What do I really need?

How all this time alone at home has changed my perception of what I need.

One thing about spending a lot of time alone during social isolation that I’m finding really gratifying is that I’m seeing a sharp distinction between what I think I need and what I actually should be prioritizing.

A lot of these realizations involve objects. As a lot of you know, I’ve been paying off my debt and I’m NEARLY DONE! Which is awesome and crazy, but another story. Part of paying off my debt has, rather obviously, involved creating and sticking to a budget. Which means that, for the first time in my life, I’ve been very conscious of what I think I should spend my money on. What’s interesting is how much that list has changed, now that I’ve been socially isolating for 2 months.

Part of the joy of budgeting is this process—it’s realizing you DO have money you CAN spend, not just money you can’t/shouldn’t spend. And I always have a list of things I want circulating in my head. That list of wants has involved fairly small ticket items as I prioritize debt repayment, but I do spend a little money on myself every month.

Before going on lockdown, here are some of my splurges:

  • Coveted stacked sneakers that are adorable but, because they’re inflexible, mean I nearly biff it at least once every time I wear them.

  • Gold (yes, GOLD) cowboy boots that are as cheap and poorly constructed as they are ostentatious. I’ve worn them two times, gotten roughly 1 million compliments, and had sore ankles both evenings because they are such pieces of shit.

  • Adorable lightweight jackets that, as I know from experience, I will have the opportunity to wear maybe twice a year, because Pittsburgh likes to rocket, almost overnight, directly from winter to summer, then back to winter, ignoring both Spring and Fall. They’re adorable and I tell myself they’ll be great for winter in New Orleans, or all year in Oakland. Unfortunately, I don’t live in either city.

In other words, I’ve realized that I’ve been prioritizing things that are cute and impractical and based on looking a certain way in public. I’m not worried about whether they might suck to, you know, actually wear. They’re shiny! or tall! or this season’s black!

Meanwhile, I have an underwear and a pyjama drawer that contain a few similarly impractical, but interesting items, dominated by articles of clothing I have had SINCE HIGH SCHOOL. I tend to wear these tattered remnant of sweatshirts and drawers when no one is around—to sleep in, or when I exercise, or clean the house, or spend the morning at home working, or whatever.

Basically, when no one is looking I wear stuff that makes me, quite frankly, a little sad. None of it really fits, and a lot of it is—seriously!—hanging together by a thread. It doesn’t even do its job as clothing in the sense that yes, it’s fine for sitting in the darkness, but this stuff is so knackered I can’t go outside and water my plants or, god forbid, answer my doorbell.

And I have to admit that even some of my public clothes fall under this same category. My gym clothes are a disgrace, because “I refuse to spend money on things I sweat in.” But that logic doesn’t make much sense when I see that I AM spending my hard-won dollahs on gold boots that hurt.

So I’m re-prioritizing my splurge money! I’m trying to buy things FOR ME. Stuff that means I’m comfortable and confident all the time, even at home, or just toddling around the neighborhood. I’m still not spending much, until I’m out of debt, but everything I’m buying is FOR ME and not for anyone else.

Now, this is just a little bit of splurge money. A little allowance for me, from me. But I’m amazed at how much I’m learning about how I spend my money, because of this social distancing, and about my priorities.

I’d love to hear from anyone reconsidering their own budgeting priorities, right now. I know a lot of us are skint, having lost jobs or going to reduced pay. But we’re all budgeting, even if it’s not being done consciously. Have your priorities shifted? Are there things you can splurge on that are, truly, just for you and not for anybody else?

Think about this as you spend forward and take care of you and yours! xoxo