From one thing to the next.


I was talking with a friend the other day about common everyday topics ( things like: sports, money, unicorns, etc), when we transitioned in to talking about home ownership. I told my friend Girl Ninja and I were planning to save pretty aggressively so we could have up to $100,000 to use for a down payment. I then said something like “Once we buy a house, I will finally relax be more free-spirited.” Haha, yea right!

While I was punching Sallie Mae in the face, I thought becoming debt free would release me from frugality. But then came a wedding and a honeymoon, and a move so I focused on saving up for those expenses. In this season of life, I’m all about saving for a huge down payment.

But, and this is a big but, I’m officially coming to terms with the fact that there will always be something. Once Girl Ninja and I finally do buy our first place, I’m sure we will find something else to save for. A remodel, a new car, or that spaceship I’ve always wanted….

Although this epiphany could be depressing, it was a much welcome reminder that I will never have it all together.  A reminder that I shouldn’t put off having fun today, so that I can have fun tomorrow. A reminder, that I sometimes lose sight of what’s important.

I obsess over a stupid goal (in this case saving up to buy a house), and allow that goal to distract me from a huge part of the personal finance puzzle…. Enjoying our money. Life would suck if all we ever did was save and spend, save and spend. Every now and again, living outside the budget is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Last time I checked, GN and I both like to have fun. So, while we will continue to work towards our goal of home ownership, we will also make a point to enjoy our journey through that process. I’ve currently promised her a “big” vacation every year we don’t have a kid. We are looking in to Mexico, Hawaii, and Brazil this summer 🙂

What is your current top financial goal? Do you allow it to distract you from contentment, like I do, sometimes? Where is the balance between healthy focus and super awkward awkwardness?

26 thoughts on “From one thing to the next.

  1. I was telling @StephTheBlogger yesterday that PF is about keeping things in perspective and consciously managing wants and needs responsibly while keeping in mind debt repayment, long-term goals, and near-term goals. It’s not about depriving yourself – it’s about managing those priorities in the way you’re most comfortable – and short term goals are an important part of that.

    That being said, I’m attempting to fully fund my Roth IRA and contribute 10% of my paycheck to my 401k this and next year, when I am on half-salary to attend grad school. In 2012, that would be… oh… about 25% of my gross pay. My friends say I’m nuts – that I shouldn’t worry about saving for retirement while I’m in grad school. But my gross pay, even at half salary, is higher than most of my fellow grad student stipends, so I think it’s doable. However, it does feel very constricting – I’m choosing not to fly home for Thanksgiving this year. I think it’s my perfectionist nature coming out now that I’m back in school. Obviously, I can’t take my own advice – not much balance here!

  2. I am a 25-year home-owner (In a cheaper region of the US) and after I bought my home I had friends telling me I should pay-down my mortgage and get debt-free — The logic was, you have an extra $400 dollars? Well since my mortgage is only earning $150ish of equity if I tossed $450 in — that would be like be like 3 extra payments– sure that’s true, but how would that -$450 a month hurt my quality of life? Plus my interest is so low and my mortgage is for so little — if I pay it down too fast I’ll lose my itemized deduction. Do I pay extra, Sure — but My financial goal right now? Get money for an international trip with the lady friend.

  3. At this point I as a single am choosing life experiences over possessions(i.e. house) even though I am saving well for retirement. I figure, buying a house will always lead to putting more money into a house, but a trip is a one time expenditure I can remember for a lifetime! Plus that lady(suzy ormand?) on tv said the biggest mistake people make is taking money out of their 401k’s for their house down payment. What do you think about that?

  4. i wouldnt consider mexico a “big” vacation. thats a cheap vacation that you can do with or without kids
    brazil & hawaii are good options but what about Europe – europe is great to explore without kids – spain, ireland, italy, etc.

    • I remember discussing my last trip to Rome with one of my old English profs, who with his wife has also written several Italian cookbooks, and I said I could easily see spending two weeks in Rome. “Two weeks?” said Professor M. “More like two lifetimes!”

  5. I have some pretty aggressive goals right now: paying down the first part of my mortgage, eliminating my student loan debt, increasing LT savings, and maxing out retirement funds–all while taking international vacations and making home improvements. Clearly, I want it all but before I come off sounding like a spoiled (and/or naive) brat, I work my a$$ off to make these things a simultaneous reality. So I say go for the vacations and periodic indulgences whenever they fit into your plan. If they don’t? Find a way to make them fit! 🙂

  6. Nice post Ninja. Recently s my girlfriend decided to take a trip for Florida next March so I have begun to look for ways to save up, like not buying a pair of new shoes when the current ones smell like a waste dump. I usually sit around with my green tinted visor and obsess over my budget, but this post put into perspective that I can enjoy myself responsibly with spending.

