The one thing about grad school is that it certainly pushes you to work harder than you ever thought you could. I think I dreamed about my presentation the little bit of time I actually closed my eyes last night. I have been working through what I wanted to say all day as I was finishing the slides. I was hoping that I would be able to just go home and crash after the talk. Unfortunately, it seems that I've ingested just a little bit too much caffeine in the last 24 hours for that to happen...
So instead I'm sitting comfortably curled up and watching TV via hulu and enjoying it. I have mentioned before that my internet access and my climbing membership are two things I pay for because I really value them, even if I don't need them. While I think it is important to be realistic about what our needs truly are and fulfill them first, it's also okay to spend a little bit of the money you have earned.
Yes, this will set me a bit back on my ultimate goal of reaching financial independence. (FI is something I want to achieve - it doesn't mean I will immediately retire once I reach that goal, but more on that later.) However, I also don't plan on saving every penny possible at all times.
I think a lot of people get hung up on what a need really consists of.
- Sufficient Food
- Sufficient Warmth
- Sleep (okay maybe that's just me...)
However, I think almost every one of us will agree that we want a bit more out of life than that. Personal finance is about defining one's goals and then taking the steps to meet those goals. As always with life this is a delicate balancing act and each person will choose their own path. Here I would like to spell out what some of my goals are, and how one goal leads into another.
- Fluency in Another Language: I find language fascinating. I used to hate having to go to Spanish class when I was in high school and now I seek out opportunities to learn languages. I love being able to communicate with more of the world. I also think that you can't truly understand a culture until you start understanding it's expressions and how values play out through language.
- Travel: This ties closely into my desire to learn languages. I simply love to explore new places, new cultures, new food. I took a two month vacation traveling through central America, staying in hostels, living cheaply, and I'm hooked! I want more. The thing that scares me about a "real" career is the lack of time off (both for traveling and raising a family). I certainly do not want to wait until I'm 65 or older to travel the world.
- Financial Independence/Ability to Retire Early: The goal is to save up and invest a sufficient amount of money such that I can choose if, when, and how I work without worrying about getting fired, or about a boss. To me this is about keeping the options open and about choices.
- To Finish my PhD: Half of the time I'm interested in my research, and the other half of the time I just want to prove to myself that I can focus, work hard, and achieve publishable results. To be fair, I'm incredibly lucky to be in the situation I'm in with regards to graduate school. Like everything in life though, it can be difficult at times.
- Home Ownership: Or something. Honestly though, I think this mostly comes from my hate of moving and not a desire to be attached to one location. Maybe someday I'll just live out of a backpack. Hey, a girl can dream! (Then again, if I were a minimalist this would be much easier...)
Even without a specific plan I can appreciate that saving money will open up opportunities for me as I figure out what I want (and even if I change my mind!). I try to keep my wants fairly simple. Watching TV on hulu for an hour after a busy few days is something that I'll happily pay for, even though I might forgo other wants in order to save money with the end goal of keeping opportunities open!
Why do you save? What goals make you care about personal finance?