With a month down at my job, I feel comfortable thinking of ourselves as DINKs (Dual-Income-No-Kids). Truthfully, we aren't even close to DINKs. My job is part-time and hourly, so I don't make much more than enterprising high school students who score summer jobs. Nonetheless: it is an income, of a sort, and most importantly, it frees us up a little bit to actually, y'know, enjoy ourselves. So what does that mean for us these days?
I always thought when we had two incomes, we would get Nice Things. We would own a flat screen TV and furniture that didn't come free from the apartment or my grandparent's living room. I could have a membership to a fancy gym and we could get some new toys, like a new laptop and smartphones. I could buy expensive shoes!
One thing I learned from being unemployed though, is that half the things you think you want or need, you really don't. As soon as you're looking at paying for X versus paying for Y, things like a flat-screen TV and a new lens for my camera just don't seem necessary. So after being forced to reevaluate priorities in this way, we spend our money differently than I thought we would. We're committed to making a shift towards owning less stuff (anyone who knows me is on the floor right now, laughing), which means not just buying things that we want when we want them. We've so far instead opted to spend our new earnings on things like going out to dinner or having lunch together (since now we both work near each other). What I noticed when I was unemployed was that I didn't really miss buying stuff (although I did miss shopping), but that I did miss doing things like going to happy hour.
There is one small issue that we face with this lifestyle. Since we are friends with a large number of DINKs, and they have been DINKs for a lot longer than we have, a lot of them have much nicer stuff than we do. So we frequently invite ourselves over to their houses to watch the Superbowl or March Madness. We borrow their Smartphones when we are out with them and need to look something up. We find ourselves needing to bum rides from people more now that we share a single car. So it's a valid concern that somewhere in our mission to become more environmentally savvy and less consumer-y that we have instead simply become mooches. We try to reign it in, to offer to drive as much as possible, to chip in for gas, to offer to host parties for occasions that don't involve around having a nice TV/cable, to always bring something to the table when we go to somebody's house.
Another issue with our friends is that somewhere along the way, they grew up and started acting like adults, and I've been in school for twenty years, so I still act like a student. So while apparently in the real world, it's normal to just split the check six ways (which I don't mind as long as my meal wasn't $15 less than others, which has happened), and people don't really chip in for gas the way they did in college, and you cover another person's morning Starbucks order and don't think anything of it, I still don't think like that. So along with a shift in thinking about income, I'm starting to shift how I think about my relationships with others, and more importantly, our relationships with other couples. Not surprisingly, the relationships that are easiest to maintain are the ones that we have with my fellow students or the people I graduated from college with, who are a few years behind or are single; or surprisingly enough, our relationships with couples who are having children. I'm not sure why this is, but it's been surprising to me how much we as a couple need to work on our relationships with other couples.
How have you navigated the murkey waters of becoming adults? Do you share our struggle to reconcile liking Nice Things with wanting to spend money in ways you are comfortable with?