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Real talk, guys: 2017 was not the best year for this blog.
The 5th year of Frugal Frolicker was actually the first year that website traffic didn’t increase. Worse than that, I just felt disconnected from the blog most of the time, which often made it difficult to write.
I can pinpoint two big (and very related) reasons for this disconnect:
- My camera is (nearly 6 years) old, very beat up, and about to die and I just don’t feel like using it a lot of the time… which means I’m not creating the photos I want to create, and I’m not enjoying photography like I used to because my gear sucks and I can’t bring myself to buy a new camera. My photos often inspire my blog posts, so without good photos I often don’t feel like writing at all.
- I’ve become aware of the unhealthy relationship I have with money: specifically, that I am hugely uncomfortable spending it and most of the time feel guilty when I do. What do you do when you realize you need to stop being so damn frugal, even though your blog name is called Frugal Frolicker?
I used to pride myself on being frugal, and I still do think it’s good to be conscious of your expenditure. But to agonize over the occasional splurge, go through great lengths and often discomfort just to spend less, or feel bad about spending money on material goods that actually do bring you joy? I feel like that’s not healthy.
Hiking the Budawangs won’t break the bank, though.
So last year, once I became aware of how my frugality actually wasn’t always serving me, I started loosening the purse strings a little. I splashed out on furnishings for my new apartment, started allocating a portion of my budget to self care, and invested in some higher quality items.
On the plus side, I did a damn good job spending consciously – that is, the things I bought are all being used AND sparking joy. I didn’t make any impulse purchases, nor did I buy things to make up for a lack in other areas of my life.
But the truth is… I struggled with spending more. Very few purchases were made without me questioning it multiple times and then trying to justify it.
Why can’t I just spend money on something because I’m worth it? Because I’m allowed to? Because I want to?
Good thing chasing waterfalls is free!
Anyway, long story short, last year I had a bit of an identity crisis with this blog. I was fighting against my frugal nature while still blogging under the name Frugal Frolicker, which felt a bit icky to me.
Don’t worry, I don’t anticipate a blog name change (love me a cutesy alliteration too damn much!). I think it’s on me to reframe what it means to be frugal: instead of being frugal at all times and at all costs, I want to be comfortable investing money in higher quality things that bring me joy, and minimize spend on anything that doesn’t align with my values.
I’m not sure if this will be at all interesting or useful for you guys, but I thought I’d share what I spent in 2017 on non-travel things and how I felt about it (spoiler alert: NOT GREAT). I found that writing this all out and taking the time to reflect on my spending habits was hugely therapeutic and constructive.
Note: All amounts are in USD; business expenses, insurance, food, and other random items are not included.
What I Spent Money On In 2017 (Besides Travel)
My Apartment – US$16,169
Last year I put a lot of money toward 11 months of rent and bills, plus furnishing the apartment from scratch. Rent in Sydney is nearly on par with rent in NYC, which might be why I make less of a fuss over it than most of my friends here do. Either way, it’s a lot of money, but at least I live right by the beach and everything in my place is nice and new.
- Rent – $13,486
- Bills – $683
- Furniture – ~$2000
How I feel spending this money: I can’t seem to shake the nagging feeling of how much money I could be saving if I went back to my nomadic, house sitting ways. I need to keep practicing gratitude and remind myself of how happy being settled in Bondi makes me.
Paying rent aint so bad when this view is a mere 5 minute walk from home.
Clothing & Accessories – US$2077
I live in a health conscious beach suburb where activewear and swimwear are about all I wear year-round. Therefore, this year I spent hardly anything on “regular” clothes and instead invested in high quality tights (in Australia, tights are fashionable leggings worn for yoga, etc), sports bras, and bikinis. I also started a modest hat collection to shade my rashy face from the sun, and a ring collection because… rings make me happy.
Having said that, I did end up spending more than I thought I did on “other” clothing items. Of the $555, most of it was activewear and outdoor attire, including pricey merino wool layers – it was definitely a year of replacing ragged old items that I’d worn into the ground! I really didn’t buy any nice clothing that could could pass as suitable attire for dates, office wear, or special events.
