So here we are, all set up with the right tools to build a better financial future. Hooray! But now that the initial hard work is (mostly) over, it’s time to step back for a moment and get some perspective.
All the plans, account setups, expense reductions and general thinking about money I’ve done in the past few months has changed a lot of my perspectives.
I don’t walk into a store and blindly buy things I want right now any more, because every dollar I spend is a dollar that could be working for me elsewhere. And I’m truly grateful for the change, because it will have a marked positive effect in the future.
But like all new interests, obsessions and endeavours, it’s easy to get carried away and become single-minded about them – checking spreadsheets every 30 minutes, and vowing never to spend a red cent on anything ever again – because it could be invested.
Being obsessed has been good for a few months – I’ve put in a lot of spadework and made a lot of decisions which set me on the right path. But now it’s time to let those decisions and tools work for themselves, and think a bit more philosophically about how my life and my finances mesh together.
For me, the quintessential point to base this thinking around is my snowboard.
It’s actually less than 2 years since I first strapped on a board and pushed my way down the green slopes at Kirkwood, discovering in the process that I was much better on a board than I’d ever thought I could be. That first season was one of discovery (first painful crash, first successful lift exit, first run all the way down a hill without falling on my ass…), and the winter 06/07 season was one of falling utterly, absolutely in love with boarding.
The trouble is that snowboarding is an expensive pastime for a city dweller 3 hours from the nearest slopes. Factor in transport costs (gas or possibly airfares), lodging costs, lift tickets, resort food prices and equipment costs and you’re looking at easily north of $1000 per season.
$1000 is a lot of money, even more if you consider what that $1000 could do with compound interest over 20 or 30 years…
The new, finance-obsessed me could very easily say “look, you should give up the snowboarding and save the money instead,” and, from a purely logical dollars-in-the-bank perspective, he’d be right.
But I love boarding with a passion that’s hard to describe. I want to experience the thrill of whizzing through beautiful winter scenery every second that I can – so much so that we’re still nearly 3 months from season’s start and I can’t stop thinking about it! I was excited this Wednesday by unseasonably early rain, because it dumped up to 2″ of snow on Tahoe and just maybe (superstitiously, unreasonably) promised an early season start or, at least, a good season for 07/08.
To deny myself the joy I get from boarding might allow me to increase that money tenfold in 30 years, but it would also leave a huge hole in my life, denying me experiences, satisfaction and memories which will last forever.
Which, strangely, brings me full-circle to the maxim I used to use to justify burying my head in the sand over money – “Life’s about more than dollars and account balances.”
Although the maxim is the same, the application is different now – I know what my dollars are up to, and I have the tools and the beginnings of the knowledge to maximise that which I choose to save. But I also have passions to pursue, and no wish to turn into Ebeneezer Scrooge.
It’s a delicate balance, one which will require fine tuning for months and years to come. But it’s one I think I’ve settled into already.
The “Snowboarders at Timberline” photo on this post is from frozenchipmunk on Flickr.