I started writing a post about the emotional impact of medicine (thank you counseling for digging up all the painful memories and for making me feel all the feels), but it was too much for a late night blog post, so I thought I would write briefly about budgeting (yet again).
I thought I had finally solved my budget dilemma by simply increasing my daily allowance, but when I tried to put it into practice, it just didn't feel right. I found myself alternating between feeling stressed about essential purchases like cat litter because they would put me over budget and searching for frivolous things to spend money on because there was suddenly room in my budget. I am constantly looking for balance in my life, and the budgeting system I had used for the past two years was starting to feel very unbalanced.
(Physician On FIRE wrote a good blog post about this phenomenon here. Definitely worth a read.)
The problem came to a head over the long weekend, when I had a nice chunk of money sitting in my budget, and I decided to spend it on a massage. Not a utilitarian therapeutic massage, of course, but an over-the-top, self-indulgent spa massage. Complete with a complimentary robe and slippers, assorted spa snacks, and a post-massage relaxation room to allow me to "slowly re-integrate into the outside world". It was more than twice as expensive as any massage I'd ever had, and it made for two of the most pleasant and relaxing hours of my entire life. Pure bliss.
But then it was over. And after handing over a ridiculous sum of money, I was left with nothing but the memory of Renaldo's hands massaging all of the stress out of my body. And while that is a lovely memory, it doesn't get me any closer to financial security. Later in the day of the massage, as I was following the endless rabbit holes of the Internet, I stumbled upon a blogger's Philosophy of Money. And one section really stood out for me:
"I want to live in such a way that I minimize the number of years that I
have to work for money. I’ll have a modest house, car and
lifestyle and will never spend more just because I earn more. I’ll
invest any surplus so that I can live on my own terms sooner than later."
Yes. Exactly. Just because I'm finally earning my doctor's salary doesn't mean that I want to inflate my lifestyle to the typical doctor's lifestyle. I want to live reasonably and modestly so that I can save any extra money and be in a position to retire early(ish). I want freedom more than I want complimentary spa snacks.
I will never spend more just because I earn more.
So I'm revisiting the budgeting yet again. And instead of trying to stick to a defined spending limit, I'm trying to focus on maximizing the value I get from my spending. Whenever I make a purchase, if it isn't something I clearly need (Cat litter - yes. Wine - kind of?), then I try to determine whether it's something that is going to enrich my life more than the time off that I could buy with the money. Going back to the ridiculously expensive massage, I could have lived for two days at my current spending level for the cost of the massage. If I'd invested the money for ten years, it could have bought me four days of freedom. When viewed in that way, the decision is easy: I would always choose two days off of work over a massage. No matter how perfect Renaldo's hands may be.
Interestingly, this approach to budgeting seems to be working better for me so far. I recently had to buy cat litter*, and I didn't panic over the fact that it put me over budget. I'm currently sitting significantly under budget, and I'm not looking for things to spend money on. I'm just trying to focus on the things that really make my life better, which can very rarely be purchased.
*Why do my cats have to eat the most expensive cat food and poop in the most expensive cat litter? If I didn't love them so ridiculously much I could be much better off financially.