It’s no secret that saving money, paying off debt, and earning extra income are some of my priorities. I’m fortunate to be in a relationship where Mr. P shares the same values. We certainly haven’t always been on the same page financially, but tying the knot and blending bank accounts certainly helped us work towards aligning our goals. At least, I thought it did.
Yesterday morning, I received a flurry of apologetic texts from Mr. P right as I shrugged off my coat and plopped down to my desk at work. It wasn’t even 7 am. What in the world prompted an apology? Turns out, Mr. P forgot his lunch.
In an effort to save money, be more efficient with our time, and eat more healthfully, we both bring our lunch to work every day. I’ve even mastered the art of politely dodging lunch dates without being racked with guilt. We estimate that we save between $200-$400 each month by bringing food from home.
After Mr. P texted me that a granola bar would be his lunch (and breakfast and a snack), I got nervous. Did he forget his wallet? Did he lose it? Maybe that’s why he was so upset. So I picked up the phone and dialed.
It turns out that he was going to try to subsist on a Kashi bar or two for nine hours not because he had no money or no time to grab food. Instead, he said he knew how much we’ve been trying to save money this past year. He didn’t want to disappointment me or delay our goals. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.
After a few attempts at pointing out how ridiculous he sounded, I told him either he could go out for food or I would arrange to have lunch delivered*. Before we hung up, he was pondering the possibility of picking up a side hustle to make extra money.
In the past year, we’ve been so determined to save money that we’ve fine-tuned a lot of strategies. But this same laser-like focus also seems to be a lesson in how not to save money. By becoming so hyper-focused on savings, we’ve lost perspective on a few key details.
Money is not the only thing that matters. Financial literacy and savings are vital. But so are health, happiness, relationships, and so many other things. If tasked with skipping nine hours worth of nutrition, I would devolve from cranky and irritable to light-headed and shaky. None of those are ideal situations for working, especially when you work with other humans. Mr. P doesn’t show the signs of hangry quite like I do, but still. The fact that I had somehow managed to underscore the importance of money to such a degree that Mr. P was willing to make this kind of sacrifice made it abundantly clear that the real goof was in the mindset, not the forgotten sandwich.
It’s only money. Is life easier with money? Exponentially so. Money opens doors and gifts us with opportunities. But in the grand scheme of life, I want my legacy to extend beyond whether I paid off my mortgage in 10 years or 15 years…or 10 years and a day because, you know, it’s only five or ten dollars. Money is a tool. We exchange money to obtain goods, to meet our needs, to fulfill our wants, and to help others. Spending money to buy a fast-food lunch once certainly isn’t going to prevent us from fulfilling our debt-repayment obligations or gifting charitable donations this month.
Stuff happens. Prepare for it, deal with it, and move on. We have an ample emergency fund. We have additional savings on top that. We even set aside a certain amount of “mad money”* each month. Sure, it would have been more fun to take the $10 and put it towards seeing a movie, grabbing a meal out, or having a drink with friends. But so what? The whole reason behind budgeting for unknown expenses and preparing for unexpected circumstances is to have money when situations come up. No one should feel guilty for using those funds. That’s what they’re there for.
Part of why my goals for this year are to move beyond such a singular focus on money is because I’ve had an inkling that this was happening. I don’t want to think about money all the time. I don’t want it to be the driving factor behind every decision. I want to get back to purposeful living. I want to cultivate ways to trust myself and Mr. P to continue to be smart about money, but not overly consumed by it. That seems to be a much smarter way to save.
*Another lesson from Grandma.
**And it would have extra vegetables. His faaaaaaavorite.
So Tell Me…Have you ever found yourself lunch-less and felt Mr. P’s anxiety? Have you ever taken a goal too far?