I have no limits when it comes to a few of my favorite things. And I don’t mean I indulge myself on copious amounts of fresh-cut Columbian cocaine whenever I’m feeling a little sad. I mean I have no sense of frugality or sensibility when certain opportunities present themselves.
Some people like to blow their money on Loubotins and window tints. But when it comes to certain things, I’ll pretty much voluntarily plunge myself below the poverty line.
I was taught to balance my checkbook at a very young age. I’m not sure if it was school or my accountant stepmother’s doing, but it happened. I look back on that skill and realize how absolutely useless the physical act of writing expenses in a log at the back of your checkbook is (because, like everything else in the world, there’s an app for that). However, the idea and intention remain equally useful and important.
Because of the aforementioned money-conscious family member (and the fact that I’m a Jew), I’m always extremely aware of the money I spend. I save whenever I can. I buy off-brands at the market (don’t tell me you can taste the difference between Kraft macaroni and cheese and the Kroger brand cheesy noodle dinner, because you can’t), I never order a drink with dinner and I’m constantly online, scouring for free Redbox codes (shout out to my other poor college students: type ‘DVDONME’ or ‘BREAKROOM’ in the promo code section next time you rent a movie and it’s free for a day. You can thank me later).
Ever since I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 17, saving money and spending wisely have been on the forefront of my mind. I’m really good at cutting it close and living paycheck to paycheck but ultimately, I make $23 stretch as far as humanly possible. Sometimes I even surprise myself. Once I did my grocery shopping at the dollar store, and, while it wasn’t one of my proudest moments, it happened. Most of the time I can say no to casual outings with friends; movies come out on DVD eventually and chances are, the restaurant they want to go to for dinner will be there in two weeks when I can blow my next paycheck.
I don’t like or need fancy things. All my apartment furniture came from Ikea and if it’s my style, it’s usually big, bulky and plastic. With such refined (not) taste, my purchases generally run pretty cheap. Also, I work retail. So I get a pretty fat discount on clothes and (believe it or not) I actually enjoy sitting at home with my DVR most nights, as opposed to getting dressed up and pretending to enjoy getting hot, sweaty and writhed upon by a not-so-handsome stranger.
Give me a great concert, though, and I’m screwed. Frugality is out the window. I’ll pretty much pay whatever it takes to see a favorite band. Even if it’s not a favorite band and it just sounds like a good time, count me in. I threw down almost $100 to see Gavin DeGraw, Maroon 5 and Train last summer. I’m willing to shell out almost double that to go see Coldplay this summer, and if it comes down to a band not coming to San Diego, I’ll get in my litter-box car and drive as far as I need to go to make it happen.
I guess what I’m saying is, a good live show is my own (less-deadly) version of fresh-cut Columbian cocaine. And it stems back to my adolescence.
I’m not exactly sure where this do-whatever-it-takes-to-make-it-happen-for-music attitude came from, but I’m sure my parents are partly (if not fully) to blame. They’re both huge music buffs. My dad used to have the same attitude about going to every show he could and even went to New York City by himself for a big tribute show with a bunch of his favorite artists. My mom saw Steely Dan by herself and said it was one of the best experiences of her life. It has to be in my genetic code. And they did everything they could to make sure I was the same way.
You see, I’ve been going to Jimmy Buffett concerts with my dad since I was old enough to, well, breathe (not that Parrothead is any sort of pillar in the music community, but being inundated with such a party scene centered around nothing but good times and good music allowed me to build a strong correlation between music and mindless fun) and when I got old enough to be somewhat independent, my mom would let me jet down to Hollywood for small shows at venues such as Avalon, Henry Fonda Theater and Key Club, as long as I promised to get up for school the next morning.
It doesn’t matter how much I have, where I need to go or how I need to get there; when it comes to a night of great live music, I’ll blow my savings.
That kind of sacrificial financial instability doesn’t come easily. Knowing that driving to L.A. for the third time this week to see Coldplay will rack up more than $100 in gas expenses doesn’t sit well on my conscience. Sure, I might feel a little bad about it when I get home and realize all I have left in my fridge are a few slices of American cheese and a jar of peanut butter. But the high of a great concert is worth it. I’ve learned how to adapt, how to survive and how to get through the financial hurdles of life while living off a very small amount of money.
As far as indulgences go, I can’t say I don’t have them or that I’m not a total slave to them. And it also doesn’t help that I’ve signed up for every Ticketmaster and Live Nation event calendar newsletter, which means I’m always planning my next concert, my next trip to L.A. and my next way to blow all the money I have. But when I’m standing in the middle of a sweaty pit of equally sweaty people all singing along to the “Ooooh ooooh oooooh ohhhh ohhhhhs” at the end of “Viva La Vida,” it doesn’t matter.
Besides, Top Ramen only costs a dollar.
—Hayley Rafner is a media studies junior.