While browsing books in Barnes and Noble the other day, I came across an inspirational book on various topics, including finances. The book stated that some people view money as a lake, meaning there’s a finite amount and once it’s out, it’s out, and other people view money as a river, or a constant stream of money coming in and going out. Of course, realistically, we ALL view money as a river – but is that how you’re living your life? That’s not to say you should live paycheck to paycheck, but instead use your money as a tool to give you the life you want. It’s constantly flowing in and out, just like a river, and there’s no need to stress about every dollar that goes out or comes in.
Slowly over the past few months, my mentality towards money has been shifting. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still frugal, but I want to enjoy my life today too. That same book I was reading (of course, I cannot remember the name) said how the past doesn’t exist and the future never comes. All we have is today, this moment right now. That’s not to say you shouldn’t plan for the future, but I don’t think you should be planning so much for the future that you forget to live in the now. The author of the book said his favorite sign in a seafood restaurant says, “Free Crab Tomorrow.” I love this so much because technically, tomorrow never comes.
An example would be…Say you spend $200/month on things you don’t really need. Whether that’s Starbucks, going out to eat, shopping, getting your nails done or going to the movies, this money isn’t a necessity. Super frugal people would say you should cut all that out and save the money. But…is that really necessary if you’re already saving? I used to think so, but honestly, now I don’t. $200 a month is $2400 a year, and over 10 years that’s $24,000. I can see why people think it’s better to save that…but $24,000 over TEN YEARS really isn’t that much money. I’m sure some people will beg to differ, and feel free to chime in in the comments on your thoughts!! To me, though, I would rather work more and make that $24,000 (or more) over ten years rather than not spend it. I love my little luxuries in life too much to let them go. We already save, so what’s the big deal? (However, this money could be invested, in which case that $24,000 could become more than $35,000 in 10 years. In 40 years, it would be $270,000!)
We’ve even been dining out more frequently (gasp!!) over the past month – and guess what? We’ve LOVED it! It’s such a fun experience to eat great food, chat with the waiter and other people at the restaurant, walk around afterwards and just GET OUT! I know, we could just as easily pack up food and bring it to a park or something – and we do! – but sometimes it’s really fun to just go out and not worry! My days lately have been so fun, to the point where I don’t want to see them end. There was a time not too long ago when I desperately just wanted the day to be over. I wasn’t enjoying my life or all that life had to offer. If you look around, though, life is incredible. You don’t have to spend money to enjoy it, but sometimes spending money enhances your day and experience, so why not?!
It’s give and take. For example, here’s a photo of my kids from the weekend. I’ve been wanting to get them a sand table but didn’t want to spend $50 on a piece of plastic. I checked Craigslist (found two for $70 each, what?!) and consignment stores with no luck. Walmart had one for $50 that came with toys, but that still seemed a little steep. So, I decided to make our own with a plastic storage container for $10. I got them a bunch of sand toys and sand for an extra $20, totaling $32 for everything. And they loved it! That purchase (followed by a pizza dinner out and live music at a park) sums me up quite well – Save where you can but be willing to enjoy and spend money on experiences.
I guess as I’m getting older – and as my kids are getting older (they’ve actually been so good in restaurants lately!) – I’m realizing even more the importance of balance. This doesn’t just apply to money, but to all areas of life. There should be a balance between eating right and treating yourself, a balance between working out and relaxing, a balance between working and spending time with family, and a balance between spending money and saving money.
So here’s to enjoying life…responsibly! My hope for myself and all of you is that we can all just enjoy our lives! Prepare for the future, but live for today. Have a coffee on the patio in the middle of the afternoon without any technology. Get on the floor and play with your kids. Surprise your husband with his favorite meal. Treat your wife to a fancy dinner out! We’ve been given ONE life. This is it – make it count!
Photo credit: Flickr via Thomas & Dianne Jones