Nope, Still Not There

No, I still don’t want kids, and I’m not going to have them.

What? You don't want kids?
What? You don’t want kids?

If you’re a childfree woman, you’ve almost certainly been told that you need to have children. That you’ll regret it if you don’t. That you secretly want children deep, deep down inside.

If you’re beginning to feel like it might not be so bad to give in to the pressure and have a kid, consider the following.

In an interview on NPR, author Ann Patchett shares what it feels like when friends, family, and strangers tell her she wants a baby, but just doesn’t know it yet.

It would be like if somebody said, “Your car keys are in the drawer.”

And you go and you open the drawer, and not only are your car keys not in the drawer, there’s nothing in the drawer. The drawer is empty.

keysAnd you come back and you say, “The keys aren’t in the drawer.”

And they say, “No, go back and look again. They are in the drawer.”

And you go back and you open the drawer and it is empty. And that’s how I always felt. Like people were always saying to me, “Go back and look again. Examine the inner contents of your heart, you will find it.”

And I never did.

Even if a childfree woman can convince someone that this is true, they’ll probably say that, even though you don’t want children, you’ll regret not having them. For me personally, there’s never been anything in my life that I didn’t want, and later regretted not going out and getting anyway. There have been things I wanted, but talked myself out of. There have been things I wanted but was unable to have. But never has there been some Thing that, having no desire for it, I later wish I’d gotten.

Finally there’s the idea that having a baby is just something a woman should do. I very fervently disagree. No one should have a baby unless they deeply want one. Having a child you don’t really want (but plan to love and care for as though you did) is like switching the career you like for one that you don’t enjoy, because so many people are telling you that you’ll like it once you have it, and you’ll regret it if you don’t switch now. Imagine the following exchange:

This was a mistake.
This was a mistake.

“But I don’t want to be a marine biologists. I don’t really have a passion for sea life at all. I’m really pretty indifferent to it.”

“Listen, your window of opportunity is closing. If you don’t quit your job, go back to school, and start this new career now, you’ll regret it later. And besides, you’ll love marine life once it’s in your care.”

You would think the second person is crazy, and that the first person is even crazier if she takes this advice. Devoting the next 18+ years of your physical and emotional life to something you don’t actually desire, but worry you may regret not having later on, is (I’m sorry) very foolish.

To use Ann Patchett’s analogy, the keys aren’t going to suddenly materialize in the drawer just because someone else expects them to. Even if you are persuaded to believe that they’re actually there, and open the drawer (for the hundredth time), this time fully expecting them to be there, they still won’t be there.

Creating a new human being and raising it isn’t like buying a blouse that you’re not sure about. You can’t just send it to the thrift store a year later when you realize you never wanted it (but the discount made you feel like it’d be a mistake not to get it).

In fact, it’s not even like buying a house. “It’s an investment!” people tell you. “You’ll save so much money in the long run, you should buy one now.” If you buy a house when you don’t want one (or really can’t afford one), the very worst scenario is that it goes into foreclosure and you file for bankruptcy.

bankruptAnd if that sounds like a pretty bad worst case scenario, pause for a moment and consider what you’ll feel like  when you realize you’ve spent two-hundred and forty-five thousand dollars on something that, though it’s nice, you never really wanted.

The financial and emotional costs are worthwhile if it’s for something you genuinely, deeply desire. But if it’s for something that someone else tells you you might regret later? That there is just a bad decision, any way you look at it.

When it comes to creating a new human, “How bad could it be?” is not a smart approach. If you don’t want children, for the sake of yourself and your unborn, hypothetical offspring, don’t be bullied into it.

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Single, Introverted Woman

Why drinking alone is perfectly fine.

The Single, Introverted Woman

We all know the sad image of the lone woman arriving home to an empty house after work. She pets her cat(s), microwaves a meal, and spends the rest of the evening watching TV all by her poor, lonely self. She has dozens of take out menus, no friends’ numbers on speed dial, and the only person she talks to regularly is her mother (who, incidentally, wants to know when she’s going to get married and have kids). Poor, sad woman.

With no reason to exist, the Single Woman spends most of her free time sleeping in the trappings of her loneliness.
With no reason to exist, the Single Woman spends most of her free time sleeping atop piles of her own loneliness.

The only thing sadder is when the deluded soul thinks she’s actually happy. How she needs someone to show up in her life who’ll show her that there’s more to living than just being alive.

And on, and on.

Lacking any real companionship, the Single Woman's only friend is streaming TV.
Lacking any real companionship, the Single Woman’s only friend is streaming TV.

