingredients for 7 dinners, which suggests that DH and I really spend an awful lot on fancy cheeses and organic produce.  DC1 thinks we should buy restaurant sushi with the rest, but DC2 is lobbying for one of each kind of oreos.  (In the end DH and I added some things like pecans and cat litter and the bill got up to $125, give or take.)

Our state unemployment office is not letting him request the first week of unemployment benefits that they withheld that’s supposed to come to him automatically after getting a job (they claim he already requested it, which he did not).  He’s going to have to play phone roulette again to get that reinstated, but, fun story, he’s not allowed to call them about this until he is actually on the job, and he has to call during working hours.  And last time it took an hour of hitting redial before he was able to get through.  Talk about an ordeal mechanism.  And how seriously unfair to lower income people who cannot spend an hour during working hours the first week of a new job to get the bridge money they need before their next paycheck.  He hasn’t decided whether or not to make that call, since of course, we can afford not to.  But our government is just going to use that money to hurt Trans people, immigrants, and women, so…

So, yay DH!  He was definitely ready to be working again.  And he LOVES working with at least two of his colleagues and they love working with their other colleagues, so it should be fun.  Plus the head of software is a woman and that is ALWAYS a good sign.  (Women are like canaries in the Tech Coalmine– if there aren’t any, and there aren’t any in management other than project management, it is probably a hostile environment.)

… I don’t have any questions.  Being selfish and just enjoying the change.  

What is the right level of spending when you’ve met your goals and still have some leftover?

Putting away $36K into DC1’s 529 account (and lowering our emergency fund to less than half of what we need in there before I stop getting paid for the summer) has had the intended effect of making me feel artificially less wealthy.  I’m no longer mentally thinking about things to buy (ex. expensive electronics) other than things we’d be buying anyway on a smaller income (ex.  summer camps that aren’t Interlochen or Concordia).  I’m still doing just-got-paid and making-me-feel-better charitable contributions, but they’re (combined) more in the hundreds/month than the low thousands unlike my first paycheck of the year donating.

I don’t think this money move has got us donating less, but I do suspect it’s got me spending less because I’m back to the default of “if we don’t need it, don’t buy it” rather than an underlying “looking for places to send money to”.  When I see an amount in my savings account that I can’t really comprehend and I don’t know where to put it… it makes sense that when all else fails I might want to spend it.  To be honest– I feel a lot less guilty when I see a reasonable amount in savings that I can understand.  Or when I do have excess money in cash, it is earmarked for something like an upcoming sabbatical.

Sidenote:  If you’re in the 24% tax bracket and ever want to feel artificially low income, just read the case studies in Bogleheads.  So many people with inherited wealth spitting out enormous dividends or salaries above $500K/year.  Even though that’s such a tiny proportion of the population.  If you’re in the 24% tax bracket, you’re still pretty high income.

But what is the right thing to do?  For other people, I war between “If you are meeting your financial needs/goals, do what you will with the excess” and “Nobody needs that much excess.”  I’m fine with Ariana Grande’s panegyric on spending, but not ok with people buying politicians.  And I feel sick (and like getting out pitchforks) when I see the price tags of some of the things that rich people buy and don’t even use.  There’s also the environmental waste of disposable purchases.  And yet, it isn’t my money, so “an it hurts no one, do what you will.”  And yet, I am so strongly in favor of inheritance taxes and higher marginal tax rates.

And maybe what other people should do isn’t as important as what keeps me feeling safe and not squicky.  We probably should replace broken appliances before they start giving me rashes, but there’s something to be said for repairing instead of replacing.  I don’t want stuff we don’t need.  But I don’t regret the iPad Pro purchase which has been great for editing and reviewing other people’s papers, or even the Remarkable purchase though I’ve ended up not really using it.  And I love our Honda Insight with the second level trim.  When I want it, should I got it?  Or should I exercise some self-control and put off the purchase until it’s something we really want?

The best way to curb these spending impulses is to just not have money burning a hole in my bank account.  But should we do that and continue to stockpile money for a rainy day even though we don’t think we want to retire early (still, it would be nice to retire anywhere in the country we want to, not just our current LCOL location).  There’s also the very real fact that the owner of the company where DH works is going to die one of these years (he’s in his 80s) and while we almost spend less than my take-home pay, it would be nice to not have to make any sacrifices while DH decides what to do next.  But this has become much less of a concern since my last raise– we no longer need to have, for example, a full salary’s worth of dividends spitting out each year to cover the gap.  I’m high income on my own even if we’re in a lower tax bracket without DH’s income– we move back to upper-middle-class, which isn’t really a hardship if we don’t get used to higher levels of spending.

