This week, however, we really do need to make a decision based on money. It isn’t life threatening. It’s not even close to a crisis. We were unexpectedly invited to join some friends on a trip next fall. It is to a country that really is not on our bucket list. However, we know we would have a great time and I’d bet that once we came home we would wonder why it hadn’t been on our list. The big decision we need to make is whether to spend the money or save the money. We can afford the trip; taking it simply means that we would not get to go on a different trip that we had been thinking about.
When I was growing up there wasn’t much spare money in our house. Amazingly, at the time, none of my brothers or sisters or I realized this. We had plenty of home grown food, we all worked on the farm as well as having other jobs so we had pocket money and my dad made sure we had a camping holiday every summer. We didn’t go to restaurants or stay in hotels or fly on planes. My father ‘taught’ (read: lectured at the dinner table) us that these things were excesses and that people who engaged in such frivolity must be irresponsible. He had us convinced that camping was way more fun than any hotel could be. And that a homemade meal eaten at a picnic table in a campground was far better than any restaurant meal could ever be. He made sure we knew that saving was good, and spending on unnecessary things was a waste.
Naturally, I took in all of this advice and it shaped my propensity to be a saver. I think hard about spending on big purchases. Alas, I may have generalized his advice to create a belief that all spending is bad. I now know that nothing could be farther than the truth.
As I’ve been thinking about our potential trip, I recognize that this ‘save or spend’ decision is one that we are asked to make many times in our lives. Sometimes the decision is about money, like our current decision is. Most often it is about things that on the surface may not seem as important as money, but in the twilight years of our lives may end up revealing themselves to have been far more valuable than any amount of money.
The things I am referring to are things like talents, opportunities, best clothes, manners, kindness, volunteerism and clean houses.
When was the last time you were presented with an opportunity, even a small one, and because you may have been tired or busy, simply decided that you could save it for another time? Of course, you may have assumed the opportunity would present itself again. Perhaps it isn’t opportunities you are saving, perhaps it is that you are saving your talents. You may have a beautiful voice and yet do not use it in your own home. Or perhaps you know how to create incredible meals but you are saving the good ones for company.
Maybe you have an outfit that shows off your skin, and makes you feel beautiful, but you think you need to save it for somewhere special to wear. Or perhaps you walk right past the opportunity to spend some energy on an act of kindness, saving it for a more convenient time. Sometimes I save kindness for complete strangers and spend my short-temper on those I live with. I’ve been guilty of turning down a chance to go for a walk, in nature, in order to spend my time on making sure I have a clean house. And I’ll bet many of us have spent time volunteering for others when someone in our own family could have used our company; or perhaps we didn’t spend our time volunteering for others, instead we thought we could save that for a time that was more convenient for ourselves.
My dad wasn’t completely right about everything. As an adult, I recognize that he didn’t want us to notice what we didn’t have and he did want us to learn to be grateful for what we did have. He was right about that and each of his children have grown up to be responsible, contributing adults. He may even have been right in teaching us that it is good to save. However, I think it is also possible that there are many wonderful moments in which we should spend freely. Looking back, I see that my dad knew this too. He would have had no trouble encouraging us to spend our talents, spend our love, spend our kindnesses, spend our good manners and spend our time wisely, among other things.
The good news about the upcoming possible trip is that there isn’t really a bad decision to be made. Whether we take this trip or a different one, Jim and I will be spending time together, making memories.
As you travel through this next week, notice where you are choosing to spend, and where you are choosing to save.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Is this moment a moment meant for spending or saving?’
Elizabeth is a Life and Leadership coach, working with motivated clients wishing to live their best life. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups and provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to begin to take bold steps toward spending your life in a way that honours your values.