Next week, I’m going away to church camp as a counselor. Yesterday, I went shopping for camp supplies with my wife and my daughter. While they were looking for shorts in JC Penny, I walked to the other end of the mall, looking for a new printer for our home. My old printer, which has served me faithfully for almost a decade, is sadly incompatible with Vista, the operating system on my new laptop. Following my own $100-a-day-rule, I researched the new printer for a week, and decided to go with a Lexmark All-In-One. I wanted a printer that could fax / scan / copy / and print – and since my “office” is now the baby’s room, I needed a compact machine that could be set up on the kitchen counter and print documents wirelessly from my home network. (For those interested, I went with the Lexmark X9575. It’s a nice machine and I am really digging it’s wireless functionality.)
I also purchased a new router for my home network. My daughter now has my old laptop (connected to an external monitor) and I wanted to be able to network all of our computers. Now, we can all share the Internet connection and the printer. (My daughter has a webkinz pet. Have you heard of this? The people behind this idea are geniuses. Sell a $1 toy for $15 – add in a few online games – and boom – you’re rich! Amazing…)
Over the past three years, I’ve learned a lot about myself -
I do a pretty good job of saving money. (I pay myself first, last and all along the way…) But, I’m not particularly frugal. I still like “stuff”. So, I’ve managed to create a budget that allows me to both save and spend. Being debt free allows me the option to do both. I can save a good portion of my income, in taxable and non-taxable accounts, and I can still have enough left over to buy some nice things. I don’t go overboard with my spending – and I never buy anything for which I have not budgeted – but I do enjoy having a few gadgets and gizmos.
When I talk to my friends about living on a budget – and saving for the future – they always assume that I’m missing out on the fun things in life. On the contrary, I’m enjoying my life now, more than ever. I have a plan. I’m sticking to the plan. And, as part of the plan, I have some discretionary spending.
My wife and I talk about this all of the time. Instead of new cars, we’ll drive used ones. Instead of name brand foods, we’ll eat generic. But, we’ll also go on vacations, send our kids to camps, and buy nice things for the new baby. I don’t even pretend to be “Mr. Frugal”. I’d say that I’m frugal 50% of the time, practical 49% of the time, and foolhardy 1% of the time. I guess that’s not so bad!
My goal is to live a life of balance. I enjoy saving money – but I also enjoy spending it. In the past, I spent with out care or thought. Now, I still spend, but I do so only within the confines of a well-developed plan. By planning for the occasional splurge, I can feel good about the purchases that I make, knowing that I am also responsible with my savings and retirement contributions.
(By the way, I use You Need A Budget to manage our household finances.)
What about you? Have you found balance? Are you a saver or a spender? Both? I’d love to read your comments. Please note, comments take a few minutes to appear. Please be patient.