One of the biggest take-aways I got from the classic finance book, ”Your Money or Your Life”, was the idea that you can meet your needs differently. In our consumer-driven culture, we instinctively reach for our credit cards to meet our needs and wants. If we want to relax, we book a massage or trip. If we are sad, we buy a gadget or purse. We often forget that those same needs/wants can be met by frugal options.
As I said, the idea of frugal options was eye-opening for me. However, after my intial enthusiasm wore off, I fell back to my usual habits of swiping my credit cards. As soon as we decided on our summer vacation, I booked a hotel and started looking for deals to amusement parks and zoos.
Of course a slew of bills, including dreaded DMV fees and medical bills, made me re-think our vacation plans. I cancelled the beach hotel reservation ($140 per night + $20 daily parking fee). Our planned excursions will be scaled down, too. Instead of the Long Beach Aquarium ($18.95 per adult after a discount), I found a smaller aquarium with a $5 admission fee for the entire family. Plus, the beach is free!
If this change of plans was only about saving money, it would be kind of depressing. What makes a difference is that I know that these cheaper options will meet the same needs. A hotel stay would have meant a change of scenery but the kids get cranky in foreign settings and the sleep battle would probably not be worth it. If I hire the cleaning lady for an extra visit, buy some fresh flowers and change the bed sheets, I’ll be pretty happy. As for the fancy aquarium, all I really wanted was to expose my kids to more things. They probably don’t have the stamina or interest to appreciate a large aquarium. A smaller aquarium combined with a visit to a beach (free) will do the same thing.
I’ve also found a lot of free or lower-cost family-friendly activities to fill out the rest of our summer vacation calendar. Summer can be fun and cheap.
What are your exciting vacation plans, if any?
There is no real “battle” between the much-acclaimed “Your Money or Your Life (YMoYL)” and the recently published ”All The Money In The World (ATM)”. In fact, they probably spring from the much of the same philosophy and focus on our relationship with money. However, I think reading these back-to-back inspired me in completely different ways.
First some background…My natural frugal tendencies is often in conflict with some entreprenuerial impulses. In general, frugality wins. It’s not to say I haven’t ventured out into more entreprenuerial territory but it’s definitely outside my comfort zone. I have enough on my plate with my full-time job, commute, family, and other priorities in life. Excuses aside, I sometimes wish I devoted more energy and money to earning more instead of just saving money via sales, negotiating and couponing.
“Your Money or Your Life” resonated with me because it largely supports an ‘alternative’ view of living, one that is miles away from the rat race. After finishing this book, I felt strongly that we should move to Italy with our kids. I am ready for the next phase of my life, whatever that may be. My husband is tired of life in the U.S. and we have always wanted to raise our kids in Europe, with Italy being the logical location. While there are many cons, from economic woes to healthcare crisis, we felt that our kids would benefit from Italian culture and heritage.
“All the Money in the World” appealed to my long dormant entrepreneurial side. It made me question my choices and wonder if I should have been or become more focus on earning more, even if that means staying in the rat race. That’s not to say ATM is the opposite of YMoYL. In fact, ATM’s author is very entrepreneurial and has found her dream career, one that is lucrative enough and flexible for her and her family. Much like YMoYL, she asks us to re-examine our choices in spending and questions whether our spending is aligned with our values. The difference, is in the details. While she cites examples from readers and other sources, I was most struck by examples from her own life. In the chapter “Ode to a Ziploc bag”, she talks about our tendency to spend more as we get used to higher standards of living. In one example, she recounts splurging on a $21.99 toy train for her son. He has more than enough trains just as so many of us have enough shoes, clothes, electronics and other “toys”. At what point is it enough? However, what struck me more most about this example was that she could afford to spend that amount. I want to spend on my kids without worry. Would we be able to do that if we move to Italy and essentially start over?
My conflicting responses to these two books is probably more indicative of my state of mind than the intended messages. I think both books have value and will make you examine your own money beliefs.
