Balance is Important

This post is a follow up to last month’s post, The Truly Important Things in Life.

A comment I received on that post plus Jeff’s post Still Sustainable? on Sustainable Life Blog a few days ago and recent posts by Beks about her dad on her blog, Blogging Away Debt got me thinking about balance in my life even more.

I started this blog as a way to pass on my experiences and know-how that I’ve garnered over the last decade working in the debt settlement industry helping people get their finances straight, get out of debt, and start achieving their goals. I’ve been through dire straights financially a few times in my life so I know how hard it can be when ends just don’t meet and you can’t pay your bills and so on. It’s painful. It’s embarrassing. It’s hard to dig yourself out of that hole.

My posts have therefore mostly been focused on putting out that information in a manner that’s easy to grasp and hopefully somewhat entertaining at times.

The thing is, it’s really easy to get tunnel vision and lose sight of other important things in life. Improving your finances is a good thing. It’s a goal that’s worth working on. Starting, or running, your own business is also a good thing. Being or becoming the best ____ (you fill in the blank) is also a good thing. Unfortunately one can get too much of a good thing. Chocolate lovers, try eating a few pounds of chocolate in one sitting. Chances are you’re not going to feel to good. Too much of a good thing. (I guess I should be honest – I don’t like chocolate at all so that example would not apply to me. For me I could change it to ice cream, just not chocolate ice cream.)

Along those lines, heavy emphasis on financial goals like getting out of debt can end up being too much of a good thing. What about living life and actually enjoying it? There are some so-called experts who feel that if you’re in debt you should essentially move into a 5×5 room with a pile of straw to sleep in, no other furniture or “luxuries” and spend money only on the barest survival and put everything else toward your debt.

Okay, I exaggerated a bit. But I’ve seen statements like, “Cable TV is a luxury you can’t afford.”

“You don’t need a cell phone, that’s a luxury!”, they cry.

To hell with that! Yes you should get out of debt, but you don’t have to punish yourself for being in debt.

There are more important things in life than being debt free, getting rich, and so on. I’m not going to presume to know what those things are for everyone. I can only speak for myself.

Since my post last month I was fortunate enough to have my son home on leave from the Marine Corps for the first time in a few years. It was great to spend some time with him! I also got more active in my church and plan to build on that and get even more active. I’m learning to take better care of my health. All of those things are much more important to me than any financial goal I have ever set for myself. The fact is, that some of my financial goals will be modified quite a bit by my desire to spend more time with family and friends, be more active in my church, take care of my health and so on. Some of them may not change at all. What won’t happen is I won’t put my finances and money ahead of these things.

I’ve gone that route before – worked 60+ hours a week in my business and having no time for anything else. Not going back there. Life requires balance. Contributing to your church and/or your community are at least as important as your financial goals. Relaxing and enjoying life are at least as important as your financial goals, even if you’re in debt. So, while this is a financial blog please remember that there are things in life that are more important than money. You need balance.

6 Comments

  1. MoneyCone says:

    Balance is the key. If you are a sports fan, splurge on that hdtv, but find a compromise by cutting back elsewhere.

    What is harmful is spending like there is no tomorrow without thinking about the consequences.

    1. Chris says:

      This is a good point. It really doesn’t matter what you spend your money on. It’s okay to spend money on things that are important to you, just don’t overspend. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how much money you spend as long as you’re not spending more than you’re making. That one rule makes financial management rather simple and allows you to enjoy your life.

  2. Great work Chris. Sometimes when I think about all the things I’ve seen people do to get out of debt, it makes me wonder. To me, cable tv is a luxury, but I’m not at home very often (work 2 jobs), so even if I did have the service, it would get watched 1-2 hours per day, max. While it’s cheap (about $1 per hour, based on cable rates) entertainment, it’s not something I’m interested in – so in my situation, it’s a luxury.
    A cell phone however, is not a luxury. I dont have a phone at home, and need a way for people to get in contact with me (family, friends and potential employers). Without a phone, how would they do this. I’ve made cutbacks elsewhere to pay for the phone (like the cable tv) and I enjoy it just fine.

    1. Chris says:

      Makes perfect sense to me. I certainly wouldn’t pay good money for something I just won’t use. The cell phone argument is one of the most interesting ones on the PF forums & Blogs. To me it all boils down to what you use it for. In your case it’s definitely a necessity.

  3. JT McGee says:

    I’m hot and cold on things. I spend a lot on what I love, and practically nothing on the things I don’t.

    That said, though, I can give you a dollar amount for what everything is worth to me. Cable TV for $50 a month? Nah, but I’d pay $15 for it. Wendy’s fast food meal for $4? Nope, but I’ll pay $7 for Chick-Fil-A.

    1. Chris says:

      Yep. That’s exactly my point. Go ahead and spend money on the things you love. You can cut back on things you don’t love or even on things you’re kinda lukewarm on.