When we’re not artificially cash-poor, these are questions we have:

  • Will we keep our ancient fridge until it completely dies?
  • When should we replace our functional computers with faster versions?
  • Should we send our kids to expensive national camps that require plane trips when there’s less-acclaimed versions we can drive to (probably not)?  What if there aren’t substitutes we can drive to (maybe?)?
  • Should we try to pay someone to take care of anything?  But what?
  • Should we eat out more?  Try a meal service?  Eat at the fancy restaurants in town when they’re not paid by my department?  Even though they’re not as good as the fancy restaurants in the city but cost about the same?
  • Should we take more real vacations that aren’t connected to conferences?  But what about the time costs?

And the big one:  Should I hide money from myself?  Or should I be fine with the additional spending that comes with having cash on hand?

If you don’t need to exercise self-control, should you?  When your needs and strongest wants are being met, how do you decide what to spend on?  How do you decide how much to spend on your wants?  How do you prioritize your wants?  What happens to your spending when you get a big income shock?  Do you hide money from yourself?

Should I put lump sums in the 529 instead of dollar cost averaging?

One of the reasons this blog seems to have become a spendapalooza is that there’s really not any obvious place for extra money to go.

But there actually is one place for extra money to go– the kids’ 529 plans.  (A 529 plan is an awesome way to save for college or vocational school such that the earnings are tax-free.  But, it’s a good idea to max out your retirement before setting money aside in 529 plans because retirement accounts aren’t included in college financial aid calculations and you can take out loans for college but you can’t for retirement.)

In the past, I’ve always said, “and the kids’ 529s are on track to pay for the school of their choice [by the time the graduate college].”  What I mean by that is that we’ve been putting away $750/month in the accounts, even in the summers when I don’t get paid.  (It used to be $500/month, but we increased it when we paid off the mortgage and stopped paying for daycare.)  But we haven’t *actually* put enough money to be able to cash flow the remainder of the cost of (a four-year private) college yet.  We’re just on track to.

Over the next 4 years before DC1 starts college, $750/mo works out to $36,000 (actually a little less than that since it’s November, but it’s an estimate).  Over the next 8 years before DC1 ends college, it would be $72,000.  (That’s a LOT of money!)

We could just put in $36K (instead of $9,000) over the course of this year and then either start contributing again once we know where DC1 is going to college or not based on the cost of hir chosen school.  (Given hir struggles in English, it is likely that HMC is out, but also out with HMC is its insanely high $72K/year tuition.  I told DC1 we could get hir a unicycle anyway.)

Doing it this way loses some dollar-cost averaging benefits, but it gains the benefits of a longer period of untaxed earnings.

There are some wrinkles to doing BIG 529 account transfers.

The first is that even though the account is a custody account and doesn’t actually belong to the child, it still is subject to the annual gift tax.  For 2019, the amount that can be given annually without tax is $15,000.  Each parent can give that amount, so a married couple can give $30,000 in one year.  $36K is more than $30K, but there’s a loophole with the 529.

This wrinkle has its own wrinkle:  An individual or couple can give a larger lump sum, so long as the total given in that five year period is still less than 5 times the annual exclusion.  So DH and I *could* give $150K this year so long as we didn’t contribute again for another 5 years.  (Of course, that’s a moot point because we don’t actually *have* $150K to give, but you get the idea.)  That means when DC1 actually gets into college, we should be able to continue to contribute to hir 529 without penalty.

So our plan is to do a lump sum of $36K this month to DC1’s account (this gets rid of all our excess cash and digs pretty deep into our emergency fund, but the emergency fund doesn’t actually have to be full until May since we can cash flow most emergencies when we’re both being paid).  Then we will stop contributions to hir account entirely.  We will continue as normal with DC2’s account (contributing $750/month) until we build up excess cash and I start to feel like forcing DH to buy all the Apple products again.  At that point we will re-evaluate and decide whether we want to do a lump sum to DC2’s account or if we just want to increase the monthly contribution.  I’m sure I will post about what we end up doing.

In ~4 years when we know where DC1 is going to college, then we’ll decide whether or not to start contributing to that 529 plan again, and we will have a better idea about how much DC2’s account can bear without going over.

Grumpy Nation, I don’t have a good question for this post.

The problem with buying an Apple Watch and why we finally gave our 12 year old a smart phone

I heard somewhere that the Apple Watch detects heart attacks and then notifies authorities.  This is not actually true.  But I thought it was true.  DH works from home alone and my second biggest fear is that he’s going to have a heart attack at home and his life could have been saved if people had been around to get him medical attention (my biggest fear is similar but involves semi-trucks and crossing the street).  So I decided that an Apple Watch would be a good thing for DH to get, especially after reading a bunch of highly compelling stories about people whose lives were saved by the watch.  After additional research, I did find out that the newest version of the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch 5, is very good at fall detection and will alert authorities and I have instructed DH to attempt to fall (in addition to chewing the aspirin I make him keep at his desk) should he feel a heart attack coming on and is unable to call 911.  This is only somewhat tongue-in-cheek (yes, I do make him keep aspirin at his desk).  Version 5 also has better detection of heart problems that aren’t heart attacks, so if it’s a heart problem that has some warning signs that would be nice too.  So even after I found out that the heart attack thing isn’t true, I was sold on him having one.

