You may have heard that old saying that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s indifference. Sometimes two ideas seem to be at complete odds with each other when they’re actually two sides of the same coin. Sometimes people think there are only two options – you either love or hate something – without realizing that there are other, perhaps better, alternatives.
Are you a Spender or a Saver?
In the same way, when people think about personal finance, their minds tend to go to one of two extremes as the only paths to take.
On one end, there is the shopaholic who’s never found a sale she didn’t like. The spender has no idea what she owns or what she wants. She keeps spending because no matter how much she buys, she is always left wanting. The perfect sweater, the newest jeans, a pair of shoes for every outfit. Her house is full but she never feels satisfied; she is always looking for something else.
On the other is the miser who pinches every single penny. The scrooge saves as her life’s calling but still fears that whatever she saves won’t be enough. She cuts necessities to the bone and rejects anything fun or generous. Charing her dinner guests for food. Neglecting friends in need. She finds excuses to avoid giving gifts. The scrooge’s house is empty and so is her life.
The Third Option
People often think the purpose of personal finance is to turn the spender into a saver. However, neither of these scenarios is ideal. The spender lives like there is no future and the saver lives like there is no present. Though the two extremes are different – they share a common trait that makes both these lives undesirable.
Neither have figured out when they have enough.
Knowing what is enough would enable the spender to see that she already owns enough clothes to last through several lifetimes. She has more cookery than Martha Stewart knows what to do with and her home was submitted to Hoarders International. New purchases just make her home more cluttered and her wallet lighter. She doesn’t need new purchases so much as to appreciate what she already has.
Knowing what is enough would enable the scrooge to find a reasonable savings goal for financial security rather than endlessly saving. Once the scrooge meets these goals, she could use some money to enjoy her life and to give back. Only then will the Scrooge finally be living a life of abundance rather than perpetual fear.
The Only Financial Lesson You Need
Those that have enough realize that money is merely a tool – it is not the end goal. Money should be used to make our lives easier and better. Our lives should neither be devoted to earning money nor enslaved to the debt caused by its lack. The ideal is not necessarily to have millions of dollars or millions of things but to feel that whatever we have, that we live abundantly. So the goal of personal finance is not to become a spender or a saver – the point is to find your “enough” and use money to get or stay there.
The definition of enough will vary with each individual’s desires and circumstances. No one amount of money or one lifestyle can suit everyone. If you’re a spender, you can keep shopping and if you’re a saver, you can keep a suitable amount in a bank account. You don’t have to change your whole personality in order to meet a personal finance writer’s definition of success. Personal finance is just that – personal.
What Happens If You Find Your Enough
Both sides need to know the endpoint. The spenders need to know when to stop and the savers need to know when to start. And both sides need to know when to quit – when to give up the rat race and retire. If you don’t have a clear end goal, then you could be chasing money for the rest of your life and never feel like you’ve made it.
Enough can mean a wealthy retirement abroad. It can mean spending time with friends and family. But if you don’t have an endpoint, you’ll spend your money chasing all number of possibilities – a new house, fancy car, designer clothing. If you don’t have a purpose for your money, it’ll find a purpose for itself. And you might not like where you end up. You have to first figure out and then focus on your end goal – and then you’ll be able to aim your desires and energies there.
Do you know when you’ll have enough?