Recently, I was with a friend who was complaining to me she couldn’t afford to replace her cell phone. We were in her newly purchased Toyota Highlander at the time.
On a separate occasion, an acquaintance of mine was lamenting that he didn’t know where he was going to find the money to buy new soccer cleats for his son this summer. We were enjoying dinner at a nice restaurant.
Similarly, another friend recently told me he was unable to financially donate to The Hope Effect when I asked. He assured me he wanted to help and really wished he could. But they had just put a pool in the backyard and were using every spare dime to pay it off.
Still again, I sat chatting with a friend complaining of the overtime hours he had been putting in at work. They are trying to finally get out from under debt they have been carrying for years. Meanwhile, his Facebook feed brags of the season tickets he had just purchased for his favorite Major League Baseball team.
Each time, I bit my tongue. I wanted to share what was on my mind. But I didn’t.
I was probably wrong in my decision not to speak up. I should have been bold and courageous and stated exactly what I was thinking. “Life is too short to not be honest with people,” somebody once told me. But I didn’t. I chose instead to keep my thoughts to myself.
Maybe I’ll say it here—that one thing about money I always want to say but never do.
I won’t write it here because I think any of those people are reading, but because I know others are. And many of us need to be reminded of this important reality:
You would have more money for the things you want if you stopped foolishly wasting it on other things.
In each case above, the person wanted money, but had already spent it elsewhere. My friend could afford to replace her cell phone if she hadn’t purchased such an expensive car. My other friend could have made significant inroads on their family debt if they hadn’t bought season tickets for the summer. And most of us would have more room for generosity and supporting causes we believe in if consumerism wasn’t so prevalent in us.
When we haphazardly spend money on foolish things, we have less remaining for more important pursuits. (tweet that)
This principle also extends beyond purchasing power.
Through a number of odd circumstances, I happened to spend some significant time talking with the friend of a friend recently. The topic of conversation was stress and anxiety. More specifically, the topic was her anxiety which she attributed to their financial circumstances: a burdensome mortgage, a monthly car payment, and not enough financial margin to feel comfortable.
The reason for the stress and anxiety, seemed to me, was not about the unacquisition of sufficient funds. The reason for the stress and the anxiety was the foolish places where their money was going—too big a house, too fancy a car, and too many unintentional purchases in the past.
They had sacrificed peace and calm for square footage and expensive wheels.
With so many circumstances of life outside our control, doesn’t it make sense we’d work hard to control the ones we can? This reality is especially true when it comes to our financial resources.
Our financial situations certainly vary from person to person. And I fully understand that some people struggle financially because of no fault of their own. But I believe the principle stated above extends to a higher percentage of us than you might think.
The greatest mistake we can make is the assumption that our financial lives are entirely outside of our control. They are not. We decide every day where our money is going to be spent.
Intentionally choosing to spend money on the things we truly want is not always easy. It requires a clear designation of the financial reality we wish was true (our desires) and a clear understanding of the reason it is not (our foolish spending habits).
Depending on your financial goals, the application may look something like this:
- I want to get out of debt, I will spend less on eating out.
- I want more money for travel, I must spend less on my housing.
- I want more financial peace, I need to remove my monthly car payment.
- I want more margin for generosity, I must spend less on fashion or furniture or technology.
- I want more ___________ so I need to buy less ______________.
What causes us to lose sight of this simple truth? I’m not sure. But none of us are immune from it. Which is probably one of the reasons it is so difficult to articulate when we see it playing out in another person’s life.