For almost a year now I have been writing about a variety of topics regarding personal finance. I have discussed how I got here (Part I, II, and III), investing tips, embarrassing financial mistakes, and a variety of other subjects. I also read a lot of other people’s blogs and personal finance stories to draw inspiration, learn lessons, and also what not to do. When I started this blog it was primarily about sharing my personal finance journey with the hope that people wouldn’t make the same mistakes I did. Also, it seems people in my profession (education) never really talk about money that much. We are supposed to love our jobs and not do it for the money. And while I love my job and I don’t think I will retire anytime soon, it is still a job. I have other things in my life beside it. If it went away tomorrow I would be sad, but hopefully I could adjust.
Anyway, this big review is just a long way of saying that as I write about things on this blog and read others I learn a lot about myself financially. I reflect a lot on where I have been and where I am going. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, but for the most part I try to gain life lessons.
One of the lessons I have been thinking about lately is how I think about money. And I am not talking about the investing side of things, etc, but really the production and distribution of money for me personally. My ultimate conclusion has been that I need to see my money being PRODUCTIVE. In other words, it has to do something that will gain me something tangible, something I can use, or generate future wealth.
For example, a few months ago I lamented the fact that I spent $300 at Target. A bunch of the comments were basically “give yourself a break.” It is ok to spend $300 at Target or another place. And those comments weren’t necessarily wrong, but I wondered why I kick myself for spending that much money. What is the big deal? I mean yes I have plenty of debt and the like, but I am paying it off. I make pretty good money. I have pretty healthy investments. I have a house. Most importantly, I have a wife that I love more than anything. What is the big deal?
Based upon that incident and others I realize that I have to see my money do something. With the Target example we were bought a lot of things that I just didn’t think were that important. Some of them were home decor items, others were groceries or whatever. But in all of that thinking I lamented the fact that I thought there wasn’t a lot in there that was productive. When I pay off debt I can see the progress. When I buy food I know I will use it to fuel my body. When I invest in the stock market I know that later on it will most likely create more wealth. All of those things I have no real problem with. I am more than happy to spend money on those items (although I could curtail my food budget….god knows I need to eat healthier and lose weight).
For some of you reading this isn’t a big revelation, but for me, it puts a specific finger on why I get angry or upset or mad at myself for buying certain items. If I don’t use those items or can do them for less money I get kick myself a bit. Yes, I know I have to learn to enjoy things a bit more, but for me to get maximum joy out of money I need to see it be productive.
Maybe that is why I have never been able to really have an emergency fund. I liquidated it and really didn’t think twice about it. Now I think it was a good thing because I was able to pay the IRS and some other debts, but thinking about emergency funds in the future I know that I need one, but I am thinking I am going to have to rethink how that works. Maybe I have to put my emergency fund into some kind of investment and only keep a little bit of extra cash on hand. Because it kind of pains me to think about having thousands of dollars in the bank doing nothing. Even though I know it is an insurance policy I want to see it be productive.
This post hasn’t led to any great change of my behavior or anything like that. I have just realized that as I blog I come to understand my financial behaviors a lot more than I did a few years ago. Anybody else have this kind of feeling? You need to see your money “do-something”?