Don’t Forget to Live

by Kevin on February 5, 2008

Getting out of debt can be a daunting task. If you are really in over your head, you may have creditors calling you on a daily basis. If you are in that kind of a situation, this post isn’t for you. However, if you are cash-flow positive at the end of every month, even after paying your debt payments, then listen up:

Don’t Forget to Live!

It sounds simple, but when you start really focusing in on your goals you can easily forget it. You think you are on the right track by tracking every penny and applying every last dime to your debt. And you are. But don’t forget that life is short.

My wife told me a story she heard at her job the other day. Apparently there was a teacher who put in her 30 years and retired from the school system. She saved diligently and was ready to enjoy retirement to its fullest. Shortly after retiring she was diagnosed with an illness, and passed away two years later. She didn’t get to enjoy much of that retirement she had saved for.

The same could happen to you and me. I’m not hoping for it by any means. Saving money and living within your means is definitely important, but personal finance does not have to be kin to living in a monastery. You need to have balance in your life.

So if you’ve got a budget, you are cash-flow positive at the end of the month, you’ve got an emergency fund handy, and you’re saving for retirement… then by all means, enjoy yourself! Even if you haven’t completed all of those steps, you can enjoy yourself along the way.

Here are some ways we have balanced our life:

  • I recently took a road trip with three college buddies to Memphis. Not only had I saved up more than enough money for the trip, but we crashed at someone’s house. The total cost of the trip was less than $70 per guy including transportation, gas, and food… and it was incredibly fun!
  • Date night. We’ve established (with varied success) a date night where we get to go out to eat. The money is tied to a category in our budget. This helps us stay connected as a couple.
  • Weekends away. She surprised me once with a weekend trip to Atlanta. Romantic, and she saved up money for it.
  • 1978 BMW. This past summer my wife encouraged me to buy a 1978 BMW 320i off of eBay. I was interested, but then reverted back to my conservative self (“I don’t need it.”, “It’s a waste of money.”, etc.). Having an old BMW to work on has been a dream of mine since I had my first car (a ’95 BMW 318is). She really pushed me to look at this car seriously. I bought it in July, and it is currently sitting in our garage.
  • Renting a movie. This is going to sound stupid, but I hate renting movies. But renting is better than the movie theater, so I’m okay with doing it every now and again. On top of that, we are both pretty picky in wanting to avoid most mainstream movies (think American Pie or Wedding Crashers). Just this past weekend we rented We Are Marshall for $4 and change. It was a great night just relaxing together. And the movie was great, too.
  • A dozen roses. Bringing roses home makes my wife’s day. Thanks to the Fresh Market here in town I can get them for $6-9 per dozen — an absolute steal! In fact, I brought some home last night.

There are a million different ways for you to balance your life. Don’t go overboard, but don’t limit yourself to sitting at home every night, every weekend, and not getting enjoyment out of life. That is the polar opposite of what should be an end goal: financial freedom lending itself to personal happiness.

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