What are you saving up for?

February 18, 2011 |  Category:   happy purchases life

You guys are all enablers. Get the camera! Get the camera! And I’ve decided that I will, but I’m just sort of letting the price tag simmer in my head so that it’s not quite such a shock when I get handed back the receipt. It’s the same price as my computer, a MacBook Pro, but it’s interesting that I perceive it differently. When I needed a new computer I rushed out to get one, no questions asked, but a new camera? Isn’t it just a tool, just like the computer, that I use everyday? Then why is it so hard to pull the trigger on the “buy” button?

Which brings me to this question. How do you say yes to a purchase that you’ve been on the fence for so long? I’m not talking everyday things, but big purchases. It could be a vacation, or a new shiny toy, or even a car. I know anything can be rationalized to death, but how to you pull that trigger?

It’s always been hard to make big purchases on a variable, self employed income, but through discipline and budgeting, we’ve managed to save up a nice little nest egg, aside from retirement and a bit of college savings for the girls over the past 8 years. Mark and I have always made modest to decent salaries, but we’ve made saving a priority so I’m really proud of what’s sitting in the bank. It’s a security blanket in case times are tough, but sometimes I wonder what we’re saving for.

I wasn’t taught to save when I was a kid. I wish I had been, but it wasn’t the way my parents grew up so they didn’t pass those values on to me and my brother. My parents were born into the Korean War and grew up poor. When they say stuff like “I used to walk miles and miles in cold, bitter winter weather with a thin pair of worn out shoes and a light jacket”, they really meant it. They came from large broken families and were often hungry. They didn’t own any possessions and there wasn’t any money to save so I don’t blame them for not teaching us the value of saving. The American dream is real for some people. It’s amazing how they, like other immigrants, have come here and made something from literally nothing. While they may not have taught us to save, we learned about survival, tenacity and determination, albeit from more privileged circumstances from their own childhoods. Still, the concept of saving and managing money was something my brother and I have had to learn entirely on our own.

So I can understand my hesitation for pulling the trigger. I can also totally justify the purchase as a business expense. I’m in the process of redesigning our website which I hope will launch in the Spring and I see the dire need to update our photos – most of those product shots were taken 3 years ago with a point and shoot! But the real reason I’m willing to take a chance on that purchase? I haven’t been inspired to take any photos in a few weeks. I haven’t felt any joy in it for quite some time. I think that is far scarier than the money spent.

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  • veggietestkitchen February 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    I identify with your upbringing. I went through a very similar one with very similar parents. I also have made average-decent salaries and saved most of what I’ve earned, and even ended up taking positions close to home so that I could save on rent (to the detriment of my career, although for my age the nest egg is huge). I’m going through a really difficult time right now. I’ve been unemployed for nearly 8 months after finishing graduate school. This is the kind of hard time you save for, and it feels good to have a nest egg, but I honestly feel as though the formal economy has thrown me away and that I’ll probably never get back in the workforce so the nest egg is all I’ve got! I kind of feel like a 70yr old woman, having to make sure it’s going to last until I die, so I relate a lot to your mentions of frugality here and there. I think in your case you should feel much more secure to spend. You know that you aren’t dependent on a formal job for your living. You’re entreprenurial and you and your husband have found a way to make it work in one of the worst economic climates of the past 50 years. It’s only uphill from here for you guys, so enjoy that camera =)

  • adornedlife February 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    seriously hoping the joy will return. you have much to offer through your photographs…not to mention your words.

  • diamondkelt February 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I usually decide on the bigger things when we can no longer get by with what we have, but in the case of not really “necessary” items I’ll buy when I’ve the cash saved up to do it. I can usually wait and the waiting gives me time to really decide if it’s what I truly want to spend money on.

  • Cynthia February 18, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    I wonder if that is your gut instinct saying to hold off for now….hummm Your pictures are really lovely already, and maybe you just need better weather to feel like taking more pictures ๐Ÿ™‚ Wish you happiness and sunshine!

