You can’t create an authentic and meaningful life without addressing the topic of personal finance. Our financial health affects every area of our lives: our health, relationships, happiness, and wellbeing. Unfortunately, financial health can be a difficult and emotional topic for many of us, if we even discuss it at all. But the good news is that if we open ourselves up to the topic, we can find financial balance by following the simple strategies I share below.
Almost everyone I’ve ever met identifies as either a spender of a saver. Part nature, part nurture; most of us have been one or the other as long as we can remember. I for one was born a saver. This was made evident by the growing stash of holiday candy I had hidden from my spender sibling. I’m pretty sure I had Halloween candy that went back at least three years.
My husband, Jeremiah, is more of a spender. He was the one stealing his saver uncle’s Easter candy after he devoured his own within a few days. What I learned from being married to a spender is that both are important. If Jer wasn’t married to a saver, he’d likely have a lot less money. And if I wasn’t married to a spender, I’d have a lot more money, but way fewer experiences and memories.
Finding balance between spending and saving can be a real challenge for both spenders and savers. I can be frugal to a fault. This frugality has caused me to miss out on life experiences and spend more money in the long run because I didn’t get exactly what I wanted up front. Luckily I married someone who knows how to talk me into spending 20 dollars more to get something that’s a better fit. But that’s only after I’ve allowed myself to consider the purchase in the first place.
Like most things in life, there are both positive and negative aspects of being a saver (or spender). I saved diligently from the day I got my first five dollar bill in a birthday card. This allowed me to always have the security of a safety net and never have to worry about money. I always had cash for school clothes and gas money. I even managed to graduate from college without compounding massive student loan debt.
At the same time, I also missed out on a lot. I didn’t go on my high school Spanish class’s trip to Europe and I never experienced spring break in college. I missed out on friendships and connections by not being involved in any clubs. I had a nice mountain bike I enjoyed riding, but other than that, I didn’t invest in any hobbies.
So how can you find a healthy balance between spending and saving?
Jer and I have recently become more comfortable stretching the boundaries of our comfort zones. I really pushed those boundaries the last two summers with a solo tour to visit every Minnesota State Park. Before I finished the last park, we were already discussing what would come next.
We decided to start exploring backpacking and canoe camping. In July of last year, we started researching and slowly purchasing the required gear. The saver in me never pays full price so we took advantage of every REI sale and coupon. By the first warm weekend this year, we were ready to give it our first go.
But as things tend to go once you set your intention, our plans progressed more rapidly than we anticipated. First, someone asked me to join them on a 10-day section hike of the Superior Hiking Trail. Since this pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone, I, of course, said yes. Then Jer and I planned a 10-day trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for the following month. As exciting as these new adventures were, the price tag of the additional gear we needed created anxiety for me.
Backing out of either trip wasn’t an option so tried to rationalize the looming expenses. I told myself that when it was all said and done, it would cost less than renting a condo on the North Shore for a week or two. Then instead of a onetime vacation, I’d be able to enjoy this gear for years to come. Next, I calculated the approximate number of nights we’ve used our current gear and how many times over it’s paid for itself. I also told myself that we might as well buy it all now so we can enjoy it longer, instead of spacing out our purchases.
If you’re a saver too, you know that all of this calculating and rationalizing did very little to persuade me. I still couldn’t stomach the thought of spending that much money on just a few pounds of gear.
And then I realized something.
At the end of my life, I’ll cherish these memories a heck of a lot more than I’ll care about the money I saved. I knew that if I didn’t do these things the way I wanted, I’d regret it. And that was enough to get Jer and me into REI to start exploring our options.
Before we move on, I want to highlight a very important point. We paid cash for all of these purchases. I keep a wishlist for outdoor gear and time our purchases with REI sales and coupons. So I had already set the money aside to cover these expenses. I would never encourage you to put these experiences on a credit card. You can learn more about how we save for large purchases here.
Here are four simple things both spenders and savers can do to create financial balance.
1 – Set Goals
For a saver, this might be setting a goal to take a vacation every year. A spender might want to set a goal of maxing out your Roth IRA. Pick the one thing that’s most important for you to accomplish financially and set a measurable and timely goal that you can achieve.
2 – Know Your Why
Once you set your goal, come up with the deepest reason you want to accomplish it. Maybe you want to get better at managing your finances so you can set an excellent example for your children. Or maybe you want to spend quality time on vacation with your spouse so you can improve your already great marriage. Whatever it is, make sure it tugs at your soul and inspires you to keep working toward your goal.
3 – Set a Budget
This can be as simple or detailed as you like. You could simply say I’m going to spend 60 percent of my take-home pay and save the other 40. Or you could create a detailed budget by category. Either way, it’s important to have a plan to get you where you want to go.
4 – Enlist the Help of an Accountability Partner
I’m fortunate to have a great accountability partner in my spouse. As I mentioned, he is really good at getting me to spend a tad bit more to get what I really want. And being married to me helps him keep his spending in check. If you need further assistance, consider enlisting the help of a coach. You can learn more about the exciting coaching offers I have here.
No matter where you came from or what mistakes you’ve made, financial balance is within reach. These four steps will help you clarify what’s important and keep you motivated on your journey. You deserve to enjoy life while preparing for a secure future.
What has helped you to find balance financially? Share in the comments below or come start a conversation on Facebook.