Posted in Children, finances, random thoughts, simple living
Tagged all the money in the world, enterpreneurial, frugality, Italy, laura vanderkam, making money, saving money, ymoyl, your money or your life
As I get close to the end of ”Your Money or Your Life”, I alternate between feelings of inspiration and depression, for lack of a better adjective. Chapter 8 of YMOYL focuses on the cross-over point, when you reach financial independence and reap the rewards. There are many success stories which are inspiring. Some people quit their jobs to volunteer, spend time with family and friends, and/or travel. Those are the kinds of stories that I expected to read. However, many people take a sabbatical and then go back to work. The point is that choosing to work is very different than having to work.
At the same time, I get somewhat depressed, or deflated, when I think of taking that next step and the consequences. The big “What ifs” pop in my head. I’m ready to move on to the next phase of my life but I can’t imagine feeling so free mentally in regards to finances. I am used to a steady paycheck with paid vacations; I imagine that financial worries would seep into my muddled head. We’ll see how this plays out….
Financial independence is harder to achieve when your spouse is not onboard. My husband is just not interested in reading or discussing finances. I have told him about my readings but I doubt he’ll ever read the book himself.
Like it or not, our financial lives are intertwined. I don’t believe in separate finances, other than some fun spend money, because it all comes out of the same pot in the end. When we don’t jointly focus on our household spending now, we both end up spending more. Luckily he has adjusted to my frugal tendencies over the years even though he thinks I’m a bit obsessed. Our backgrounds are so different that it’s hard for him to imagine a life where you can’t fall back on your parents as a last resort. Even when he worries about money, I feel that he believes things will work out. I don’t think like that. I imagine worse-case scenarios.
I guess I really need to pay attention to Chapter 9, which talks about managing your finances. I also lined up another finance/lifestyle book for reinforcement and ideas. Next up: All The Money In The World.. I really hope that I can reach a place where I view money as a tool and not be so paranoid.
Have you crossed over to true financial independence? If so, what’s your story?
Posted in Family, finances, simple living
Tagged all the money in the world, finances, frugality, joint finances, life, marriage, money, saving money, ymoyl, your money or your life
Chapter 4 of “Your Money or Your Life” focuses on fulfillment. The questions asked are:
- What did you want to be when you grow up?
- What have you always wanted to do that you haven’t done yet?
- What have you done in your life that you’re really proud of?
- If you knew you were going to die in a year, how would you spend that year?
- What brings your the most fulfillment – and how is that related to money?
- If you didn’t have to work for a living, what would you do with your time?
I am stuck. I have no answers or rather my answers change depending on my day and mood. I think one of the big problems is that my proudest accomplishments are related to my current line of work, yet I’m not sure that I want to be in this job or field for the rest of my life.
With this in mind, here’s my attempt at answering those questions:
- I wanted to be a dancer at some point but I can’t dance well.
- Don’t know.
- All related to my work, or just that fact that I had kids.
- Travel, or live in a foreign land for a year.
- I love living in foreign places and getting to know a city or place. I love learning new things and challenging my mind. I also find it very fulfilling when I help other people even if it’s simply giving advice or support in an online forum.
- I would live in a beautiful natural environment, work in a garden, exercise, eat well, spend time with my family, and read / write blogs. I would do something to make a difference…not sure what.
I have no idea how these answers can shape my life. Maybe it’s because I skipped some exercises in earlier chapters? Help…
Although this wasn’t addressed, I do want a somewhat comfortable life. Everyone’s definition of comfort is different. For me, that means money in the bank to take care of emergencies, fly and visit family members, take care of my family’s health from braces to major medical care, get cleaning help sometimes, and to buy some pretty clothes every so often.
I also don’t want to be too dependent on the kindness of others. At least among my friends and family, I’ve often noticed that the poorest members get tons of hand-outs from small favors to plane tickets. I’m sure others are glad to help but I would worry that my livelihood is dependent upon someone else having to work the grind so to speak. (If I am ever in that situation, I would make sure to return the favor in other ways via my time but so many people just seem to get used to receiving and not giving help, in my opinion).
So the bigger question is what is enough?