It turns out, if you buy an Apple Watch 5, you’re going to need a new iPhone to go with it (because your iPhone 6 isn’t compatible).  You find this out after you get the watch in the mail and have to decide whether to upgrade the phone or return the watch.

When you get a new iPhone 8, you’re going to need a new SIM card to go with it (because your old iPhone 6 SIM card isn’t compatible).  Fortunately, unlike the iPhone 8 ($450 plus tax), the SIM card is only $5 (plus $4 s/h plus tax).  You also find this out after you get the new iPhone in the mail, but by this point you’re committed.

DC1 is going to get the hand-me-down iPhone 6, which is surprisingly beat up (surprisingly because mine is still in really nice condition).  Turns out it’s only worth about $60 resale which is just a little more than we’ve been paying for DC1’s crappy flip phones.  DC1’s current crappy dumb phone has been driving us crazy because it doesn’t get very good reception at hir school which means zie leaves us voice mails that we can’t understand and zie doesn’t get our texts when we need to pick hir up.  It also has such a terrible battery life that I went and bought hir an external battery. Zie has lost or washed so many flip phones at this point we assumed this one would not last long, but it’s been a few months.  Zie will still have it as a back-up when zie inevitably loses the iPhone.

We are going to have to have a long talk about proper smart-phone use and internet addiction and all those other lovely things, but it will be nice for DC1 to be able to use an electronic calendar and to actually get the texts that hir orchestra teacher tends to send in the middle of the day.

Do you have a smart watch?  If applicable, when did your kid get a smart phone? 

We bought all the things: Will I run out of ways to be obnoxious?

So over the past year or two we’ve bought two cars, renovated the kitchen, shared the expense for a new fence with our neighbor, and bought a new clothes washer.  We’ve subsidized family vacations to not-so-fancy midwestern destinations and we’re going on an anniversary trip (to Portland!) next summer.  I also bought an iPad pro and a Remarkable for quasi-work purposes (the iPad pro seems to be the winner so far for editing other people’s papers, and I’ve been good about not using it for goofing off).

Since October we’ve bought the aforementioned clothes washer, donated a TON of money to various educational causes (including $2K+ to DC2’s school, the + because they had a couple fundraisers that we donated to separately), sent money to various political causes, and I made DH buy an Apple watch because he works from home alone and it can detect falls and irregular heart-beats and notify people about them.  (Really I started the campaign to have him buy one because I thought it could detect heart attacks, but it turns out it can’t.  Still, the other health metrics seem more useful than nothing.)*  DH is buying himself a 3D printer (he’s been avidly reading gasstationwithoutpumps among other sources in anticipation), though maybe that shouldn’t count since he’s been saving up his allowance for it for a long time.  We also bought $200 worth of Scholastic books and a new tall bookcase to replace DC1’s short bookcase (hir old bookcase is going back into the hallway) for $500.  And we paid the full property taxes in one fell swoop and I transferred 10K over to Vanguard taxable.

Really only the property taxes (and technically the Vanguard transfer before it) made a dent in our savings.  This is because in October we both got a bunch of large delayed reimbursements (I think something like 9K (!) worth– did you know you can just rent an ultrasound for like $500/mo?), late summer salary, and my first paycheck on top of DH’s paychecks.  So we were super flush with cash after having a somewhat careful September and then the bills for a lot of these won’t be due until after we get paid again.

I don’t really have a point to this post, but it’s been weighing on me and I had to tell someone, and who else to tell besides the grumpy nation?  I am going crazy buying all the things, but a lot of this buying was also delayed spending.  So it feels like a lot, but maybe it isn’t because other people would have renovated that kitchen a decade ago, bought a new clothes washer the first time it broke instead of repairing it multiple times, regularly gone on vacations, and have bought a watch to replace that 20 year old Casio calculator watch a long time ago instead of just replacing bands and batteries.  (Me, I’m still rocking a 20 year old Timex that I love.  I think you can get the same model new for under $40.)  But let’s be completely honest, we’ve been spending a lot.

What I’m wondering is if after this spurt of buying things we’ve been putting off buying or thought would be nice to have if I’ll settle down again into not spending frivolously or if this is a new normal.  I can’t really think of anything else I want… I mean we’ve kind of exhausted useful Apple products.  Maybe my next big purchase will be a crown for when my third molar finishes cracking (dentist thinks no earlier than next year, but definitely in my future).  Or maybe I’ll see something new I want and just get it in my best Ariana Grande style.

