It’s never a bad idea to save money. Most people have a goal for the future in mind… Owning a home. Retiring comfortably. Children’s college. Buying a giraffe. Whatever. But at what point do you draw the line between living a frugal life and living a dull life? There is a famous quote that relates to this (the author of which is not definitive). It goes: “I do not regret the things I’ve done, but those I did not do.”
To me, this doesn’t mean that everyone should go flying off the handle and chase every crazy dream that they come up with. Let’s not take it too literally. For our purposes, I equate it to two ideals.
- Spend on experiences/passions. What is life but a series of moments that become memories? I want to look back on my life and remember the things I did and be satisfied. I believe that a fat bank account will not make me happier than a lifetime of memories (although I’d take both, if that’s cool). This illustrates yet another old saying (sort of): “Money Can’t Buy Time.”
- Prioritize. When it comes to spending and saving, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. The key is to prioritize your spending based on what is important to you, and what you want to experience in life. Maybe you love to travel, so you spend on airfare and hotels (or gas and camping supplies). Maybe you love to paint, so you spend on the finest paints and brushes and dedicate your time. You can skimp in other areas of your budget so that you can afford the important things (and what’s important is subjective).
Years from now I don’t want to look back and think of times where my budget held me back. I’m still going to be smart with my money and not spend at every opportunity. But I’ll make adjustments when it comes to important things I want to experience. I’ll eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch for a while if it means I can afford to take a trip with my friends. If I find a good deal on a camera lens that I want, I’ll cut back on my restaurant/bar tab for a few weekends. You can call it a sacrifice, but it’s also prioritization.
A lot of people have their “things”. Maybe it’s their “luxury eccentricity“. I have a friend who must own over 20 firearms. He’s not preparing for the apocalypse or an enemy invasion (a la Red Dawn). He’s just a hunter and target shooter who enjoys guns. It’s an expensive hobby, but he makes it work. It’s a priority for him. Guns and hunting aren’t my thing. Just an example. I’m not here to judge.
I’m writing this from my own perspective as a twenty-something, unmarried man. People with spouses and children have more than their own future in mind when it comes to priorities, but the principle remains. Private school, art/music lessons, braces, vacations… these may not all fit into the budget. Time to prioritize.
In the world of financial blogs, we get bombarded with tips to save on this and that, and are told to pinch every penny. But you can be responsible and still have some money to invest in your life. The idea is not to sacrifice the joy out of existence. Budget accordingly to spend on your priorities, and live without regret. It’s that easy, right?
How do you prioritize?