The only real problem with this image is that for some women, that’s exactly what an ideal life looks like. The introverted woman doesn’t secretly crave society. Secretly, she’s delighted to come home to a blissfully empty house, her favorite food, and her favorite show. She’s had to tolerate loud, complaining people all day long, and doesn’t want to muster the energy to go out drinking.

The Single Woman cannot take part in social dining, so she subsists on takeout food, which she hurriedly snatches from the delivery driver.
The Single Woman cannot take part in social dining, so she subsists on takeout food, which she hurriedly snatches from the delivery driver.

The friends who nag her to come out with them have her best interests at heart, but they just don’t understand that relaxing and social interaction are completely antithetical to her. While they’re bored and saddened by silence, she’s renewed by it. While they’re energized by a night at the club, it drains her to her core.

How the Single Woman longs for her coworkers to force her into boisterous social gatherings. How deeply she desires a mate.
How the Single Woman longs for her coworkers to force her into boisterous social gatherings. How deeply she desires a mate.

So where did this image of the sad, lonely woman come from? Why is it that a solitary woman sipping wine in front of Netflix is a pathetic sight? Did extroverts invent it? Is it a by-product of the patriarchy?

Well, probably a little of both. When we grow up with the idea that being popular and in a good marriage are the best ways to be happy, anyone not in those situations is bound to be seen by most as unhappy. And most people don’t like to see others unhappy.

See how the Single Woman puts on a brave facade, trying to convince herself that she is happy with her self-determined life, that she does not require another to complete her existence.
See how the Single Woman puts on a brave facade, trying to convince herself that she is happy with her self-determined life, that she does not require another to complete her existence.

But here’s the thing. We’re not unhappy. We love our own company. We love creating in solitude, and we love the few, close friendships we have. And – truth be told – we love our cats. For some, living (and drinking) alone isn’t a wretched existence we pretend to enjoy to avoid pity. It’s an ideal existence that we genuinely delight in. And in all likelihood we wouldn’t enjoy being married with kids. That would be the wretched existence we’d have to pretend to enjoy to avoid public scorn.

So don’t pity the single, introverted woman. Just say hello in a passing text message, then leave her to enjoy her day.

Really, though. Don't try to drag us to the club. We're fine.
Really, though. Don’t try to drag us to the club. We’re fine.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Springtime Giveaway Announced

It’s time for another giveaway here at The American Spinster!

This time the prize is a set of Mama and Baby Cat plushies from The Toy Cove:

The American Spinster Springtime Giveaway

These sweet little cats make great home decor pieces or a perfect set of toys. They stand 11” (adult) and 8.5” (kitten) tall, and are weighted at the bottom so they stand up on their own,

American Spinster Springtime Giveaway: KittenWhat do you have to do for your chance to win? Aside from being 16 or older and having a  US shipping address (fine print, sorry), just use the Rafflecopter widget below to leave a comment on this blog. There are plenty of other ways to gain additional entries, including repeatable entries to increase your odds of winning.

This contest starts Monday, April 18th and runs through Sunday, May 15th at 11:59pm.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wishing Your Way To Financial Freedom: The Disney Princess Method of Financial Planning

Wishing Your Way To Financial Freedom: The Disney Princess Guide to FinancesWorking toward your goals requires more than just saving money, and Disney princesses know this. Though the princesses have gotten a bad rap lately for being all wish and no work, I don’t think this reputation is entirely earned. From Ariel to Tiana, the princesses illustrate an under-mentioned point about planning for the future.

Ariel wants to be a human. For years before the movie opens, she dreams about being human. Though she doesn’t seem to know how obtaining legs would be possible, she collects every human artifact she can find, and learns all she can about their culture. After meeting Prince Eric, she finds the determination to make her dream come true (even though she makes some pretty bad choices trying to get there).

Belle wants a life of adventure outside her little town, and to find someone who understands her for who she is, rather than the town oddball. Although fate can be thanked for the circumstances that lead her to the Beast’s castle, her own strength of character is what allows her to save her father. And it’s her unyielding determination and refusal to be cowed that wins over the Beast, leading to her happily ever after.

Jasmine knows she wants the freedom to choose her own life, and actually runs away to do it. Even when she’s back in the palace, she continues to stand up for herself, shaming the Sultan, Aladdin, and Jafar for continuing to decide her future. It’s her steadfast insistence, not Aladdin’s antics, that finally convinces her father to allow her to marry whoever she wants.

