Two questions have been rattling around in my brain lately. Both have an effect on how we spend and save our money.
1. How Do You Define Yourself?
I guess I haven’t thought about it too much until the other day when I overheard someone say that their house defines them. I thought that was odd, but perhaps others think that way. Is it a clear case of things vs. experiences? Not exactly.
Can things make you happy? Research says no. Studies have shown that people are happier when they spend their money on experiences rather than things. Supposedly a trip makes you happier than a new couch. You get used to the couch in a week or so and the thrill of a new one fades quickly. You can enjoy a trip when you take it and many times later when you remember all the fun you had. So the happiness lasts longer.
Does where you live make you happy? Does a bigger house make possible more family get-togethers? Holiday meals? And do those kinds of experiences make you happy? I’d guess it depends on the family. What if your living place makes it more likely for you to have friends over for a cookout, brunch, or to watch a football game on tv? Does that bring happiness? It could definitely liven up your life.
I don’t define myself by where I live. I do define myself by my family. We’ve always centered our life around our kids and the extended family. We’ve had some pretty good experiences travelling with family that have become part of the family stories.
We have not put a lot of money into our house over the years. It is adequate and was big enough for a family of 6. We looked at it as a warm place in every way. I don’t think we ever defined ourselves in terms of our house. So it seems strange to me that someone would.
You can define yourself in any way you like, but I hope that you make the choice based on your own values and not some arbitrary value that others think is important.
2. “The Good Life” or “A Good Life”?
Lately I’ve been thinking about the difference between “the good life” and “a good life.” I choose the second and am happy to have the chance to make a good life. My mom is my role model here. She was always determined to make something good happen no matter the circumstances. She is my hero in that. I can’t think of any better goal.
So my house might not be magazine photo worthy, but I continue to try to make a good life for us and our extended family. It’s how I define myself and I’m content with that.
We’ve put our money towards our highest priorities–education for our four children. We’ve never regretted that and are so grateful that our family has stayed close. Our money has gone to the things we value most. That’s a good life for us.
No we don’t have “the good life” as defined by many people, but we have a very satisfying life. To me that’s the best riches of all.
How does all of this affect your financial plans? Plenty! How you define yourself and what kind of lifestyle you want will affect your spending. You might be tempted to spend money keeping up a certain image even when you can’t afford it. Worse, it takes money away from your goals that really matter to you. What can you do about this?
1. Keep a list of your priorities to stay on track to achieve your goals. Keep the list where you will see it often. You can even make a picture collage of your goals and put it on the refrigerator. Whatever works for you.
2. Review your goals from time to time to make sure that they reflect your values.
3. Don’t let other people’s expectations drain money away from your true goals. Keep a picture in your wallet of one of your top goals. You’ll see it every time you are tempted to waste money. It will motivate you to put that wallet away!
4. Tell your kids how you are saving to achieve your goals. They will learn from your example how to handle money and you will be more motivated to keep up the good work!
5. Take pride in your progress and achievements. Celebrate when you achieve certain milestones on the way to making your goals. You are truly building “a good life.”
How do you define yourself? What is the good life for you? How do you keep on track to achieve your money goals?