Turns Out Stuff Costs Money

Hello! A new post! I’ve spent much of the fall either deeply immersed in volunteering, traveling, or sick. It’s been a good season (apart from the two week-long colds) and although I’ve barely logged into mint and have no interest in looking at my investment account balances, I’ve mostly managed to pay my way with freelancing rather than savings, although that’s been precarious for the last month or so.

I’m still not logging into mint for a while 🙂 So instead of a net worth update, have this list of how money has recently been flying out of, as well as into, my accounts.

I’ve been thinking a fair amount lately about the balance between my expectation of spending little/no money and the reality of keeping my life running. This meditation didn’t actually start with the big unexpected car repair yesterday (more below) but rather with an L.L. Bean purchase a month or so ago.

Nice Clothing Costs Money

I am, to say the least, not a fashionable person. I don’t like shopping, always carry too much weight for my own tastes, and frequently wear the things I buy for years on end. I have a few one-week rotations (teaching clothes, summer tshirts/shorts/skirts, winter jeans/shirts), do a load of laundry every weekend, and then have a selection of dresses, suit jackets, and the like that I can pull out when needed.

Because of this I think I felt, a few years ago when I started to budget, that I shouldn’t really budget much for clothing. I basically bought no clothes while I was paying off debt, so I knew I would have to fill in some holes when that was done, but I thought after that maybe I wouldn’t need to buy anything for a long time.

But it turns out that I consistently and reliably spend around $1000 or more every year on clothing, even though I wear everything I buy for multiple years. It turns out, though, that things just wear out on cycle — this year I haven’t had to buy summer tshirts, but I did have to buy a new set of winter long-sleeved pullover shirts, the last set (from several years ago) having gone to their eternal reward. I haven’t bought sandals in several years, but both pairs I regularly used wore completely out this summer so I’ll have to replace them next year. And so forth. And buying the quality construction I enjoy wearing and that will stand up to 100+ trips through the washer or 1000s of miles walked isn’t cheap. So I just have to keep it in my budget unless I want to change my lifestyle dramatically.

Cars, sigh.

Yesterday my car demanded its annual blood sacrifice. The thing is, the car in question was free to me, and is 20 years old. Stuff happens, in this case, stuff like taking it in for an oil change and finding out the radiator is cracked and we really need to replace the original radiator hoses too. Cue unexpected $700 bill.

I mean, it’s ok. I have the money in savings, and voila, my parents hadn’t figured out what to give me for Christmas so they’re going to help me out too — I don’t “need” it but it’ll be nice to refill my emergency fund with that to some extent. But it’s just a really good example of the fact that keeping life running reliably does not have a zero cost. If I was poor, I’d be in worse shape — I wouldn’t have paid the bill, and would have just driven the car until the radiator gave out completely, then switched to the bus or something. I don’t know. Instead, I can pay the bill and keep going on my relatively merry way.

Health Insurance

Also yesterday, while I was spending money like a drunken car-repair sailor, I signed up for a 2019 Obamacare plan. I had to estimate my freelance income, and have no idea how this is really going to work out in the end (I won’t know for sure until I file my 2019 taxes) but at least for now I think I will get a subsidy and have purchased a plan that, including a separate dental plan, comes to $190 a month (after subsidy.) I haven’t had to go to a regular doctor in a couple of years; I just do a dental visit twice a year. So the insurance may end up not really mattering. But now that I’m nearly 40 and not broke, I do feel like it’s something I need to pay up for, since it’s accessible to me.

Christmas Presents

I am, for somewhat mysterious reasons, really feeling the present-shopping spirit this year. There have been many years where I’ve spent nearly nothing on presents, giving mostly homemade items. This year, though, I just kind of want to. My godchildren are old enough that they are interested in books; I have a baby niece that needs clothing; and I wanted to give some things to several friends, as well as to the kids and to my parents and brother/sister-in-law. Honestly, I didn’t really make a budget for this stuff. I’m just buying what I want, and will figure it out later, probably with money from savings. Not very fiscally responsible! Going forward I think I need an actual Christmas budget. I’ve never had one before, but I’ve also never had four or five kids in my life that I intend to consistently gift. I’ll add a “Christmas” line to my 2019 YNAB budget so I can save up throughout the year.


Things I like include maintenance/prevention and high-quality clothing, food, etc. I am not extravagant in any of those areas, but they really do cost money and are not expenses I can ignore in my financial planning.

8 thoughts on “Turns Out Stuff Costs Money

  1. Amanda Page says:

    Oof. I am really feeling the Xmas gift shopping this year, too. What happened?

    1. thesingledollar says:

      My theory is that the election going pretty well has enabled me to focus on other stuff for the first time in a while. I feel better, so I want to spend money and give gifts 🙂

  2. Maria says:

    I’ve been thinking along these lines lately too.

    I’m like you, I hate shopping. When I find something I like, I can wear it for years and years. I generally prefer simple fuss free clothes and products.

    But even so, it sure costs money to keep things running. Granted, I’ve been making an effort with my wardrobe these last couple of years, and I’ve made some bad purchases in the process (I’m not naturally chic or fashion savvy). But even so, the successes eventually get worn out. Or they get damaged beyond repair, or damaged and it costs money to fix them. Sometimes they get permanently stained. I live in a place with a lot of different weather, and now I find myself needing to replace both my leather protection cream and waterproofing spray for my shoes (the only two products I use).

    I rarely use over the counter drugs. But I do like to keep just a few couple of things handy if I suddenly catch something, and then a couple of years pass by and they need replacing – either because I’ve used them up or they’re now expired.

    You get the picture. 🙂

    Personally I don’t think I’ll ever aspire to not spend anything on clothes for a year or whatever, unless I really have to. Because then I know I’ll just wear out what I do have and be left with a huge shopping challenge (which I hate) and expense some time after that.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Right, exactly. Nothing lasts forever, even if you maintain it well, so if you want to stay dressed (and have a car, etc) you have to anticipate some spending regularly, just like for food and rent and so on. My most minimalist budgets are never going to work long term because of that, though they might well work for a month or three.

  3. I feel like as I get older things get more expensive too. I buy more vitamins (debating the necessity of this one), better quality food, better alcohol (lol) and my aging cat costs a fortune too. When did this happen?!?!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I was thinking about that. Is it that like my car, as I get older I need more care? Or is it that my tastes have just gotten more expensive? A little of both I think 🙂

  4. It’s good to hear from you!

    “I am, to say the least, not a fashionable person. I don’t like shopping, always carry too much weight for my own tastes, and frequently wear the things I buy for years on end.” Yeah, this is me! I’ve always wondered if any of this would change once I’m out of debt.

    I’m glad that you’re signing up for health insurance. One thing I’ve learned on the north side of 40, is that your body will start to slow down or break down depending on how well it’s been taken care of up until that point.
    I can’t imagine what I would have done if I hadn’t had good health insurance when I fell ill and had to have surgery a few years ago.

    Good on you for covering most of your expenses with freelancing!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Oh, yeah, I feel like health insurance is worth it. (Even though it’s not a great insurance plan, I’ll be glad I have it if I get hit by a bus.)

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