  • Jill February 18, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    I can totally relate to this post. SO MUCH. Buying fancy new digital cameras costs SO MUCH MONEY and even if it is a totally justifiable tool, it’s so hard to pull that trigger.

    I also experienced a similar creative quandary maybe a year and a half ago — I was so frustrated with my entry-level SLR, I was considering a huge upgrade. To ease myself into it, I started buying vintage lenses and trying to challenge myself in new ways with my existing gear. While it resulted in a lot of great images, it was still boring — the camera was driving me nuts.

    Then I started following a couple of pro photographers on Flickr and falling in love with their personal images — not the stuff they took for clients, but the photographs they made of their own life. And I found myself so drawn to the film photographers, especially. I made the plunge and bought a medium-format camera from the 1970s and BOY! was my creative drive re-energized. The physicality of the gear, the subtle differences in different films, the anticipation of the developing process, the conversations total strangers want to engage in when you’re toting around an old camera — it has made all the difference in the world for me. So much joy again. (Oh, and did I mention vintage gear is much, MUCH cheaper?! haha)

    Just some food for thought — it’s so important to get that joy and creativity back, first and foremost!

  • Michelle February 18, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Are you getting the 5D Mark II? I definitely hesitated before I bought mine earlier this year, but it is an amazing machine. So worth the investment and the time it took to save up for it!

  • Michelle February 18, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    I meant last year. I got my 5D Mark II last year.

  • helen February 19, 2011 at 12:16 am

    I grew up different from you, but both my mom and grandma are very frugal, so I turned out to be a saver. How I spend money on big ticket item is I need to justify the value. I spent $400 on a coat this holiday season. It’s a treat to myself (since I’m petite and it’s very hard to find good looking coats that actually fits me) also because of the quality of this coat, I see myself wearing it 3, 4 times a week for the next 10 – 15 years that’s an average of abount 450 times, so it’s less than $1 pure use. yeah, i know, this is definitely over analyzing for most people, but it works for me. I’m looking at the potential of upgrading my camera as well (I have a Canon G9). Most of my friends won’t even think twice about spending $1000 to get a DSLR or micro 4/3 (with lens). But I can’t, what if I ended up not using it as much? So instead, I committed to prject365 on flickr with my G9. Why? I’ll be learning a lot about photography during this project and this way, if I’ll be able make an educated decision on if an upgrade is needed and what to upgrade to. Hope I haven’t bored you with this super long winded reply ๐Ÿ˜›

    Hope you’ll get the joy back with your new toy! I love your photos!

  • Linnea February 19, 2011 at 1:54 am

    It is a tool ad a fun one. I was lucky and got my Canon 50D for half price. If looking around you can usually get a good bargain. I find that joy tend to disappear if I have way too much to do. Yesterday I went to a coffee shop had my favourite treat and just sat there, reading, looking at people coming and going for quite some time. I need that kind of break from time to time, some time to myself doing “nothing”. It is almost impossible to manage finding it, but I try to take it instad of finding it, doing whatever takes my fancy for a little while.

  • nikkiana February 19, 2011 at 4:29 am

    I have similar big purchase anxiety. I’ll obsess for months on end over a big purchase before I make it.

    I recently have gotten back into writing music and I wanted a keyboard because at the end of the day, piano is my primary instrument and writing would be far easier for me on the keys than using the guitar like I have been doing. I’d been thinking about the purchase for probably six months before I actually pulled the trigger on it, It took some serious encouragement from a good friend of mine. In my case, I had some serious anxiety over what to buy… keyboards with weighted keys are expensive! In the end, I ended up letting my friend pick it out for me and I ended up buying it used off of Ebay so it wasn’t as expensive as I’d originally budgeted, but even so… it was still difficult.

    It sounds like your camera is kinda similar to what my keyboard was for me… a tool that you want to help accomplish something in your life. I say go for it!

  • Laura February 19, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Money is a funny thing, isn’t it. Quality of life is, too. Sometimes I wonder what is “good enough” and why I do (or don’t) deserve more. Your parents sound like they’ve been great role-models, and it’s always fab to have a partner who is on the same page as you!

