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Be careful what you sacrifice for money

When picking the name for my site, I was debating whether some would think I’m thrifty enough. I chuckle at it now, but I was honestly questioning my own frugality after reading countless other stories of those that not only lived well below their means but truly lived like paupers. And there was part of me that maybe even applauded them and at times, thought I could entertain some of the ideas.

You know, the couples that manage to cram their whole life into a tiny 300 square foot box/micro-apartment. Or the ones that spent the last 3 years eating out of cans and working 80 hours a week, so they can rid themselves of that mountain of debt or terrible mortgage. And although I must admit I want my mortgage gone as bad as anyone and although I’m still intrigued by some of their stories, but…

I would never want to be them

I guess there’s nothing inherently wrong about what they’re doing if it makes them happy. But at what expense? I was thinking about this the other week, and have been a lot more lately. As a young parent, I’m just starting to see all the sacrifices we parents make for our own children. But I don’t believe it’s ever worth putting your whole life completely on hold to get ahead financially, and especially at the risk of affecting the lives of others around you.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, what if one day, God forbid, something terrible happened — your family is in a car accident or some other state of emergency — and you missed out on something bigger than your salary or a paid-off mortgage. You missed out by spending all your working and waking hours focused on one thing. Yes, you paid off your debts really fast and/or saved a bundle, so your future’s a lot brighter. But you forgot about today, and that’s really all we have.

While those are very commendable achievements, when I read what some of them had to do to get there, I’m not sure I’d want to be them. I’m not sure I’d want to put two or three years of my life on hold at the expense of everything else. There are many things that are way more important. So be careful what you sacrifice for money.

No one said it needs to be this difficult

There’s some that think to be frugal they must cut and sacrifice everything. But being frugal isn’t about doing away with everything, and at any expense. Even at the expense of your family. It’s about spending money (wisely) on the things and people and experiences you value most — the things that are most important to you — while cutting back on things that you don’t.

Frugality and thrift are also relative to one’s own resources. Although at home we run a pretty tight ship, we’re always sure we have room in our budget for the fun stuff and from time-to-time, yeah, we spend on some bigger quality ticket items that we plan for. As long as you’re living within ‘your’ means (and not someone else’s), I see no problem in that.

Find out what’s most important to you

Most people today can easily rhyme off a bunch of ‘things’ that they want and quickly think of ways on how to get there quickly. Get rich quick. Drop the pounds fast. And then we give up, because either we’re giving up too much, and/or we’re being unrealistic with ourselves.

And we strive for these unrealistic goals because we see others doing them, but rarely do we sit down and think about the kind of things in life that we value. What’s most important to you? Is it your family? Your friends? Is it your career? Your spirituality? Your health? Knowing why you’re doing something, is as important as doing it.

For example, I value my family highly. I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids and I try and make my financial decisions based on that. I probably spend more on family outings than a lot of other areas and took a pay cut years ago to move to my current job, because it was closer to home. But I do it because that’s what’s important to me.

Your situation might be different. So figure out what’s important to you. Then think about what you would like to do, assess what you are and aren’t willing to give up, and make a plan to get there. But please don’t spend the next two years working your tail off, solely concentrating on one thing and missing all else that life has to offer. It’s too short. Paying off debt should be part of your plan, not your only one.

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