Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spending For The Life You Have

Right after my husband and I got engaged, we got all the usual questions - about the date, the dress, the location, the honeymoon..and about our registries.  Like most couples, we registered for gifts, and we were blessed enough to receive most of the items on our registry.

Registering was a little harder than I'd imagined.  Basically, you walk into a store and have to pick out all the things you'd like to have for the next 15 or 20 or more years.  It's overwhelming, to say the least.  My older sister gave me a piece of very good advice as we were going through this process.  It's something I still keep in mind when shopping, it struck me so hard.   She said "Spend for the life you have, not the one you think you are going to have".  

She and her husband had fallen into the trap of thinking that if they had champagne flutes for 12, they would host parties using champagne flutes.  And if they had formal soup tureens, they wouldn't just serve soup from the pot on the stove, and so on.  It's pretty easy to get sucked into the marketing of 'if I have it, they will come'.  

Of course, the flutes and tureens mostly collect dust, since they typically serve dinner from the stove and eat with their four children, who aren't of champagne drinking age.  But you knew that, didn't you?

It was good advice then (we mostly managed to follow it, although a few things did make their way onto our registry that we haven't gotten a lot of use out of), and it's great advice now.   This came back up when my husband and I started looking at bedding for our new bed.  We came to marriage each with a queen mattress set, both of which were about 6 or 7 years old.  I had a bed frame, so we used that, and we put my mattress set into the guest room, and proceeded to use the one he came with.  

Now that mattress set that we've been using has a couple of people-shaped divots in it, regardless of how it's flipped, and my husband has some periodic back problems.  So instead of just swapping mattress sets, we decided it was time for something a little more supportive.  

When the discussions about what and when to do something about the bed got underway, we started seriously discussing a king sized bed.  We both wanted one, but all our bedding and our reasonably nice bed frame were queen sized.   Still, we realized if we were going to invest in a really excellent mattress set, maybe we should just bite the bullet.

So we did, and our new bed frame and tempurpedic mattress set will arrive in just a couple weeks.  We bought for the long term.   We never expect to upgrade our new bed (and in fact, I doubt we will, we're the 'buy and hold' sorts) and the mattress should last us 15-20 years.

But then there's the bedding factor.  We need new bedding, blankets, sheets, and a comforter.   We started thinking that we should definitely have a nice set, what with the nice new bed, right?  We salivated over bedding sets at Macy's and Restoration Hardware.  Perfect, matching, lovely, expensive sets.  

And then we came back to reality.  One of us pointed out that we were planning to start a family, and babies and young kids mean that our bedding may take a few hits.  The reality is, we need something that will hold up in the wash, and that we won't have a nervous breakdown over if it gets ruined.  This excludes, in large part, the lovely sets we were perusing.

So we're off to HomeGoods next weekend.  I imagine we will find something very nice, at about a third the price (we might have ended up there anyway, despite the kid factor, but this clinches it) of the other sets we were looking at.  It might not be a perfect set, but it will be washable, nice looking, and kid-resistant.  And while I might grump if a set of sheets gets ruined, I'll handle it better if they cost $24.99 than if we had spent more.  

Maybe someday we'll buy the perfect bedding set.  But for the next few years, we'll find something that's perfect for the life we have, and enjoy it quite a bit.  And if, in a few years, a sick child wants to crawl into bed with us to cuddle, I'll be able to focus my energy where it belongs - on their well being, and not on my expensive duvet.  

Now that's living your life both for the way it is, and the way it should be.  

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