In our household we refer to big issues as “dragons” and our solutions to them as “slaying” said dragons. Corny, I know. It’s a legacy from when the kids were little and learning to cope with everyday problems that every kid goes through and has to learn mastery over. Potty training? Dragon slaying the toilet. Tying shoes? Dragon slaying shoelaces. Big giant school project that seems pointless to me yet requires parental participation to get it done? Dragon slaying with a touch of hiding mommy’s bad attitude. Anyway, you get the idea.
The big fire-breather in our household the past couple of years has been finding financial balance. While I have worked hard to earn extra money to fund our expensive household projects, vacations, and funding what seems like our underfunded retirement, I have managed to lose sight of the bigger picture goals. It has seemed for so long that we were so far behind on retirement savings that we needed to actively save every possible penny to avoid a cat-food based existence in our older and grayer years. Every household enhancement has been an exercise is dreaming, planning, anxiety, and worry about funding versus quality. I read about frugality and fear M and I crossing the invisible line between being conscientious spenders living within their means to cheapskate skinflints.
At my core I am a reasonable live-and-let-live sort of person and strive to not judge others for their choices. That said, being frugal has become almost a competitive sport, and if you are not a baggie-rinsing, pricebook-compiling frugalista you are obviously a spendthrift who has no future – kill yourself now and save the taxpayers the burden of funding your old age. This week I have read several posts basically wondering where the judgment comes from, why the harsh comments for those who make different choices about their life and lifestyles. While these posts related to personal finance type blogs, the same statements, same standards could be applied to nearly every blog I read regularly.
Reading about personal finance has had a profound influence upon me, most of it highly positive. I have gained a lot of ideas for cutting costs with apps for stores I shop at regularly and being more efficient in my shopping. Recipes, bulk cooking, ingredient substitutions, food shopping – blogs and blogging have introduced me to all sorts of new ideas that M and I are eagerly testing and including in our food prep repertoire. We are not yet to the point of vegetable gardening – or rather, M is not yet to the point of vegetable gardening (I hate the smell of dirt and am freaked out by the tomato worms) – but I can see that being a natural progression in the next few years. Finding the time with so many other priorities competing for his attention right now makes it impractical to try this year.
The downside of following personal finance news and blogs related to that is the prevailing “sky is falling!” tone and dire warnings about financial markets and savings rates for the average person. Since we have been part of that low-savings rate for more than 50% of our adult lives it resonates. The urgency is real, and I have done a lot to bridge the gap between hardly any retirement savings to being closer to having a comfortable amount in retirement savings. After my conversation with our new advisor guy yesterday, I feel more confident that we are not only saving enough, we should be pretty well positioned when my full-time job days fade away.
All this stuff … as I noted the current dragon residing in my head relates to balance. I do not want to become a money hoarder; I want to have experiences and things that fit our value system now as well as into the future. Which is probably the most important thing in balance: decisions in line with our values.
Everyone is different with respect to priorities and values, and those differences should be respected and embraced, not criticized and demeaned. I know I am never going to be the most frugal person on my block; I hesitate to even associate the word “frugal” with me and how I manage our budget. I also know I am happily married and seemingly have little in common with others who are single, divorced/divorcing, dating, having affairs, gay, etc. But I follow a fair amount of blogs related to such topics, because those writers are sharing stories that educate or enlighten me somehow or I have experiences which relate. My point here is that there should be room for everyone – to read, to learn, to share without fear of judgment or the weight of other viewpoints. I receive my own little slice of negative comments and feedback disagreeing with my point of view. I have no issue publishing disagreeable (to me) comments if they are objective and clear. Personal attacks or twisted misinterpretation of my words never see the light of day.
I feel fortunate, though, in that the vast majority of comments I receive are thoughtful and considerate. I am okay with agreeing to disagree, and it stings to hear that someone else knows how imperfect I am and is okay with objectively highlighting it. Because it’s said with the intent to help me, not because some troll out there get his/her jollies on smugly raking me over the coals to prove their worth.
My current dragon is small ball if compared with someone else with much bigger, thornier issues to tackle. But he’s living in my head. His name is Irving, the financial balance dragon. He is hugely annoying. Probably smokes the stinkiest cigars, gets drunk, loves being inappropriate with lady dragons when I am not looking. Okay, maybe I made up the part about the cigars, the drinking, and the inappropriate behavior, but he IS annoying. I will slay him soon enough. Someday.
Patience is not one of my virtues, but persistence is an evolving skill. I’ll get there.