Though not as maligned as the earlier princesses, I want to include Tiana here as well. She’s the first Disney princess to make establishing capitol one of her main goals. She dreams of opening a restaurant, and works toward that with a single-mindedness that causes her to miss some of the other important parts of her life. By the end of the film, she finds a balance of work, dreaming, and living.

Are there problems with the princesses and their stories? Of course. The Disney Princess Guide To FinancesBut I think as a culture we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater when we pretend that self-knowledge, determination, and perseverance to follow one’s dreams aren’t just as important as clocking in every day for the 9-5. The Disney princesses (excepting perhaps Snow White and Aurora) know what they want and hold on to their dreams as if their lives depend on them. They make difficult choices to obtain their goals (even if, in Ariel’s and Jasmine’s cases, they’re poor ones), and follow through with them until the end. Whether you’re a fan of Disney or not, you have to admit that those are the virtues of a successful woman.

Investing In What You Buy

Every item you purchase can be an investment, from a loaf of bread to a new computer. So what are the best ways to invest when you buy?

Investing In What You Buy: The American Spinster Financial Series

Food

Food is pretty much a one-time deal. You buy it, eat it, and that’s the end of that money. However, what you eat isn’t just a temporary fuel source. Just like a car, the quality of what goes in plays a part in how long and how well it stays running. Not to get preachy here, but even though you can eat a bowl of ramen for 20 cents, that’s sort of like funneling bootleg whiskey into your gas tank. It’ll keep you going, but does more harm than good in the long run.

Investing in your foodOrganic is out of my price range, and I’ll admit to eating my fair share of cheap, hyper-processed noodles. But I also try to balance that out with healthier options. Less expensive fruit like bananas still give your body ample nutrition. If you like salad, try mixing cheap iceberg lettuce with more nutritious Romaine and green leaf, so you can eat it every day.

Your body is the one thing that will be with you all of your life, so it’s your most important investment.

Living Space

Investing When You RentThis one is obvious if you’re living in your own home, as real estate can be a great investment. But what if you rent? You may not be investing money in the traditional way, since you’re not going to own a rented home. But since a large portion of your monthly income is going toward rent, you should make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Clothes

There are so many ways to invest in good clothes. My preferred way is to spend very little on new-looking clothes from consignment and thrift shops. It doesn’t matter how quickly I destroy them, since I only paid about a tenth of the original cost. Of course, you can also buy new from reputable retailers. Land’s End and L. L. Bean, for instance, offer lifetime guarantees on their clothing.

Investing in ClothesWhen it comes to investing in clothes, price and durability aren’t the only important aspects. Another element of long-sighted clothes buying is limiting your trendy purchases. By all means, go buy that cut of jeans that’s popular right now. But maybe limit it to just one pair, because in a year and a half, they’ll be out of style. Is anyone (besides unfashionable me) wearing Gauchos anymore? Nope. They’ve fallen out of style. So no matter how well they’ve lasted, they’re still folded up in someone’s closet.

Technology

Investing in TechnologyWhat about buying things that depreciate rapidly, but are pretty much necessities? Computers and other technology fit the bill here. My best advice is to buy as new as you can, bearing in mind the possibility of updates and the items overall utilitarianism once it’s become outmoded. I recently bought a new laptop, and it cost me quite a bit. But, unless an unprecedented technological explosion happens, it’ll serve me for at least the next few years before it become decrepit and unusable. I also chose to buy a laptop, so it’s more functional for the money I spent.

Collectibles

Investing in CollectiblesAnd then there are the other things. Items that appreciate in value. Mostly, these are going to be collectibles. For people who have a beloved collection they like to add to, don’t worry too much about spending the money. As long as it’s not coming out of money earmarked for savings or regular expenses, you’re still investing that money. You may never want to sell, but it’s still a smarter purchase than over-priced convenience food that has absolutely no value once you purchase it.

 

No matter how well you save, you’re going to have to spend money on a very regular basis. But if you keep these things in mind, your purchases, even the ‘disposable’ ones like food, can be well-planned to give you the best possible future.

The Financial Book List for Spinsters

As I’ve been preparing this financial how-to series, I’ve been coming across a number of books about women and finances. And you know what I’ve noticed? Not surprisingly, there aren’t too many guides for single, childfree women. Despite that fact that we’re a rapidly increasing demographic, many publishers don’t seem eager to jump in and fill the void.

Financial Book List For SpinstersPerhaps they, like a lot of married-with-children adults, seem to think we naturally have tons of cash lying around, so financial advice isn’t a vital topic. While it’s true the childfree woman doesn’t have the expenses of singles or couples with children, living solo is itself a huge expense, and navigating the murky waters of retirement is a difficult task for anyone. Spinsters need to manage their money just like anyone else.

