It has taken me a long time, but I’ve finally realized that my concept of money has been backwards my whole life.
When I was a kid, I had a legit fear of being homeless. So I saved. And saved. And saved. I had my own banking system: three envelopes separating my spending, savings, and tithing. But I never actually spent the spending. It just kept growing.
While at UCLA playing basketball, I got a monthly stipend for housing and food. I spent as little as possible of that money and saved the rest. When my teammates dined at Cheesecake Factory (which was often), I stayed at home and ate cereal. I saved out of fear.
When I went on my LDS mission, after 3 years of monthly stipends at UCLA, I had a few thousand dollars saved up that I put into an account.
So I had all this money saved up, but for what?
After my mission, I transferred to BYU for my last year of playing basketball. The monthly stipend wasn’t as much, but again, I was always looking for ways to save. I remember canceling a trip to Brazil at the last minute because I was scared to spend the money on it.
In our married life, we haven’t spent much money at all on ourselves. When Preston was in law school, we successfully went a whole year without EVER eating out or buying clothes. (Which I’m actually pretty proud of, because how many people can say that?!).
But cancer has a funny way of shifting your thinking.
When reality struck of my terminal diagnosis, the first thing Preston and I said to each other was, “Well, I guess we better go on that Mediterranean cruise now.”
So why does it take my impending death to force us to do something we have always REALLY wanted to do? Why aren’t we creating more opportunities to enjoy life, instead of waiting until we have all our ducks in a row? What are we saving for? What are we waiting for?
Now, I know what you’re answer may be. I can already hear that voice in your head…
KEEP THE EXCUSES COMING.
TRUST ME, I KNOW THEM ALL.
Cancer has taught me that if you want to do something, the only thing in your way is YOU!
Stop with the excuses and get busy living!
Recently, my cancer friend said something that has become my motto, “Money is nothing. Living life is everything.”
Now I’m not saying go out there and spend a ton of money on lavish vacations, fancy cars, and twenty new outfits. What I am saying is, don’t let money run your life. Find ways to create memories within a reasonable spending amount. For example, when Preston was in law school, we didn’t have money. I had just lost my houses, from before our marriage, to foreclosure and short sale. Preston was never paid for his externships during law school. And I mostly stayed at home with the kids. We didn’t have money to spend. So instead of going out to dinner and to the movies for dates, we did things that we couldn’t do with kids and that didn’t cost money. We played racquetball at the rec center, we played frisbee golf, we practiced our putting skills at the campus golf course, and one time, I even ran him through a bunch of basketball drills at the gym. (That might be my favorite date ever!). At a time in our lives when we had no money, we still found ways within our limited budget to create memories and have fun together.
It has dawned on me over the past year that I have been saving money my whole life. But for what?! At what point do I enjoy the fruits of my labors. If I save money my whole life and never use it, what would be the point of that? We have been saving money for a while to buy a house for our family. So once we purchase the house, will I stop saving? Or will I find something else to save for, thus, never enjoying the money I saved? At what point does it stop? Looking back at my experience at UCLA, I missed out on a lot of opportunities to develop stronger relationships with my friends all because I didn’t want to spend the money. But was it worth it? Was eating cereal at home by myself worth the $15 I was saving at night? I realize there are some people who are the opposite of me: they spend more than they have and are therefore, in debt. But for those of us who are penny pinchers, I think it would be beneficial to take a hard look at ourselves, and ask, “Am I missing out on opportunities to create memories and traditions with loved ones, just so I can save up for something that’s probably not that important anyway?” I know I am guilty of this.
I now look for opportunities to create memories. If it costs money or time or anything else, I ask myself that question. Is the experience worth it? More often than not, my answer is yes. And so far, I haven’t regretted anything. (Except for the Dole Whip at Disneyland that my Hawaiian sister in law told me to get. Because, it’s just pineapple ice cream. What’s the big deal? Those Hawaiians though. They love their pineapple.)
For Christmas, my present to Preston was a bunch of date nights I purchased on Groupon. Archery tag, a mystery theatre dinner, a night of painting, gokart racing. I bought these partially to solve the never ending question of what to do for date nights, but more importantly, to create memories together. The fun I will have with my husband will far outweigh the money I spent on these date nights. The memories are worth it. My husband is worth it.
We also decided to splurge this past Christmas by staying at the Homestead Resort in Midway, Utah. We swam in a geothermal hot spring, watched the creation of the Ice Castles, went on a sleigh ride to the North Pole, played games with friends, and went sledding. To offset the costs of purchasing these memories, we got the kids’ Christmas gifts at a thrift store. (Because our kids are young and we rarely buy things for them, they don’t quite know the difference between used or new. Plus they are still at the DESTROY EVERYTHING stage. So buying new things for them kind of feels like putting cash in the trash can.)
For Fletcher’s birthday, we rode a train in Heber Valley, Utah. We also gave him a train set that we inherited from a friend. The train set will soon be forgotten and given to someone else. But I’ll never forget his excitement to board the Heber Creeper.
We plan to continue this tradition for holidays and birthdays by buying experiences, instead of things. Maybe you don’t agree with this theology. And that’s fine. I just know that when it’s my time to go, I want my kids to remember the adventures we went on, and not the things I bought them. Because the things, no matter how much I give them, will be forgotten.
Oh, and trust me, the $15 you save by eating cereal at home by yourself is not worth the friendships you’ll miss out on. (Unless, it’s Reese’s Puffs. Then you might have to reconsider.)