2017 was certainly the “year of me”. My expenses for 2017 were definitely higher than I would like and I attribute this mostly to spending a lot of time and money on improving myself. Yes Financial Independence will bring with it freedom but that doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. I know that I need to find happiness in the now, today, and not wait for some future date so I have been working on improving myself in more ways than one over the past year. Overall I would say this has been a success as I am becoming more comfortable with who I am and I find that in general I am pretty happy.
All of this improvement has come at a cost, and these costs have certainly added up. My expenses in the personal care category alone more than doubled. Ouch! My hope is that many of these costs will not continue long term but I suspect that some will. Here are some of the things I have spent money on this year and why.
Physical Therapy: towards the end of 2016 I started having problems with my elbow (tendinitis or tennis elbow) as well as a pain in my lower back. I am not new to physical therapy as I do live a very active lifestyle and injuries do happen but as my insurance doesn’t cover these expenses the costs can add up. Thankfully my back didn’t take long to heal but my elbow took a while longer and I was only able to stop sessions in March. My elbow started acting up again in December but I am trying to rest in instead of heading right back to PT.
Massage: oh how I wish I was rich and could get a message every week! OK, well by some definitions I am rich but I am frugal enough that it can be hard to justify paying for regular massage sessions. During the most intense part of my training in late summer as I was ramping up for the Spartan Beast race in September (a brutal 16 mile course up and down the mountain multiple times with 30+ military style obstacles) I wanted to make sure I was staying injury free (see above) so I did indulge in a couple of massage sessions. I tried to limit them and got a 90 min sessions while on vacation and then a couple shorter ones after that. Yes I do wish I could get massages more regularly as I do think there are so many benefits to regular massage but my frugal mind usually limits me to when I am training the most or if I am really in need.
Personal Training: when I first started Spartan racing back in 2014 I signed up for bi-weekly sessions with a personal trainer. This was well before discovering FIRE and I spent thousands of dollars that year on training. I loved the sessions but after that first year, and especially after starting the journey to FI, I couldn’t justify the cost any longer. Over the past few years I have learned how to do most of my training on my own and will only sprinkle in a session with a personal trainer every once and a while. Over the summer I received an email from the personal training studio offering a free session since I hadn’t been in for a while and decided to go for it. I met with a new trainer (mine previous one had since left) and had an initial consultation to evaluate my goals and my current strengths and weaknesses. After the consult I got a 30 minute free session to see how this trainer and I worked together. Although my personal care expenses had been mounting up over the year I decided to sign up for 4 hour long sessions at a price of $52 per session, which is actually an incredible price. The four sessions would also go right up to my biggest and toughest race of the year so the timing was right. Did I need to spend this $204? Probably not but I did get some great things out of the sessions including some great grip strength workouts and giving me the confidence to squats with a weighted bar. Sometimes added expenses are worth it in the long run as you gain knowledge that you can continue to use afterwords. Teaching a man to fish…
Therapy: this was a new expense for me this year. I went to a therapist from around March through August. I wasn’t going every week but at $81 per session this started to add up. At first I was using my HSA to pay for this but then I decided I should cash flow this expense and save my HSA money for when we leave our jobs. The primary reason for my sessions was to feel comfortable enough to go off anti-depressants that I have taken for years and I was successful in this. I loved going to my sessions as I felt a real connection with my therapist and I got a lot out of them but I couldn’t justify the cost going forward since my insurance doesn’t cover therapy. Overall I think I learned a little about myself, how my past has framed how I view things now and how I interact with people, and I also learned a little about how to deal with stress going forward. I learned how to practice mindfulness daily and I was really good at this for a while but have let this habit lapse the past couple of months. I do need to restart this as I do think it has helped my daily well being.
Electrolysis: this is a new expense this year that has added up to more than I had anticipated. As I am nearing 40 I have started to notice pesky hairs growing where they shouldn’t, namely my chin, and I decided to do something about it. #firstworldproblems. This is not a necessary cost but being as I have sometimes battled with low self-esteem I justified the cost. I also recently discovered two friends have also had sessions so I least I am not the only one. I started to go to sessions in February and thought it would only take 4-6 months but I am finding that I still need sessions (there might have been some naivety on my part with expectations). This has been rather frustrating as the costs have really started to add up and does make me questions if there are medical reasons behind this new hair growth. For this reason, I decided to take this a step further and started to see my acupuncturist.
Acupuncture: as I started to see this new hair growth that was continuing despite months of electrolysis sessions I decided to give acupuncture treatment a try starting in August. I have had the same acupuncturist for around 10 years now but I can go years without seeing her. This summer was the first time I had sought treatment for the excess hair growth would could be caused by a possible hormone imbalance. My sister was diagnosed within the past year with PCOS which is known to cause male pattern hair growth so it is entirely possible that I have this as well (I probably shouldn’t be diagnosing myself but this seems logical). Acupuncture can supposedly help to get the hormone imbalance under control so I figured I would give it a shot. I only go every 3-4 weeks but at $85 per sessions plus a couple of months of herbal supplements this is certainly not cheap.
Anti-aging Products: ugh, getting older sucks. As I am fair skinned I almost always wear at least some sunscreen daily but of course I do have some signs that 40 is not all that far off. After my mom made a comment that I look older than my older sister I decided to take the plunge and buy some anti-aging specific products. One of my old friends sells products from Rodan & Fields so I reached out out to her in June. I didn’t go whole hog and buy everything out there but I did spend $220 on my first purchase. I have really been trying to make my products last so that this doesn’t become an obscene ongoing expense and I think I have done well with this. Also I have seen some improvements and am starting to feel more confident about my skin, which is of course the whole point. Although this is a new expense this year it will likely continue going forward at least on a minimal level. I am going to try to limit the number of products I buy but as long as I continue to see some benefits I will likely continue to use some products.
Many of the costs I incurred over the past year are totally first world problems and would be low on the totem pole for many people but as I was making myself a priority this year I ponied up the money. I guess one of the benefits of having extra money is that you can splurge on yourself every once and a while. Going forward I know that some of these costs may continue but I do need reign things in a little as I can’t afford thousands of dollars every year if I still want to leave full time employment.