This post is not about corruption, theft, and swindling. Those are all of course the horrible side of taking an obsession with money and using it as a weapon or as a drug to try and solve a problem. This post is more a reflection on my own thoughts and action related to saving money and trying to build assets. I've written about thrifty compared to cheap before so don't want to rehash only to say my definition for being thrifty is getting the most value for the dollar spent compared to cheap being saving money at the expense of either someone else or a negative impact on the quality of my life. I've categorized these hard things into buckets. As a reminder, this is strictly my humble opinion and your perception may be 180 degrees from mine.
In my perfect world, I would only be asked to participate in things I want to do anyway. I would only be asked to give money to causes or events that are of my own priority. I would be asked to go in together financially only on things I see are of value. That is not the case and I often feel the pressure to join in with others on an expensive outing, say a concert or the theater when it isn't something I personally feel I would enjoy, or would enjoy enough to warrant the funds. My sister is a huge Jimmy Buffet fan. She, and most of my family are huge Eagles fans as well, and both acts are touring together. She desperately wanted all of us to go this summer, but tickets were astronomical, plus, for me, even if reasonable, I am not a big Jimmy Buffet fan, nor after the passing of Glen Frye, is seeing the Eagles live in my top activities. It was hard to say no because I love my sister and no doubt would have had fun, but we equally would have fun playing girls poker with music tracks in the background. Likewise, it is hard to not participate in fund raisers, but buying more senseless crap runs against my grain.
When I'm trying to save for something, like say a really expensive trip of a lifetime, my first inclination is to say "No" to anything but required life expenses. Yet, if I would do so, too many experiences would be lost. We still went to the out of state show choir competitions, we still looked at long distance colleges, we still buy meaningful gifts for people in our lives. It will be a long three month if we never get together with friends over a couple beers or waste the entire summer and not go to a Twins game. Of course we can find lot's of low
cost activities, but sometimes saying yes is the right action, never mind the savings goal.
Still though, when trying to save money for really big goals and purposes, it is hard, but important to exercise patience. Remember my definition of thrift is to get the best value for my money. We need/want new seating for our front porch area. A combination of not finding what I really like and the price of things I marginally like being more than I want to spend has kept us from buying anything. I know though, I will find what I'm looking for eventually, which keeps me from spending money on something immediately. I don't think our quality of life is diminished because we are using two chairs from the back deck on the porch for now.
This leads me to another challenge I sometimes have when trying to save money is keeping myself from living with a deficit mindset. Of course a dollar or groups of dollars only go so far. Thinking about all the things I can't afford is a path to feeling bad about money. It's not always easy, and especially with a family, to change the frame from the things I can't afford to an intentional "this is how I'm choosing to spend my money." It's not "I can't afford to stop for a morning lattee" but rather "I'm choosing to have coffee at home." Of course to the bucket of Saying Yes, an occasional coffee out with a friend is cheaper than therapy. I know I can buy a whole lot of lattes for my $60 co-pay. I still have humor.
I see the VISA bill total and I swallow hard. Yikes! $5,700 needs to be paid by June 4th. Even if May had been a three paycheck month, my take home would barely cover it. While I know that VISA includes all planned expenses that are part of our budget, it's stressful to see large chunks of money be paid out at one time. I see all the effort to put that money aside and swoop, gone in one single transaction. Granted, it would be more than just undue stress if we had this bill com in without the money to pay for it. Take our trip out of the picture and insert someone with a major car repair or a large medical co-pay and instantly know why that emergency fund is so important. Large bills, expected or not, are a shock to see, but having the money set aside to cope, even if it has to be refilled, should dilute the undue stress.
Remembering Time has Value
My last bucket of difficulty while trying to save money and build assets is to remember that there is a cost in terms of time. I wish I was more of a DIY'er as I know I could save money in many areas over the course of my lifetime. But, while some of my lack of doing things for my self is skill, often it is just pure economics. DH is fairly mechanical with cars, but he isn't going to change the oil himself when the time to do so is better spent having it done while he is at work, earning money. I'm not going to make dinner rolls or hamburger buns from scratch, though in theory I could whenever we are grilling.
These are my buckets of challenges. Some are mirrors of another. Part of the battle to save is knowing where your own personal challenges come in, and deciding what method to saving is the right way for you. Do you recognize any of these in your life?