Budgeting

5 Little Wastes Of Money That Make Me Incredibly Happy

By | Thursday, May 26, 2016

orange-trees

My mother is always telling me about how much I “waste” my money, and how I should be much more discerning about the things I spend on. She sees me going out to restaurants late into the evening, ordering candies from my home countries that I sorely miss to store in pretty jars on my shelf, and picking up hobbies that don’t always stand the test of time. As someone who grew up very poor, money is a very precious thing to her, and seeing me be so frivolous with it when I’m not earning much at all fills her with anxiousness.

But I put “waste” in quotation marks, of course, because I couldn’t disagree more with her, even if I understand she comes from a place of love. There are many things I buy that don’t have a noble purpose per se, but which make me happy and fulfilled and love life all the more. I don’t have a hard life, but I do have a lot of daily tasks that can be hard to complete (tough studies, shit jobs that pay almost nothing on the side, etc), and having these little sparks of beauty and happiness help me. For some people, a very minimalist lifestyle in which the removal of things is the objective makes them happy and zen. But I have read the trendy books and followed the blogs and I could never see myself getting joy from that kind of lifestyle. I secretly have always pictured myself as that kooky old lady in the old apartment full of tapestries and photos and knick-knacks and souvenirs from her world travels. I like the coziness I feel when I’m surrounded by the things I love, even if they objectively serve no higher purpose.

Some people like simplicity, I like beautiful chaos. And these are the five wastes of money that bring me so much happiness.

1. A mini orange tree.

I’m allergic to oranges (like, very allergic to them), and yet one of my favorite things in my entire home is my mini orange tree in my kitchen window. I’ve had many people ask me why I didn’t get a tree that bears a fruit I could actually use, and the answer is simple: I think that calamondin trees are amongst the most lovely in the world, and I adore the way they look. It’s purely aesthetic. But for me, sometimes aesthetics trump practicality, and I get more enjoyment out of something because of its beauty than its utility. For many people, this is seen as shallow or wasteful. But as long as I give my little fruits to my neighbors or friends, I never feel guilty!

2. Once-weekly lunch at my favorite Lebanese place.

Many people start their budget creation by listing all the wasteful times they eat or drink out, and cutting back from there. It’s always the first thing to go, I think, because it’s so ephemeral: you eat something, and then it’s gone. And maybe it’s just my Italian-ness speaking, but I think that good meals are much, much more than that. And me going to the same Lebanese place for the same delicious lunch special while I read my book, every Wednesday afternoon, enriches my life hugely. It’s a moment to unwind, have a glass of red wine and lots of garlic, and make the mid-point of my very long week a little less stressful. I love the routine, and the solitude, and getting to catch up with the lovely little woman who owns the place. It’s something I look forward to more than nearly anything else, and even though my mother is constantly reminding me what I could be doing with that 22 Euro each week, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Perhaps it’s not always the restaurants and wine that should be the first to go in your budget.

3. A cat.

I know that, in many ways, a cat was an irresponsible move for me. And I know that it drains on my money in a way that is foolish and juvenile, particularly because I’m still a student and don’t know what my job will be in a few short years. I know that my cat is now, in some ways, a hindrance to my flexibility come job-hunt time, because I can never, ever leave her now. We are a team, and need one another. And that’s a responsibility I frankly didn’t need. But the truth is that I love her so dearly, and she has taken me through so many difficult things in the past two years. Waking up with her each morning makes my mornings lovely instead of stressful, and wanting to come home to be with her ends up saving me money on many a weekend night when I choose not to go to that second bar. The cat may be a money pit, but she is a money pit I simply don’t regret.

4. Throw pillows (lots of throw pillows).

My apartment looks like I Dream of Jeanie’s bottle. Truly. I have throw pillows on my couch, my bed, my daybed, basically everywhere. I have poufs and ottomans, and a backup cupboard of seasonal throw pillow covers that I swap out a few times a year. I really can’t explain my throw pillow addiction other than to say that it makes my otherwise-quite sterile apartment feel more inviting and cozy, and I think it looks beautiful visually. It’s the definition of a useless decor item, particularly since I have to move the bed ones off into the designated throw pillow basket when I go to sleep, but I don’t care. They bring me joy.

5. My three-month hobbies.

If there is one thing my mother always chastises, it’s my tendency to pick up hobbies for a few short months at a time, spend some money on the startup materials or classes, and then lose interest. This has happened with tango, the violin, painting, gardening, and everything in-between. I’m a very flighty person in this way, but I also feel that I have simply not yet stumbled on the thing that will be truly “mine” yet. I always want to have a hobby that is neither work nor socializing, because otherwise my life becomes a routine of school-work-beers, and that feels sad. It’s easy to slide into those routines. My hobbies keep me sane and balanced, and make me feel less anxious about all my obligations because I have other things to focus on. I believe I will soon enough find the thing I want to keep going with for a long time, and in the meantime, I’m putting investments towards finding that thing (or things). For some people, this may seem wasteful, but not a single thing I’ve stopped doing has been something I regretted doing. The experience of learning and meeting people brought me plenty of joy, and I might pick some of those things again in the future. I believe that learning doesn’t always need to have an end game, and I never want to lose that worldview.

Gia is an Italian-British student currently living in Germany, but dreaming of Spain. She has two cats, Martin and Luther, who hate each other.

Image via Pexels

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