- Tights – US$262
- Sports bras – US$140
- Bikinis – US$423
- Jewelry – US$211
- Hats – US$55
- Shoes – US$300
- Jacket – US$130
- All other clothing – US$555
How I feel spending this money: I found myself constantly trying to justify each purchase… e.g. “I can buy this because it’s 20% off” or “It’s ok, because I haven’t spent much money on eating out this month”. I would definitely like to get to a place where I spend less time deliberating over each purchase and feel comfortable buying something simply because I need it or really want it.
On a positive note, more than half of these items were bought on sale – though it did illuminate the fact that sometimes I convince myself to buy the thing that’s discounted rather than the similar thing that’s at full price that I like a lot better.
Looking back, I feel better about the money I spent here because I really have gotten so much use out of these purchases, AND they make me look and feel really good. However, it’s clear that I am significantly more uncomfortable spending money on material goods than anything else.
Yeah, I spent too much on swimsuits last year…
Visa-Related Fees – US$7189
Thankfully these expenses won’t carry over into 2018, but good lord did I drop a pretty penny on securing my future in Australia. I prepared for it by saving up enough money in 2016 (y’know, by house sitting instead of paying rent).
- Skilled Independent Visa – $2818
- Student Visa- $438
- School – $3933
How I feel spending this money: I feel 100% fine with the money spent on my skilled independent visa, as it secured my future and freedom in Australia. However, I hate that I basically threw $4000 in the air just to maintain a student visa in the interim. Should I have just stayed out of the country indefinitely while waiting for my new visa and spent that money on travel instead? Had I done this, I wouldn’t have had the beautiful grounding year that I had in 2017, so I guess I don’t regret my decision. Still… it was such a waste of money!
Outdoor Gear – US$995
Last year I had to replace some really-old gear that stopped doing the job for me on my copious adventures. After one too many sleepless nights in my tent due to being freezing cold and wildly uncomfortable, I finally upgraded part of my camping kit.
I also splurged on an inflatable stand-up paddle board, which has already seen a ton of use!
- SUP board – $456
- Sleeping bag – $364.50
- Sleeping mat – $63
- Sleeping bag liner – US$57
- Travel pillow – $24
- Small backpack – $30
How I feel spending this money: I did hem and haw a bit before making some of the larger purchases on this list, but overall I do feel more comfortable spending money on outdoor gear than any other tangible good. I just wish I had upgraded some of my items when they first started causing me problems, rather than endure them for as long as I could stand before shelling out the money. Why am I so hesitant to spend money on things that will make me more comfortable, especially when I know I’ll eventually cave and do so anyway?
I spent lotsa $$ on outdoor gear.
Personal/Business Development – US$597
I tend to view courses and retreats as more of a luxury item, and so very rarely spend money on them even though I’d LOVE to. There’s only so much I can do on my own to progress myself and my work – so why not go to the pros who are living the life I want and having the business success I strive for and learn from the best?
I’ll tell you why – because it’s damn expensive! But isn’t it worth it to invest in myself?
I think so, so on that note I signed up for an online personal development course – completely on a whim. If you want to be happy and manifest all sorts of good shiz in your life, I cannot recommend The Orgasmic Manifesting System enough!
- Online Course – US$597
How I feel spending this money: Interestingly, I saw a Facebook ad for the course, watched the live webinar introducing it, and signed up instantly without any question. It was definitely a case of going with my gut, which is how I’d like to make all of my purchases. I think going forward, I’d like to allocate a certain amount of money per year to spend on courses and retreats so I feel less guilty about those investments.
Self Care – $402
I have always viewed self care treatments as luxuries and unnecessary indulgences, which I realize is not very healthy. Self care is SO IMPORTANT, so why wouldn’t I want to invest more in this area?
- Massage – $86
- Manicure/pedicure – $120
- Laser hair removal – $147
- Haircuts – $49
How I feel spending this money: Good-ish. I feel ok spending on self care, but only if it’s only once in awhile and not on the regular. But that’s silly, because it’s not like I’m only worth it once in awhile – I’m always worth it!
