When it comes to personal finance advice, there is a lot of advice that focuses on ways to cut costs and seeing how your money could be used elsewhere. The most widely used example is what would happen if you gave up your daily latte and invested that money. Using $5 for the price of the coffee and a modest return rate of 8%, you would have $228,130 in 30 years. The main goal of the example is to demonstrate how compounding interest works and how your choices can affect your future savings.
I’m going to turn this example on its head a little.
While is all well and good to talk about how giving things up can have a positive effect on your financial life, it’s also worthwhile to talk about how giving up things in your life can also have a negative impact. For example, that daily latte can mean so much more than just the actual enjoyment of the beverage (especially on a cold day!). You may build a rapport with the staff at your local shop. There may be regular customers that you see every day and stop to take time to engage in a few minutes. Suddenly you are putting a price on healthy human interaction.
But you may argue that there are many people that simply order their latte via a mobile app and swiftly walk in and out of the coffee shop. Or better yet, just pull through the drive thru – no need to even get out of the car! In this case, there is no additional benefit gained from spending money on a latte. It is simply an expense for a daily food item for which you are paying a premium price.
This response is exactly why you must take a critical look at your own spending to determine what is important to you at the time. And while I am a proponent of slashing as many expenses as possible when getting out of debt you also should ask: is this expense worth suspending to reach my goal? It may be that the expense you are looking at does not make much of an impact in your forward momentum; however, that particular expense may bring about joy that keeps you sane during your intense debt payoff.
One of the biggest mistakes I made with my debt payoff journey is one of my biggest weaknesses – an all-or-nothing mentality. I tend to want to do it all in or not even bother at all. While that mindset may be great at the beginning of a journey or project, it certainly does not allow for sustainable motivation. The same is true for your debt payoff journey or your investment plan. There are ways to accomplish both without having to give up all the joys of life. As Paula Pant from the blog Afford Anything states, “You can afford anything…but not everything.” You have to be the one who decides what is the most important to you and what you are willing to give up.
It’s worth your while to look at your discretionary expenses and ask yourself “Am I really getting the joy and happiness I want out of the experience I am paying for?” If not, then you may want to consider cutting those expenses out as a win for your budget. But if the expense brings about true value to your life, true human connection, for example, then the expense may be worth paying for, even during your debt payoff journey. After all, it does us no good to go through life cutting every expense out of our lives only to have it pass by without experiencing the many simple, inexpensive joys life can offer.