Amanda Steinberg is the founder of DailyWorth.
When I was a kid, being raised by a single mom, money was tight. But I always believed that when I crossed a certain income threshold the money stress would evaporate. I'd be free of the need to be frugal—because I'd be able to buy whatever I wanted or needed.
One of the great, ongoing revelations of my adult life is that, for most people, myself included, that's not true. Despite having an excellent income—one year's earning usually surpassing the last—my husband and I still have financial stress and need to make mindful money decisions.
Coming to terms with the real cost of living means that I'm constantly overhauling that old list of "I thought I coulds" and "I should be able tos." A few examples, and how they're changing:
I thought I'd be able to afford a few new outfits every season.
Despite all the "save more" cheering that we do here on DailyWorth—oh, how I'd love to drop $500 every quarter on a few wardrobe refreshers. Truth is, that money belongs elsewhere, if we're going to stick to our goal and save 20% of our take-home pay.
I thought I'd be able to take maternity leave
As the CEO of two companies (DailyWorth and Soapbxx) that depend on my oversight, I wasn't able to take off even a week when either of my kids was born. With my second—my daughter—I finally mastered the art of breastfeeding while typing. Feet on stool, pillow on lap, baby on pillow, knees pulled up, feeding baby, and typing. Here's an ancient post about it.
I'd enjoy regular, womanly pampering.
Haircut-and-color, mani/pedis, waxing—I assumed these were a basic right of being female. These days as we look for more ways to cut, so that we can truly max out our retirement, I've said goodbye to mani/pedis (doing them to myself while watching "Modern Family" isn't so bad), and am toying with DIY hair color touch-ups. Got any product recommendations or tips? I'm all hair, I mean, ears.
I'd zoom around on the Acela.
As someone who travels weekly between NYC and Philadelphia for work, I used to be an Amtrak girl—happily nestled in the cafe car, laptop open. Last month, I traded in my $500 per month Amtrak habit for the Megabus—making that now an $80-a-month cost. In truth—other than the constant jerking—it's not that bad. I'm now a bus girl.
I'd have a weekly cleaning lady.
Had one, loved her, can't afford it right now.
It's painful to cross those old daydreams off my list. But I take pride in the new realities: smarter spending, steadier savings, a sense of control.