  • Kyle February 19, 2011 at 10:04 am

    If you’re really considering the 5D Mark II but are still on the fence, you may want to hold off. The rumors are that the 5D Mark III will be released sometime this Spring or possibly the early Fall. If you wait, you could get the III or save money on the II. Just food for thought. I completely support your decision to get a new camera at some point. I’ve got Mark II and it’s amazing. You’ll love it. I can’t wait to see your new photos!

  • j February 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    so how do you do it? manage to put $ away for savings, retirement, kids.. on a self employed income? hubs is self employed and i put my career on hold for a bit, so i find it sometimes impossible to save. especially, as you and i know, health insurance kicks our ass! i’m glad you went out and got your camera. you deserve it!

  • Jenna February 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    @kyle, yes, that is a consideration, to see if the Mark II will get cheaper once the III is out, but since it is just a rumor right now, not sure that I can wait. Plus doesn’t seem like they will get that much cheaper?

    @J – that’s too long to answer here, re: budgeting. And I haven’t bought the camera yet….

  • j February 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    gotcha, no prob. by the way, do you design your own web blog? i have a friend (lives in brooklyn -henry st) who’s looking for someone who can help her start something but has no skills in that department.

  • Jenna February 19, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    @veggietestkitchen Thinking of you and hope you find employment soon. Don’t give up the hope!

  • Jenna February 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    @nikkiana I totally get the piano/keyboard thing. I used to play the piano (mark and I were music majors), but I haven’t played in about 10 years. For some reason, I’ve been wanting to play the piano again and mia has taken up a keen interest in the piano. It’s something we need to think about soon(ish)

  • Sara February 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Hey Jenna, have you consider selling this camera to make a bit of money before you buy the next one? I am looking for a camera like you have now, but can’t make the plunge ๐Ÿ™‚ (if you say yes, e-mail me and I’ll buy it!)

    Also, though your photographs are amazing, deep down you are a graphic designer. A computer is YOUR tool, your arm extension, your way of communicating. The camera comes after that.

  • Jenna February 19, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    sarah, I’m not sure if I will sell this camera yet. the new camera is very heavy, especially for my back problems might not be able to walk comfortably around the city with it.
    Although I know what you are trying to say, I don’t know if I agree with you about the design/camera thing. Yes, I am a designer. That is what I do for a living, but if you’ve ever read any of my posts about it, it has never been my passion. While I would prefer to only design for myself, the truth is, I design for clients and it’s a way to communicate their needs, not necessarily my creative needs. I find taking photos a truer, more satisfying way to communicate and express myself these days.

  • Crystal February 20, 2011 at 1:08 am

    I’ve been lurking around your blog for a while now but have never commented…anyhow, i know that i’ve read somewhere that you were saving up for some lenses. are you still planning on getting any new lenses after your camera purchase?

    I’ve personally been saving for a new lens, but I can’t quite get myself to buy one just yet.I’m still hoping it’ll go on sale some time soon so the purchase won’t be so difficult to swallow (:

    Hooray for big purchases!

  • elainegan February 20, 2011 at 6:14 am

    I TOTALLY could relate to your delayed purchases. It took me 3 years of self-talking and persuasion to finally own a Macbook White. And yeah I rather pay for the cheapest Macbook, and waited for it to be a need.
    It wasn’t easy, but hey i’m happy to be the last few in the gadget realm ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Twiggs February 20, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    hello jenna!! how are you? well, i was able to relate with this from top to bottom! i still have a point and shoot camera, and i sell photography on etsy, i just know the limits for my sweet canon… but yes, i am saving up for that professional canon, but for now… i believe that i must pay other delayed things first and… yes, i am running out of inspiration, so i wander around with the film cameras i own. it’s a new thing for me! ๐Ÿ˜‰ twiggs

  • Down Comforter February 22, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I was taught to save save save, and to think about and research your purchases before to spend the money, so I understand where you are coming from. I think its sad that you dont have the desire anymore to take pics that would be scary to me. It seems that if the camera recieved its own blog post it is worthy of your purchase. So there you go PURCHASE!

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