When we moved to Central Florida, more than five years ago now, we were at the tail end of a financial makeover that took several years. The recession, the housing situation, probably some poor decision making, all put me in a tough spot years before, so at that point there was great incentive to not get back into that hole. I never really had money in the bank before. We had also moved three times four years (and three times since, including to the OC), so we purged a lot of stuff. The two things are definitely connected. In my less responsible days, I used to buy a lot of stuff that I didn't need, mostly for the dopamine hit.
That behavioral change was not easy, but I've definitely stuck with it. One could argue that maybe I just make more money than I did a decade ago, but accounting for a child, geography, inflation and healthcare, the effective difference in income isn't that significant. Around the time of that move, we made something of a conscious decision to emphasize experiences, not things, which has become something of a trendy topic. I can say without question though that it has resulted in a "better" life, which is to say that it has been more memorable and I've felt more present.
So how am I doing this year? I caved and bought a few grownup Lego sets, but almost no gadgetry to speak of. I replaced my four-year-old laptop (business expense), but that was mostly it. Diana hasn't bought any significant quilting equipment. Simon doesn't have many new toys this year, but he's had the opportunity to do SeaWorld camps and do swim lessons, among other things. We traveled hard this year, with three cruises, a few overnight driving trips, beach trips, an extraordinary trip to New York and a quick drop for me into Cleveland for a too-brief Cedar Point visit.
I've had so many times this year where I've sunk into a chair, a little tired, and thought, "That was awesome... what's next?" I might be a little freaked out over the rapid growing of my child, and the growing old of me, but I've got a lot of great memories to show for it. That's what experiences over stuff is all about. Some of it may have come at the expense of some financial goals, but there's no regret there, the way there would be if I just bought crap.