However, I did find a few helpful guides aimed at the spinster demographic, or at least in that general direction. So today, in lieu of the normal, in-depth book review, I’ve compiled a list of helpful books for the independent woman.

On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor
If you’re wondering how modern this book can be when it refers to women as girls… I’d just say that titles need to grab attention to sell books. This book offers practical advice aimed at single women. I like it because it’s straightforward and honest, backed up by studies and statistics.

Single Women And Finances: A Woman’s Secret Diary To Saving, Budgeting, and Retirement by J. J. Jones
Unlike a lot of “For Women” financial books that are filled with over-simplified, generic advice, this is actually aimed at single women. It examines the financial pros and cons of singlehood and relates the advice in the book directly to those issues.

The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement by Jane Cullinane
Retirement may seem far away to some, but for most spinsters, the time to start planning for it was yesterday. This book is written very specifically for the single audience, including statistics on single women and how they (tend to) spend and save. It’s a comprehensive look at the multi-faceted relationships between money, lifestyle, psychology, and culture.

Suddenly Single: Money Skills for Divorcees and Widows by Kerry Hannon
This book teaches financial management for women who have recently become single through the lose of a spouse. It approaches the topic with the assumption that many divorced women and widows were not solely in charge of the finances, and offers advice on taking the reins when they’re abruptly dropped into your hands.

Growing Your Savings: A Spinster’s Guide To Getting The Most Out Of Interest

You’re bringing home a paycheck, paying off the bills, and setting money aside every month like a responsible adult. But is that money doing anything other than waiting for a rainy day? Your saved money ought to be earning you more money. If it’s not, it needs to start.

A Spinster's Guide To Getting The Most Out Of Interest
When a mommy dollar and a daddy dollar fall in love…

First off, let me say I’m not a financial expert, and I can’t offer any real financial advice. What I can do is share my personal experiences about how to save and grow money when you only have a little bit, and don’t want to run the risk of stock market investing.

1. Open up a savings account.

If you don’t already have one, open a savings account immediately. Interest rates may be low, but you’ll still be earning some money every year by keeping your funds in a savings account.

How does a savings account differ from a checking account? The short answer is that one pays you interest (a percentage of money based on the amount of money you have saved), and the other doesn’t. Typically a checking account is what you’ll pay your bills with, and a savings account is where you’ll put your extra money for safekeeping. You can still withdraw money from a savings account any time you need to.

2. Put your money into a CD.

A Certificate of Deposit is similar to a savings account, but differs in that you agree not to withdraw your money for a certain amount of time. CDs generally offer higher interest rates because the bank can do more with your money when they don’t need to have it available for withdrawal. Your money is still FDIC insured, just as it is in your checking or savings accounts, so you can’t lose it the way you could playing the stock market. If you have a good amount of money saved up that you don’t plan to use for a while, a CD is a good way to earn a little extra interest.

3. Use an online bank.

Internet banks are legitimate banks (assuming they’re FDIC insured– always check), but tend to offer higher interest than regular savings accounts due to their lower overhead costs. If you don’t want to tie your savings up in a CD, or if you only have a small amount to start with, online banks can be an excellent option. Some online banks are exclusively online, while others also have brick-and-mortar locations.

One online bank that has a creative setup is SmartyPig. With SmartyPig, you create “goals” which you can fund on a recurring or sporadic basis. When you reach your goal, you have the option to get a cash boost by withdrawing your funds via gift cards, or you can simply transfer your money plus interest to your regular checking account.

The one thing you shouldn’t do is keep your money in your mattress (well, at least not all of it) or in a no-interest checking account. It may only be an extra few dollars, but every bit counts.

Keeping A Roof Over Your Head And Money In The Bank

Let’s not beat about the bush. Living alone is freaking expensive. While there are many wonderful aspects of living alone, the price tag definitely isn’t one of them. How can middle- to low-income spinsters maintain domestic independence without going broke or living in a run-down room in Cracktown?

...but it has such a lovely view.
…but it has such a lovely view.

Besides maintaining overall financial wellness (which we’ll go into in more depth later this week), there are two major steps in making your dream life own your own a reality.

1. Prioritize

I made a post a while back about picking out a safe apartment. But unfortunately, safety often comes at a high cost. Before you do anything, you’ll need to sit down and decide what’s most important to you in terms of housing. Usually you’ll need to consider

  • Size: How much space do you need?
  • Cost: How much money can you spend?
  • Safety: How safe does the area need to be?
  • Location: How conveniently located does it need to be?

