Last week I posted a thread on the Bigger Pockets forum about my woes with unhealthy money management. I am very frugal and love to collect money, and diligently track my finances with mint.com. I am saving up for the downpayment of my next investment property, with the goal of financial freedom for my family. I currently have a great W2 job that allows me save about $2000 a month (about 40% of my take home pay). I know this frugal lifestyle is a great blessing, and I can thank my real estate investor parents for instilling such fiscal responsibility; but I would like to get over the guilt of spending money (whether necessary like a flat tire emergency, or for fun like a family vacation or nice dinner, or just a gift for a friend). I feel distraught when I don’t reach my monthly savings goal, but as one reader asked, what actually happens when I don’t make my goal? Uh. Nothing. Absolutely nothing happens. I just save less, but continue to save something.
The readers were great in offering me perspective from the side of a free spirited spender, to commiserating with me and congratulating me on my frugality, to suggesting books, tools, website and resources, and sharing cool money stories from their own lives. There were lots of great tips and suggestions and different points of views that have helped me rethink my relationship with money. Here is what I got out of the conversation and some of the biggest points relevant to my situation, how I plan to transform my internal dialog with money and spending, and what my budget will look like going forward.
1. Money is a tool. Or the cliche’ “you have to spend money to make money.” However you look at it, money does no good as a money collection. I will continue to save and have an investment property goal, but I can also get to my goal by spending some money on networking and relationships. Spending $50 a month on a networking event might put me $10,000 ahead in real estate with the relationship that bring me a good deal. Limited thinking with my money today will only limit the exposure to life, relationships, learning, and more. Study up some Grant Cardone for more of this view. I am very fortunate to not be poor and to be able to save, so I need to be a good steward of my money, as I have the power to use it to bring more beauty and happiness into the world today. Not when I’m dead, but only now do I have the power to do great things with my money.
My favorite forum story was about a real estate agent spending money on a gift for his wife at his local jewelry store. He deliberately picked a local, family business to spend his money, and also walked away with two referrals of people looking to buy property. He suggested making the most of connecting with people during all situations, even the silly $100 doctor appointment. Finding value in relationships and people was a key point in the forum discussion, and I need to remember that relationships are invaluable and making connections can be worth more than any dollar amount.
2. Spending money can be fun and increase happiness. A lot of people suggested that I force myself to spend money with a fun fund. I will have to put this as a line item in mint, but I will increase my dining out, entertainment, and fun line items (and maybe even some good ol’ shopping for myself!). Knowing that I have money set aside for these expenses will help me be more relaxed about spending the money. I am also going to increase the gift pot. I know I can be stingy spending money on other people, but I am going to give myself a new $200-$300 a month budget for gifts, including charity and donations. I am actually looking forward to the freedom to spend money on others.
3. Personal goals and my why. People asked me why am I saving and why don’t I spend money. There is a little guilt left over from my childhood when I spend “too much,” but I also just feel like saving is my number one priority. Well, that’s going to shift soon when this baby boy arrives in February. Yes, I am saving up for maternity leave and our house renovation, and those should take priority over saving for a future investment property. I realize that it is time for me to shift my goals. The original savings goal was made when I was young and single. Now life is different and my focus is my new family.
Going forward, my budget is going to change. From all this discussion, ideas, and shift in mentality, my budget is going to look different. Substantial savings is going on hold, and it’s going to be okay. I have created more line items for fun, date nights, vacations, and gifts. I am going to have a baby, I am going to spend more money. The rest of the money I have (whatever unset amount that is), will be used towards our home - the home where we will live together as a family. Family is the new priority. I had this goal to buy one investment property a year, and that will not happen in 2017, it’s not the priority. Maybe in four years I’ll get a fourplex and make up for all these years, but for now, I have changed my thinking and have found freedom. I will continue to keep up with real estate and always look at the markets and analyze the next deal, but I know that my time, resources, and money will be for my family first.