It’s All About the Balance
I have had something on my mind lately, and even though I have a zillion posts I “should” be writing instead, I felt like I needed to write this one. It’s important. It’s not necessarily time-sensitive in the sense that it has to be written and posted by a certain time or date. But it’s important.
In the past, we have done some crazy things like travel to Europe with our kids, spent money on what some might view as frivolous trips to all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica and Mexico, and “wasted” money on having someone clean our house so I don’t have to do it myself. Back in my teens, I probably would have said all of this was unnecessary and we did not need any of them. But now I know better. I do “need” these things, but not in the way that you are probably thinking.
I 100% agree that it is extremely important to save money for the future and to be practical and realistic when budgeting for things that are necessities. For example, we have never gone without health insurance and have purchased major medical plans and short-term plans as needed, we have set up all the important and practical things like life insurance policies and retirement savings that we feel will be important for us to have later in life, and we have started college funds for both of our kids to which we regularly contribute money. We have all our ducks in a row, so to speak. Those things were at the top of our list and we made sure they were taken care of. In fact, we make sure that we have all those things covered before we ever spend money on other things.
That being said, we have a little extra left over each month. Yes, we could pay off my husband’s small school loan, but the rate is so low that we are better off paying more on our mortgage. And yes, we could overpay our mortgage every month, but when we really looked at it, our rate is (again) low enough that we would actually make more money by putting the extra money into my husband’s 401k, so we added a little extra to that. But instead of putting all our money into paying off yet another bill or adding it all to our 401k, I put a certain amount in a travel fund and I put the same amount in our regular savings that is used for things like new cars, emergencies, improvements to the house, etc. I know that I could put this money into the mortgage or the school loan, but I also know that we need to live a little, too.
A few weeks ago, a childhood friend of mine passed away from colon cancer. She had just turned 32. Yes, you read that right. She was 32. I hadn’t had any contact with her in well over a decade, but it was still weird to think that someone I spent a lot of time with at some point in my life has already passed away, and at the age of 32. She left behind a husband and two little ones. The thought of never seeing my babies again is heartbreaking, but not near as heartbreaking as thinking about my babies growing up without their mother. It is truly awful.
What I don’t want is to find out tomorrow, or the next day, or next year, or whenever, that I am sick or my husband is sick or that my child is sick, and then wish that I had done all the things I wanted to do when I had the chance. I am in no way suggesting that it’s a good thing to blow all your money and not pay your bills or make rash decisions about your finances. What I am saying is that, at least for me, there has to be a balance.
Let’s face it. There will always be another bill. When you finish paying off one, the car breaks down and you have to get a new one, or someone in your family has an unexpected medical bill. There will always be another bill. There won’t always be another chance to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. I know there are a lot of people who think we are nuts to shell out all that money to go to Europe, especially with our kids, but when there is something we really want to do or experience, I really try to make it happen, if it is at all realistic or within our reach. Because we don’t live forever.
We will be paying for our mortgage for the next 10+ years, but I am ok with that if it means the four of us can pet a baby camel in Morocco and explore castles in Germany. I am ok with that if it means my husband and I can celebrate our anniversary every year by spending a night out of town and getting some alone time. I am ok with that if it means I can take my kids to the park to feed the ducks instead of having to stay home and clean my house every week.
I want to point out that if I had credit card debt or any kind of debt that grows exponentially in short amounts of time, I would be spending my money differently. I would be paying it down as fast as I could and making sure it didn’t happen again. Fortunately, we are not currently in that situation. I know that not everyone is in a similar situation as us; it is true that we are blessed but we have also spent years carefully setting ourselves up for financial success because we wanted to be able to do these things.
Is life worth living if we don’t fill it with the things that are important to us? If we don’t ever get to live out at least some of our dreams? I ask myself these questions and others like them regularly and it certainly helps me to keep my mind on what’s important to me. I used to feel bad about doing those kinds of frivolous things, but I’ve decided that as long as we can keep our bills under control and save a decent amount for the future, for now, we will be living.