I’d actually like to increase my spend in this area next year, and the first thing I’ve committed to is getting a monthly massage (I now get 50% off thanks to my ‘extras’ insurance, yay!). My shoulders and upper back are like a minefield of knots from nearly 33 years of NOT getting properly massaged, so there is much work to be done!
Fitness – US$1263
When it comes to fitness, I think it’s hugely important to find activities you enjoy and can gladly commit to doing on a regular basis. That’s the only way to make fitness a permanent fixture in your lifestyle.
Therefore, I’m happy to spend a bit more on specialized classes like pilates and yoga (or in my past life, crossfit) instead of just joining a gym because a). I genuinely enjoy them, which means b). I’ll enthusiastically attend the classes and get a good workout to boot. I’d say I averaged 4-5 yoga/pilates classes per week last year.
- Yoga/pilates – $1172
- Rock climbing – $91
How I feel spending this money: Oddly, I’ve never thought twice about spending money on health and fitness endeavors. I think of it as investing in my health and wellbeing, which is priceless to me.
Coffee – US$1132
Nothing new here. I drink a lot of coffee and I’m not sorry about it. And as a freelancer, I spend a lot of time working in cafes, which means I have to shell out for coffee while I’m sitting there – so let’s write off part of this spend as “work expenses”.
How I feel spending this money: Excellent. Coffee’s a non-negotiable and brings me so much joy, so I’m happy to spend on quality beans.
SORRY NOT SORRY for spending lotsa dolla-dolla billz on coffee.
Alcohol – US$323
I am not much of a drinker, so to be honest I expected to spend less than this on alcohol last year.
Further proving my granny status, I hardly spent anything on drinks at bars (mostly because, um, I rarely “go out”)… however, I did splash out regularly for aperol spritzes and wine while holidaying in France and Italy, for which I have no regrets.
- Spent on drinks in Europe – $118
- Spent on wine bottles (usually to share with friends, or for gatherings) – $121
- Spent in Sydney at bars – $61
How I feel spending this money: Pretty good, actually. One thing I’d like to change in 2018 is to cut down on buying bottles of wine. I often don’t even finish them on my own, and honestly… in recent years, I’ve had less and less of an appetite for wine. It’s almost never worth it to me these days.
Technology – US$1346
While I didn’t have the balls or funds to upgrade my camera body last year, I did splurge on a couple of key items.
- Refurbished MacBook Pro – FREE (work perk)
- iPhone 7 Plus – $946
- Canon 24-105 f/4 L lens – $400?
How I feel spending this money: I spent an inordinate amount of time deliberating over whether I should replace my POS iPhone 5s whose power button no longer worked, and it was such a waste because I did end up upgrading in the end and I LOVE MY NEW PHONE SO MUCH. I really wish I hadn’t wasted what precious few days I had in NYC last summer agonizing over this decision.
By contrast, I found a good deal on the camera lens off someone on Gumtree and felt little-to-no internal struggle over whether to go for it. Maybe because camera lenses hold value well and are pretty easy to resell?
Takeaways From Tracking My Spend
- A lot of my expenses in 2017 were one-offs, investments, and/or replacements for old/cheap items. They likely won’t be repeated in 2018 or anytime soon.
- I have never been one to budget, and I always said it was because I’m so naturally frugal that I don’t need to worry about money. BUT, I’m starting to see the importance of budgeting. In most cases, budgets help keep people in line so that they don’t spend more than they can afford to. But in MY case, allocating money to spend each year in various categories is like giving myself permission to spend more in certain areas. I think this might alleviate a lot of the guilt I feel around buying material goods and higher-priced items like online courses and retreats.
- I want to be comfortable investing money in higher quality things that bring me joy, and minimize spend on anything that doesn’t align with my values.
- Lastly, I think 2018 will be the year I finally replace my dSLR and invest in a shiny new camera. Photography is just too damn important for me to skimp on and I need to just (wo)man up and spend the money. Update: I just ordered the Canon 5d Mark IV and I AM SO EXCITED!