**WARNING: This post is not to make me sound like a rich snob or a pitiful soul. It just is what it is.
So, the other day — Friday, to be exact — Mike and I were invited into New York for a friend’s birthday. Everyone was going to be grabbing dinner and then heading to a karaoke bar, so I was pumped; I love karaoke. And food. Mike and I discussed the tiny issue of money, that karaoke with our group of friends usually ends up costing way more than anyone intends, and dinner in the city is always two times as much as something you’d get in NJ — but we sort of brushed these concerns off. It was karaoke! And for our friend, who is awesome. So we planned to go.
But as the day went on, this minute concern of money started festering and growing. But no big deal; by the time Mike got home from work, we were able to squelch these thoughts with the compromise that we’d eat dinner at home, and then head into the city. So, we scrounged around our cabinets, discussing how much we’d rather just order in Thai or get burgers at Red Robin, but finally settling on grilled cheese because that’s all we really had in the house. Grilled cheese for dinner. Yep.
So after our filling meal, we set off for the train station. We got there right on time, punching our ticket order into the little automated kiosk right as the train was pulling in. But as our tickets were printing out, I saw it on the screen: $49 for two round-trip tickets. Forty-nine dollars! That’s halfway to a hundred! Needless to say, as we got onto the train, my heart sank.
Here is where I should interrupt and mention that I am currently an unemployed idiot. As a teacher, I had the option at the beginning of the school year of taking my paychecks over the 10 months that I actually work, or having my money spread out over the entire year. Stupidly, I thought myself willful enough to take out a chunk from every paycheck and put it into a “summer savings account” that would both provide me funds for summer living and accrue interest. Unfortunately, these “summer savings” deposits stopped as soon as Christmas present shopping rolled around. And that brings me to where I am now: on summer vacation from both work and paychecks. I got myself a part-time job slinging coffee at a Starbucks, but they pay eight dollars an hour. Enough said.
But that brings me back to Mike and me on the train: I had the unsettling thought cross my mind that one and a half hours of working at Starbucks barely bought me my train ticket one way. And we were planning on coming home that night, so there would go three hours of working for me, all for the sake of NJ Transit — not even counting the actual reason why we were taking the train, which was hanging out in the city, which would probably be two times more expensive than the silly train tickets!
So, I had what was probably the closest I’ve ever come to a panic attack, and as Mike and I approached the station immediately after Edison, where we had gotten on, he suggested: let’s hop off and think about this. They hadn’t taken our tickets yet, so we could save them…and money. So we did. We hopped off at Metuchen, just as the doors were sliding shut, to think.
Unfortunately for us and our city-bound night, thinking didn’t help us any. The more I thought about throwing financial caution to the wind versus being frugal and not going in at all, the more I depressed myself over just how much we’d be spending over the next few (paycheckless) months: we have to go into the city again next Thursday to do a tasting with our possible caterer ($50 for train tickets, again; $80 for the tasting…and $8000 if we actually want to sign with the caterer and put down our first payment). My car insurance runs out at the end of the summer ($500, mayhaps?). Speaking of my car, I’m still paying off the new cooling system that needed to be put in two weeks ago ($1,200 right there). And did we mention that we might have to spend EIGHT THOUSAND if we sign with Crave? And that I’m making EIGHT DOLLARS an hour at Starbucks?
And so, we never did end up going to the city that night. And it absolutely broke my heart, not because I really wanted to do karaoke, and not only because I felt incredibly guilty for telling my friend we’d be coming to meet him — but because it made this whole wedding thing all too real. It was one of the first times I can honestly say I doubted whether or not we’d be able to afford everything; and the sad thing is, I’m still not convinced. Any time in the past, when I’d splurge on a night in the city or an unplanned shopping spree online, I’d find ways to cut down on my typical monthly spending to make up for it. But now, if I spend a lot on a single night in New York, I still will owe $5000 for Galapagos, $16,000 for our caterer, etc. etc. etc. I can’t compromise once I’ve signed a contract. And that scares me.
I say this to you, dear reader, not to depress you, or make me sound like I’m just complaining because I want it all, both the lavish wedding and extravagant daily living. I am plainly making a point: weddings are expensive, and that just sucks. Simple as that.