Balance in a Teeter Totter World
During my Boot Camp time, I came across some good advice. I came across some expected advice. I also came across some advice that out and out felt wrong.
It was on a blog post, one of those bulleted types of posts: "Ten Things To Do Every Day In Your Frugal Life", sorts of things. And yes, that is a made up title so if you do a search and find a blog post so titled then please understand that is NOT the blog post I am citing.
On this particular post, there was plenty of the expected stuff: stop buying coffee shop coffees, stop eating out, cook meals at home... Yeah, yeah, yeah. But tucked in among those was the statement that you should go online and check your bank account balance every single day first thing in the morning, perhaps even more than once a day. Everything in me rose up and screamed 'NO!'
John and I are a bit smitten when it comes to certain movies, like "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory". There's one scene that absolutely floors me with the spot on wisdom written into it. The scene where Charlie finds the last golden ticket and after showing it to his family tells them he's going to sell it. A woman has offered him a lot of money and the family is desperately poor. They could most certainly use it. His Grandpa George says to him: "There's plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket, there's only five of them in the whole world, and that's all there's ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?"
The family is dirt poor, are scrabbling hard and losing by yards every day but Grandpa George has not lost sight of fact: money is not the be all and end all in the world. Experiences count far more than dollars in a lifetime. Of course, Charlie keeps his golden ticket and his life changes as a result, although it's a slow change.
I love today's technology in many ways but it also has it's problems. There was a day and time where you kept up with your bank balance by keeping track of what you were spending in your check register or by the cash left in your pocket. A bank statement arrived once a month and you confirmed your balance using the handy little form on the back of the statement, adding in any additional deposits, subtracting outstanding checks which had not yet arrived at the bank from the total and voila, your balance. If you happened to be the sort to live life on the foolish side you'd overdraw and the bank sent you a lovely little reminder that you'd drawn on insufficient funds and told you the price you'd pay for such silliness. The mafia had better rates...No offense to the bank, mind you. It wasn't their fault you'd overspent. I personally think to overdraw an account on purpose is akin to stealing. Mistakes happen, true, but as a supervisor once told me, to make the same mistake over and over again is stupidity in action.
All that to say, you SHOULD always know about what you have in the bank. And you should check it now and again during a month's time to insure you haven't forgotten some transaction, especially if you happen to live rather close to the edge of having some money and no money. That's being smart. But checking your balance every day, and most especially several times a day, is only going to lead to an obsession. While you might well need to balance your check book you need even more to live your life in a balanced way. There is nothing more fragile than a money obsessed individual.
I sometimes find myself out of balance here on the blog, and occasionally even in my life, when I've spent too much time focusing only on saving money, how to save money, how to cut expenses, etc. But there's a reason why I have those Iced Tea/Coffee Chats and In My Home This Week posts sprinkled in amongst the ones on savings: it's to remind you, and myself, that there is a life to be lived, there are things to do, places to go, people to spend time with, things that are still to be discovered. I can save every single coin and dollar that comes my way, but if that is all my life is focused upon then I'm unbalanced.
I'm not telling you it's an easy thing to find that balance. I don't work hard at saving funds simply because it's fun though I do admit to finding it a sort of creative outlet. I have to save where I can in order to keep up with an inflationary rate I have absolutely no control over. BUT I also know there are savings I'll forgo because it means giving up time sitting on my front porch with my husband, time with a good book, or focusing on some other aspect of homemaking that brings me joy...I know which is the most important of the many things on my plate! So yes, it's worthwhile to learn to find that right balance for you and your household where savings and budget and overall quality of life happily meet.
Until the day I awake to find the ship really did come in and it was loaded with funds, I'll be aware of about what we have in the bank, about how much of it is funds meant to be spent and how much of it is there for emergencies. I won't however, be obsessively checking my balance, fretting over every penny that is not there the next day. I'll check in periodically to be sure things look right. I think that is only wise. For the rest of my time however, I'll be busy in my home, enjoying my life and doing the very best I can to live a full life that isn't focused solely upon my bank balance but instead is well balanced overall.