Walking a Fine Line: Living in Balance

by Kevin on May 27, 2009

What is more important: living a balanced life or doing everything you can to strive for your goals?

Of course it depends on your own personal definitions of a balanced life and striving for goals. Defining these will help you make an informed decision.

Sacrificing to Succeed

In the past I asked if you were willing to sacrifice to succeed. The following day I listed out the things we were going to do to sacrifice in order to hit our goals:

  • cut our individual spending money in half
  • cut eating out in half
  • cut trips from our budget (since we have the next two trips paid for)
  • applying all extra money to our second mortgage
  • adding in blogging income to pay off second mortgage

That was back in April.

We made changes in late April when we did our budget for May. And it is working thus far. We’ve been able to keep our spending down and will have extra money to apply toward our second mortgage at the end of the month.

Can Sacrificing Go Too Far?

The obvious answer to this is yes.

Of course you can cut too much. You can live like a hermit. You can live a miserable life now in hopes that the future will be much better.

Is it worth it? It would depend on how far you take it. I would never recommend that anyone live like a hermit. Life’s too short for that.

I personally think that most Americans are not on the hermit side of the fence. They’ve been living a free wheeling, free spending, and luxury filled life. Big homes full of financed furniture and big screen TVs.

Sacrificing is Hard

This is what we’re running into right now. It isn’t easy. It isn’t a cake walk. (That’s why it is called sacrificing.)

When is it okay to lighten up a little bit? When should you press on and stick to your budgetary guns?

I’m not sure. We’ll keep moving forward and see if we can make these changes stick.

For now, it’s hard.


Paul Van Lierop May 27, 2009 at 9:03 am

My wife and I realized we needed to modify slightly strangely enough we didn’t feel like $12.50 each of spending money for 2 weeks was going to cut it. The kids were making as much as us. Intensity is good, but you’ve got to maintain for the long haul.

Drew May 27, 2009 at 9:16 am

Anyone that watches much football is probably familiar with the interviews with the coaches when they say “we’re just trying to cut back on the number of big plays that we give up.” I think the same thing could apply to spending. It’s alright to splurge a little bit here and there, or in keeping with the metaphor, give up a couple of first downs to the opposing team’s offense. However, if you can dig your heels in and keep them out of the end zone then you will likely win the game.

The big plays, like in football, can change the momentum of the game and next thing you know you are trailing in the game. If you just bought a really nice TV, what’s a little more for a nice entertainment center to display it on? Next thing you know you are down a touchdown and retirement is fast approaching.

I think I’ll leave this metaphor alone now. Hopefully it makes as much sense in print as it did in my mind.

Jason Zandri May 27, 2009 at 7:13 pm

While I agree that most Americans are not on the hermit side of the fence and that they’ve been living a freewheeling, free spending, and luxury filled life a bit too much so.

That being said and as you’ve pointed out, you can go too far the other way.

I have a couple of sayings that I am fond of:

“You’ll never see an armored car follow a hearse”

“Plan your life like you might live forever but live it like it might end tomorrow”’

I am most fond of the second saying.

I have my goals set:

Save up six months of liquid emergency funding (check)
Save 15% annually to my 401(k) (check)
Save the max to my ROTH IRA yearly (check)
Maintain my 30 year mortgage payments at a self imposed 15 year schedule (check)
Put aside $200.00 a month for the use on at least one vacation away (check)
Put $100.00 in my wallet each week (check)
Spend it all (check)

After all that, if there is any money left then I can pay down longer term bills like my credit card balance. I have 2 cards with less than 20K remaining and at 2.99% interest for the life of the balance (ah the good ole days); they are on a 36 month pay off schedule with about 24 months to go.

Some will say – why carry the balance for two additional years when you have the means to do it sooner?

2 more years over 1 more equals an interest savings of about $600.00 but I need to double my payment schedule (at this point) to take that out a whole year early and I’d rather maintain the $800.00 payment rate against it than to try to live uncomfortably for a whole year by trying to run the balance out in 12 months only.

To do that I have to get up to about $1,700.00 a month and for what – the savings of about $600.00 in interest? It’s not worth it to me to negatively impact an entire year to do that.

You never know when you might drop dead.

Kevin May 27, 2009 at 7:37 pm

@Paul: Yea, $25 per month for the adults and $25 for the kids is a little rough!

@Drew: That’s actually a really good analogy. The football strikes true with my heart… well done.

@Jason: You’ve outlined the challenge we feel. We could all die tomorrow. But not planning and acting for the future can be equally unfortunate. The eternal struggle…

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