The other night, I got a call from the University of Texas (where I got my Masters) asking me to donate money for scholarships for social work students. While I was figuring out how to say no in a nice way, as I usually do, I surprised myself and said yes instead. After I hung up I realized that since getting engaged, I have been much more willing to donate when asked (and even when not asked).
This seemed counterintuitive at first. I mean, I’ve been pinching pennies since January in order to help pay for the wedding. I’ve cut out a huge portion of my more frivolous spending. I’ve bought new clothes exactly once. I haven’t bought a full-price book in six months (a minor miracle, for those who know me). I’ve been way more of a tightwad than normal, and that’s really saying something. So why am I, all of the sudden, so much more willing to give away money?
I think it stems from an awareness of just how much money we are spending on this wedding. Obviously, as you can see from the title of this blog, we’re trying to keep costs low. But we’re not normally big spenders, so even our modest budget feels big. I’ve been able to rationalize it, at least partially, by spending our wedding budget in a responsible, constructive way. But that awareness remains, in the back of my head, especially when I’m asked to give money to a good cause. My first instinct is always to remind myself that I’m saving everything I can for the wedding. But then, another voice pipes up. That voice reminds me that if I can afford to spend so much on a wedding, then surely I can afford to give a little bit away.
It’s not guilt, exactly. It’s more like a realization of how privileged I am to be able to spend money on a wedding, invite whomever I want, agonize over it, and give up buying clothes in order to pay for it. First world problems, much?
The thing is, I’m not any more privileged than usual. I didn’t take on an extra job for more money, I’m just redistributing money I pretty much always have. The money I’ll be spending on the wedding would just be spent on something else if I wasn’t getting married. And if I can afford to spend that amount of money on clothes, books, and eating out, then surely I can afford to give some of it away.
Being a social worker means that I have always been hyper-aware of my status in the world, of my privilege, and of the extras I am lucky enough to have. I’ve always felt fortunate, but that hasn’t always translated into being as generous as I should be. It has taken this wedding to flip that particular switch, but it is a lesson I plan to carry with me for all of the years to come.