  7. Actually it is a thin line between obsession and focus. I keep my goals in front of me all the time to remind me what I am try to do. Is this obsessive or am I just staying focused/

  8. Right now our top goal is paying off some debt, mainly student loans, which as you know suck. I’m starting to come to the realization there will always be something else too. I think you have to find some kind of healthy balance between saving, spending and having fun. Don’t put off having fun for too long because you never know how much time you have left. You don’t want your whole life to be all work and no play right? A good estimate is be responsible 60 to 75% of the time, spending and saving, and have fun at least 25 to 40% of the time. I like your idea about going on a big vacation every year until you have kids, my husband and I have done the same and really enjoyed it. 🙂

  9. I used to always tell myself “After this semester”, “After I pay off this debt” etc., and then finally this year I decided to just go for it and start treating myself 🙂

  10. There’s always something new. When you buy a house you go into tax-nerd mode. And then with kids there is flexible spending account vs. tax deduction or credits to figure out, and college savings accounts, then when you think you’re zen, both cars will die while sending both kids somewhere expensive like Duke….you will never be through!!!

  11. Right now my biggest goal is building my emergency fund. It’s is scarily underfunded. After that, just building general funds for car repairs and travel expenses.

    Once I have a solid foundation, it’s time to attack my student loans with everything I’ve got… even if that means returning bottles and cans and using the money to pay down the principal, ha!

  12. My husband and I want to retire and live on sailboat by the time I am 40. Every month I check my spreadsheets and our investments and make sure we are on track. I am ridoc, but I have 3 spreadsheets to make sure I am not missing something. Right now, we are paying off his student loan. It is so exciting to check it after the payment has hit. It is so close to being paid off that I almost get giddy just thinking about it. I don’t feel like I am missing out on life by focusing on this goal. I am on an adventure!!

  13. Long term goals, retirement. Short term goals, a new house and a new car. I need cheaper, fun goals but they seem wasteful to me looking at my larger goals :/

  14. I totally understand your view of relaxing once you buy the house. I was exactly the same way. I wanted a house so bad, I almost felt like my life was in limbo. We took trips and had fun, but I really did everything I could to stretch our pennies and save for that goal. We finally did it (a few years ago), and it feels amazing. That longing I felt is gone, and hasn’t been replaced by anything else.

    Sure, there are other things, our cars are likely to need replacing soon, and we’d eventually like to do some remodeling, but there’s no urgency, no feeling like a “have not”. We have money set aside for the cars when it happens, and we’re comfortable with our emergency fund and long term savings, so we’ve totally “relaxed” and we’re having so much fun! I feel that if I hadn’t obsessed about it, it never would have happened. Sometimes, when the goal is just that big, a little obsession pays off.

  15. I use to be like that, all saving and no fun. That’s until I found balance. Even though I sometimes get knocked for buying certain things and claiming I have I have a handle on my money I’m fine with it. Yes I buy a lot of stuff and spend money on a lot places but I’m still saving some so balance….

  16. I’m recently debt free (as of June), so I went to South America for two weeks. My big goal is to have $5000 in an emergency fund by December, and then kick up my retirement contributions to 15% of my gross pay starting in january. However, my sister just had her first kid, so I have to fly to London at Christmas to meet my niece. I may stop in Paris too haha! I’ll still meet my $5000 EF goal though…I think!

    • I wish I had a good memory, that would make my vacations worth it to me. Pictures don’t do them justice either. I tend to prefer things that are more tangible than memories.

  17. If I had less fun 🙂 in the last ten years (and knew what I know now about saving/balance/goals), I would be more wealthier than I actually am today…does this make sense? I traveled quite a bit in the last five or six years…it was always that opportunity I couldn’t missed, you know how it goes. Well that’s all history now, have to start with today. Long term goal (longer than 10 yrs): early retirement. Medium term (5-10 yrs): develop multiple streams of income/side business; help pay off mom/dad’s mortgage. Short term: (1-5 yrs): save to buy a house; go to two overseas trips; got to replace my car soon too.

  18. Short term goal:
    – Clear my debts of $ 8,000 by next April (two months before I hit 30!)
    – Build emergency fund to $8,000.

    Long term goal:
    – Buy an apartment worth half a million by 2017 (when I turn 35)

    In the meantime I still budget money for travel (250/mth), retirement investment (800/mth) etc. so I can remember to still have fun!!!

  19. Always remember, debt freedom is not about deprivation, it’s about freedom to live your life without the constraints and bondage of debt holding you back. So make your goals and keep them sacred, but live life and enjoy it too!

    Keep the faith good Ninja, and remember:

    “When you help me with money, you help the world prosper.”- J.M. DuMont

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