I love competition. Better yet, I love to win. Doesn’t matter if it’s a marathon, a card game, or playing Horse with my 10-year old son in the driveway. (He hasn’t beaten me…yet.) I want to come out on top.
This competitive spirit also works its way out when I prepare our monthly budget. I love seeing if I can reduce the prior month’s spending amount for each budget category, thus being able to save more. I know, it’s a little sick. I’ve made budgeting into my own personal can-you-top-this contest.
Some may like that I’m this intense. After all, isn’t this level of passion necessary to win with money?
Well, yes…but not when the kids go naked because you haven’t purchased clothes in six months. That’s a little too intense. (Disclaimer to grandparents, family and friends and DFCS: Just using hyperbole here. No kids are actually going without adequate clothing in our house.)
The issue though is valid to consider.
When can we loosen the reigns on the budget? Do we have to drive hard all the time? When can we take our foot off the gas just a little bit? We free spirit spenders want to know.
My answer may be frustrating and seem like a cop-out.
It depends on your situation. No one else can answer this question because it’s personal. And there are a whole host of factors that enter into the equation. For example…
It depends on the depth of your dreams. Perhaps you have a vision of going back to school, starting a small business or retiring at an early age. If the cost of the dream will require a deep financial commitment then you probably can’t take your foot off the gas yet. You’ll need every penny.
It depends on your level of unsecured debt. How high is it? $1,000? $51,000? $151,000? Two of these debt level scenarios require a hard press down on the accelerator. You will have to keep the budget tight to pay off those big chunks of debt.
It depends on your health. Major medical issues can be a killer to the financial picture. If these are immediately looming or anticipated in retirement due to genetic predispositions then keep driving.
It depends if there is a crisis. In the Old Testament of the Bible, Joseph collected and stored grain for seven years to save the Egyptian people from a devastating famine. He accumulated so much he quit counting. He never relaxed because people’s lives were at stake.
It depends on your emotions. If an overwhelming fear of the future is the driving force behind your money management, then you will probably never take your foot off the gas. I’m not sure that’s healthy.
It depends on your bank account. If there is a one followed by six zeros already showing up in the net worth column of the financial statement, then you can probably afford to take your foot off the gas.
It also depends on your age. The 80-year old with the large bank account can relax. However, the 35-year old with the same situation still needs to maintain focus on long-term wealth building. Average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78 years of age so that money has to see them through another 40+ years. To have that much at such a young age is a nice place to be, but that money could easily be eaten up should one decide to become a spend-a-holic at 35.
I guess the open-ended question I’m asking here is “When can a person start to live a little and not be so intense with the budget?”
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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