Optimism in the most expensive place in the US

Calgary Stampede

I shared earlier this week that being in the Bay Area has made me severely dial back the money I spend on fun things. I am essentially in the lay-off process of all the fun excursions and adventures that are presented to me.

For this upcoming Thanksgiving, my S.O. and I thought about going on vacation instead of visiting family. That was when I realized: I’ve spent SO MUCH on little weekend trips, that I’m really not in a place to (responsibly) shell out $600+ for a flight plus all the money spent on actually being on vacation. We weren’t thinking cheap, either: we thought about Hawaii. I fell into the weirdest, most unsettling temporary depression about the realization that I shouldn’t go. I’d been really “living”: in the past 12 months, I’d been to Chicago, New York, Vegas (3x), Calgary, Seattle, Spokane, and back to Southern California a few times. I’d made the most of my local weekends, as well, staying in Sonoma and visiting coastal cities like Monterey. I dine out a LOT, and I pay hundreds for improv courses. On top of that, Amazon Prime is the best and also the worst, because it’s way too easy to spend money on a whim.

In sum, I’d been spending way too much. This budget was fine when my rent was 50% of its current total; now, I can still absolutely go on vacation, but I can’t be spending $1000+ on my average quick weekend trip, and take those weekend trips 2x per month, while also spending decent money locally.

The bigger toll of these weekends and mini-trips: I’m EXHAUSTED. The more I am away from my normal life, the more I spend money unnecessarily, the more I have to wake up at 4am to catch a 6am flight to get back to work on time, the more I create stress on myself. Why was I so unable to stand still for so long? I’m happy in my life. I have a sweet man at home (my cat) (and also my S.O., haha, hi honey). Why was I constantly in need of that next trip?

When I was in college, I never was able to spend money. I worked a part-time job at the main library on campus making just over minimum wage. I didn’t go anywhere for the weekend unless it was mostly free (family vacation homes, etc) and I knew not to spend money on the “nice to haves” for the most part. Somewhere in the years after college, a paradigm shift occurred, and I got to the point of buying anything I wanted (to a degree) and having the ability to not feel financial pain. The day before I left for Europe in 2013, I got a flat tire and ended up replacing multiple tires, and it didn’t make a bit of difference. I bought a really nice and expensive leather jacket in Italy without a flinch. I loved the idea of spending my money on experiences.

Now, I’ve realized, I’m entering the point in my life where I genuinely want to slow down. Jetting from place to place was exhilarating, and it’s something I won’t be able to do one day when I have children or a mortgage. I’ve been through much of Europe, sunbathed in Mexico (and, uh, bathed my insides with tequila), gotten rowdy at rodeos, spent a weekend at a music festival only to wake up early the next morning to go to Disneyland. But I have a really happy life right now, and it’s my time to put my weight into that, to build toward lifelong happiness. That might mean that for a while I won’t be quite as flush with airline miles and awesome Instagram posts. But you know what? I’m pretty darn excited. When I was leaning in to my ability to travel and to spend money, I was doing that because I was entirely independent. Now, there’s a life at home that’s just as good as a life spent seeing the world, and I don’t have to buy a plane ticket to get there.