Financial Decisions: How to Make Day-to-Day Choices Count
Financial decisions are rarely about money alone. In the big picture, they’re about priorities: How much value are you putting on cash compared the many of other forces that shape life? Is the bottom line everything, or are you willing to spend a little more money to save time?
The answers aren’t the same for everyone, and they will change over time. The dilemmas arise for big things like cutting costs today so you have money for retirement. But it’s also behind all the choices you make to stay on budget. It’s important to ask yourself: What matters most?
Here are three ways of weighing the financial decisions we all face at different times:
Money vs. Time
There’s a stage in life when your budget is so tight that cutting costs is everything. And everyone has been there — or will be. These are the days when you take all forms of public transportation. And get your friends to help move you from one cramped apartment to the next. But it won’t always be that way.
As you progress in a career and increase your responsibilities, your salary will grow — and you will wave goodbye to your free time. You’ll be making a name for yourself at the office, and your home life will be nonexistent. And as you progress even further in life, your responsibilities to others will increase, as well — be that to a partner or children or your aging parents.
With the right planning, you’ll be able to use your hard-earned nest egg to give yourself a cushion when you need to spend money on conveniences to get more done. You’ll know the game has changed when you hire movers or take the faster route to work, even though it’s more expensive.
Money vs. Pride
There are times when attending someone’s wedding will result in serious credit card debt. There are nights when your friends are going somewhere that you can’t afford.
I can’t tell you what to do in every case, but I can tell you to think about the choice. Do what makes sense without screaming to all your friends “I’m poor!”
Did you see Bridesmaids? It only winds up in trouble.
If you can’t afford something that is really important to you, then go for it. But make sure you don’t regret it. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or find ways to cut costs. The key is to not look back. If you’re going to accept the expense, then do so and enjoy the event.
And remember: Life is long and full of surprises. Your friends may be making bank now while you’re broke, but the tables could turn in short order.
Money vs. Karma
Did you skip out on tipping? Pretend you didn’t see the collection plate? Lie to a cashier about an item’s price? Come on. In the words of Freddy Benson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, “It is better to be truthful and good than to not.”
Of course, that was coming from a thief. But the point was that he knew better. And when you make choices that weigh on you because you wanted to save a few bucks, that’s a lousy feeling. Do the right thing, even if it means a few more dollars. A clear conscious is priceless.
Further Reading: Check out these tips for giving to charity without spending money.