Will the obnoxious posts end?  What money things will I blog about if they do?  Do you delay purchases and then spend when you’re flush or do you spend more evenly?

*Update:  it turns out our iphones are just a little bit too old for the newest Apple watch (we didn’t get the S version when we bought our phones).  So DH has to decide if he wants to get a new phone or return this watch.  And if he returns this watch, does he get an older model Apple watch or not.  He probably won’t get an older model.  My guess is we’ll either return or DH will finally upgrade phones (his is falling apart a bit and we have been thinking of passing it down to DC1 since DC1’s current dumb phone works only about half the time we need it to work, though that has its own concerns).   There was another item in the initial draft of this post that got returned as well– I bought a pair of fancy European shoes off Zappo’s, but when I got them one of the two didn’t fit and had all sorts of stitching problems(!) so I sent them back and decided I really do have to go to a store to try on expensive shoes, but there are no such stores nearby so… I’m not sure what I’m going to do for my brown dress shoes need given my half boots are really worn down in the heel.  DH is thinking an iPhone 8 (same size as his current 6) for $450 instead of an 11 for $700 or 11 Pro for $1000, so that’s almost frugal (not really).

The diminished mental load of having a lot of money: An obnoxious post

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE TUESDAY NOVEMBER 5TH!!!!

Back when I had just graduated from college, my former roommate and I had gotten a bill for missing furniture that we’d never gotten in the first place (our room was too small to fit an easy chair they’d tried to deliver).  I had called up and complained and gotten the charge revoked.  My roommate’s father had just paid her half.  I don’t remember the exact amount but it was definitely over $100.

At the time I did not understand how someone could just *do* that.  If nothing else, the principle of the thing.  I’ve spent most of my life keeping track of things.  Billing discrepancies, missing reimbursements, accidental overcharges.  Even though I hate calling places, I would protest mistakes or make DH protest them.

And now… I just don’t.  I don’t notice them as much and when I do notice them, if the amount is small enough and not likely to be repeated I don’t call.  I do make DH keep track of our internet bill out of principle, and I would make him do the same for the cell if Ting wasn’t such a great company, because those companies would regularly cheat us.  In fact, shortly after starting this post our internet bill went up somewhat randomly, and DH called and… they refused to budge or let DH talk to a manager or anything.  We only have two internet providers in the area (this is down from 3– the major competitor no longer provides internet, only tv) and the other option is pretty bad, so this company feels like they have a monopoly on us.  Old us would have switched out of sheer annoyance at not being allowed to talk with a manager (or at least gotten far enough along in the cancellation process that they offered us a deal).  But right now we don’t want to deal with the hassle.  Maybe this summer.  Or never.

This is a pretty new phenomenon for me… maybe half a year old, give or take.  This is the first time we have money and really nowhere to put it.  We’re not saving for a car or a house.  We’re not saving for leave or so DH can quit his job.  We have a full emergency fund.  We’re maxing our our retirement.  Our mortgage is paid off.  Our college savings are such that depending on where the kids go we might be over-saving (though fortunately with two children we can adjust after we know what DC1’s situation is going to be).  We’ve way upped our donations.  We can cash-flow the kinds of vacations we go on with DH’s family.  And our next “it would be nice”s are so far away that there just doesn’t seem to be much point– we’re not going to quit our jobs and move to a house we’ve purchased in a West Coast city any time soon because we can’t afford a house out there without high-paying jobs and we don’t have those jobs in West Coast cities.  That certainly doesn’t seem worth scrimping and saving for.

I like this diminished mental load.  I like not worrying about things.  I like being able to say, “Enh, it’s just money.”  I like being able to think, “maybe they need the money more than we do” (NOT something I think about our terrible big chain internet provider, but something I do tend to think about say, restaurants, or the piano teacher if she makes a billing mistake).  I like having a lot of money.

Don’t let people say money can’t buy happiness.  It can and it does.  Having more than enough (without going insane with stupid things because you want to keep up with the Trumps or whatever) decreases stress tremendous amounts as you go up the income ladder.  Yes, there is some point where you hit diminishing marginal returns on that de-stressing, and we’ve probably hit that point, but with every increase there’s been more and more we can just not worry about.  First the price of groceries, later the price of gas, now the price of letting small* billing mistakes go.  Not keeping track of these things is such a gift.

*Disclaimer:  I do still keep track of BIG billing mistakes, which is why I got big influx of late reimbursements in early October.

Are there things you just don’t worry about anymore because you can afford it?  What do you wish you could just ignore?