What will you do for money? How far will you go?
Now that I have progressed to the point where I am saving in just about every area of my financial life, from time to time, I hit certain “crossroads” where I am not sure if I am crossing the line into areas that are affecting my self-worth rather than my net worth. In a sense, the question I find myself asking is “Are my priorities in the right place?”
What Are Your Money Values?
For instance, how many of us find ourselves spending valuable time on things that seem insignificant in order to pursue just a little more money? How many of us aren’t seeing the “big picture” and are therefore focusing and sweating the smaller “stuff”? For instance, I will admit to spending my time on the following activities, and have since wondered whether this was a good use of my time:
Surveys — I invest a certain portion of my free time into filling out surveys on the internet for compensation. In the beginning, there were probably five or six sites that I subscribed to. Once I took a hard look at it, I realized that the sites that offered next to nothing in the way of compensation were a waste of my time. Actually, not a waste of my time, but that my time could be better spent elsewhere (i.e. quality time with my wife). I have since dropped this down to two sites, and am considering going down to one site because of the reason I just mentioned.
Coupons — When I was looking for every way possible to cut my spending, I thought that a surefire way to do this would be to clip Sunday paper coupons to save on my weekly grocery bill. I reviewed every ad that came in the mail during the week, and always made a special trip out on Sundays to get the paper. Scouring through that would take an hour in itself. I did save on groceries, don’t get me wrong. However, again, when I looked at how much time I had to invest in this project compared to the amount of money it saved me on a weekly basis, I determined that my time could be better spent elsewhere (outside playing with my son).
Tipping — Since adopting a more frugal approach to life, the number of times that my family has gone out to eat has been reduced considerably. However, when we do, the thought often crosses my mind that I could save myself some money by leaving less of a tip — even if the quality of the food and service is just fine. I think I actually did this once (ie. reduce my tip). At first, I worried that I would look “cheap” in front of my friends/family. However, that was not the issue at all. The fact of the matter is that I left the restaurant that night feeling cheap. I vowed then and there that this would never happen again.
Return Policies — If you try hard enough, you can get around just about any return policy that you want to. Need to use something just a few times and don’t want to pay for it? OK, just keep the packaging in good shape, use the item for what you need it for, pack it back up and return it. Have you broken something that is outside the parameters of the return policy (i.e. past the 30/60/90 days?) No problem. Just buy a replacement, pack the broken item back up in the new item’s packaging and return this. I could go on and on with ways around return policies. The point is that it’s just not worth doing. These practices are what drive up the price of retail items for all of us. Better to gain a good relationship with a local store near you, shop at their stores often, and that way when you do have a problem, you can be honest and straight up with them and they will more than likely make an exception for you.
What’s More Important: Time or Money?
I am all about saving as much money as I can, all about spending as less as I can on the things that I do buy, and also generating as much extra income as I can in my daily life. However, not too long into this whole lifestyle change, it became apparent to me that there are limits to everything and there are lines that are not worth crossing. I very quickly learned a couple of lessons:
First, that time is much more of a precious commodity to me than money is. I have a young son at home, who is only going to be two years old once; he’s only going to be three years old once, etc. My “play” time with him is far more rewarding and gratifying than any amount of money that I can save (or generate) during that same period of time.
Second, that there are a ton of things that you can do to impact your personal economy, and you can probably get away with just about all of them, but at the end of the day, the question remains: Are they worth doing? Scamming your way around return policies and all the other situations that probably come to mind that border on being unethical (and sometimes illegal) are simply not worth doing.
In the end, I guess that what I have come to realize over the recent past is that my self-worth and self-respect mean more to me than my net worth. The fact is, our money values can play a huge part in building our financial status and net worth. Some people are wealthy because money and wealth building are their priorities through and through, and they are willing to make big tradeoffs to get what they want, while others decide that money is not that important. Others simply have a dysfunctional relationship with money, causing them to constantly struggle with debt. The important thing is to understand how you view money and where you’d place it in your life. In the whole scheme of things, how does it fit in your life and what does it represent? I believe that people are happier when they have a positive, healthy outlook towards their finances and if they are able to find balance among all those things that are important to them.
Author Bio: This guest post by David Bakke of Your Finances 101 brings up these thought-provoking questions. David also wrote the personal finance book “Don’t Be A Mule”.
Created: December 22, 2009; Updated: May 20, 2011
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