This will vary for everyone to some degree, but the most ideal configuration I’ve found is this:

Safety first. You don’t need to live in a gated community with an armed guard, but living in a safe environment should probably be highest on your list. Crime happens everywhere, but some neighborhoods are more prone to violent crime than others. To learn more about choosing a safe neighborhood, check out this post.

Cost Next. I’d like for cost to be the least important factor, but living on a limited income makes this vital. Make a list of your expenses excluding rent. Now subtract that from your monthly income. Take at least 5% off of that number to compensate for a drop income or unexpected expenses. What you have left is the absolute maximum amount you can spend on rent.

Then Location. Proximity to your job, shopping centers, and family affects other monthly costs like gas and car maintenance. Work the numbers and see if living in an out-of-the-way area will get you more or less of what you want.

And Finally, Size. More space is usually more enjoyable, but unless you have so many possessions that you’d have to pay for storage space should you move to a small space, this will the most flexible of all your needs. A studio apartment that’s all your own can make for a far better life than a five-bedroom, single family home with people you dislike.

But what happens when you don’t have the money you need to get the priorities you’ve set?

2. Finding Ways To Make The Numbers Work

One of the most straight-forward ways to save on living expenses is to live with a roommate. The old adage the two can live as cheaply as one is definitely true when it comes to housing expenses, so splitting your living space can mean halving your bill. There are many ways having a roommate could go wrong, but if you know the person fairly well and have a mutual, detailed roommate agreement, it can end up working very well. Sharing your home with an adult friend can offer more privacy than living with parents, depending on the situation, so having a roomie won’t necessarily rob you of your single freedoms.

You can also usually negotiate the cost of rent, whether you’re renting from a legitimate apartment management company or a single person. Apartment complexes sometimes offer discounts for residents working for ‘preferred employers,’ or when their residency rate is low. A little subtle negotiating (for instance, letting them know you’re still looking at other places may make people or companies more inclined to offer a discount) can save you hundreds per year.

Then there’s negotiating with yourself. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom looked so tempting when the realtor walked you through, and you could technically afford it… but what kind of safety net could you give yourself if you took the studio apartment for $175 less per month? An extra 2k per year looks pretty good compared to extra space that – while you could certainly make use of it – you don’t have any real need for.

Finding a way to live on your own without getting into debt is possible, it just takes a lot of planning. And I can say from experience that it’s worth the time and mental fatigue you’ll invest running through all the different mathematical scenarios when you can come home to your very own home.

The Spinster Financial Series

The idea of a single, childfree woman usually conjures images of a wealthy woman at a high-paying job who attends the gym regularly. She can often be seen with shopping bags in one hand and the latest phone in the other, heading into Starbucks to buy whatever the most expensive coffee on the menu is.

The American Spinster: Financial Series
No kids? BUY ALL THE THINGS!

It’s appealing but, for most of us, definitely not reality. In the real world, spinsters need to watch their money just as much as anyone else. That’s why this week and next I’m going to be looking at several of the most important elements of money management for the childfree woman.

Below is the lineup for this series. Links will be added as they’re posted.

1. Keeping A Roof Over Your Head And Money In The Bank (Monday’s Spinster How-To)
There are many wonderful aspects of living alone, but the price tag isn’t one of them. The adage that “two can live as cheaply as one” is certainly true in terms of rent or mortgage payments. How can middle- to low-income spinsters maintain domestic independence without going broke?

2. Growing Your Savings: A Spinster’s Guide To Getting The Most Out Of Interest (Wednesday)
You work hard for the money, so it’s time to make it work for you. This post covers how to safely invest your money, especially when you don’t have a lot to play with.

3. Financial Guides for American spinsters (Friday’s Spinsterly Read)
For this week’s Spinsterly Read post, I’ve compiled a list of the most helpful books on finance for single and childfree women.

4. Start Saving Like You Have Kids (Monday’s Spinster How-To)
Women without the recurring expenses that children bring should resist the temptation to spend the same amount that parents do. Learn how to put (part of) that extra money in savings without living like a pauper.

5. Investing In What You Buy (Wednesday)
Every purchase you make can be an investment with the right point of view. Learn how to shift your thought process to make wise decisions, even on “frivolous” purchases.

6. Wishing Your Way To Financial Freedom: The Disney Princess Method of Financial Planning (In Place of Friday’s Spinsterly Read)
Disney gets a lot of flack for the old-school morals promoted in their older princess films. But were they actually on to something?