Money Isn’t Everything

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Being Frugal and saving money is generally always the preferred choice. Week after week, I write articles to help you figure out how to make every dollar travel a bit further so you can retire just that much earlier.

And it’s not just me either. If you keep up with all the articles circulating the web, you will definitely get the impression that saving money makes sense at all times, every time.

Yet, there were moments in my life when saving money wasn’t the right choice. I remember years ago when I was flying back to attend my grandfather’s funeral. Airline tickets were very expensive, as the event was so sudden and I had to leave on short notice.

That funeral fell on a Saturday too. I could’ve saved money if I left the night before but the chances of flight delays was just not worth the extra savings. Making the event was priceless, so unless the difference in airplane fares were so much that I couldn’t afford the cost, there was no way I would try to save money and risk missing the chance to see my grandfather one last time.

What About Spending More to Live Larger?

Okay, I know deciding to spend extra to attend a funeral of a loved one is a fairly easy choice to make, but what if it’s to improve our standard of living?

When is it appropriate to spend more money to live in a nicer place? I recently moved to a new home, and the decision was straightforward because my finances are on a very solid footing.

But I remember being much more unsure of a similar decision when Emma and I were about to get married. I remember how I’ve asked myself that question countless times after living on my own a few years prior to that.

Here’s what I wrote back then.

After much discussion with my soon-to-be wife, we finally decided to move out of our current one-bedroom apartment once Emma and I get married. In reality, we would like to move before our big day but we felt that it would be easier for our mental health to space out the stress.

Currently, I live in a one-bedroom apartment with a monthly rent of $1045 USD. Although the landlord increased our rent significantly from $920 less than one year ago, it is still much lower than similarly sized units in the area. Everything would be great if only I actually liked living in this place.

Unfortunately, much of the reason why I picked the city and apartment complex I live in is because of the cost. For months now, I keep trying to convince myself that living in a place I’m not totally comfortable in is worth it because I’m able to save more money.

As a result, my mood and also health has suffered. From trying to stay away from the apartment as much as possible to splurging to make myself happier, I have managed to save much less than expected by living in my current place.

After looking at just one other apartment, I was convinced I needed to move. Although this represents a huge increase in monthly expenses, I believe that Emma and I will come out ahead in the long run because I will be much happier living in a nicer place and it will free my mind to earn more money than the amount that we can save.

It doesn’t come cheap though, as we need to spend $813 a month more to move. We fully understand the weight of spending that much more money each month. However, I feel that there are times in life when money should be spent and this is one of them.

Think about this for a second. Everybody makes money decisions all the time, but do you let cost alone drive your decision? $813 was close to an 80% increase in what I paid for a place to stay, so moving wasn’t an easy decision to make.

Luckily, I was indeed happier being at the new apartment, and that indirectly contributed to ultimately being able to provide us with a comfortable life all these years.

If I chose not to move, may not have become a business because my mental energy was focused on how miserable my living situation was. If you take money too seriously, you might sometimes make some awful choices.

Step back and decide for yourself whether money is always the number one priority. If the answer is yes, then examine if you’ve given up too much for those extra dollars in your bank account.

You might find that saving money is worth the trade-off, but you might also find that there are many other wonderful reasons to spend money. Hopefully, you will find the right answer for yourself.

Sometimes, The Savings Aren’t Even Worth the Effort

I was in the shower the other day thinking about simple water conservation methods and whether they save us money or not. More specifically, I was thinking about those low flow shower head that many people talk about.

The benefit seemed obvious – less water equals less money spent. The problem though is that a quick search on the web revealed the savings to be about $1 a month. This isn’t going to change anybody’s financial life around, so we didn’t change them out because buying a bunch of new showerheads cost money too.

Then I started thinking some more. Are there other places where Emma and I spend more because we think the savings there aren’t worth it? I list a few below:

  1. Groceries – We tend to buy higher quality products. Organic milk, omega-3 eggs are now common in my house. They definitely cost more, but we are willing to pay more for them if it helps us stay healthier. We always clip coupons and wait for sales but if we really needed to, we rather eat less of it to keep the grocery bills the same.
  2. Vitamins and supplements – Actually, it’s everything that’s health-related. We generally don’t worry too much about the fact that these (water filters, prescriptions, eye-care) can become quite expensive because without health, money is without meaning.
  3. Safety – While we don’t own expensive and exotic cars, we definitely do whatever we can to keep up with the maintenance of our vehicles. We don’t skip maintenance because the peace of mind is worth it for us.
  4. Monitor – I have a higher-end 24″ monitor that helps reduce eye strain and while part of the reason why I own one was because of my love for expensive gadgets, I also wanted to save myself from going blind.

    I look at the monitor for more than 10 hours a day and my eyes used to be so tired every evening. Since my purchase, my eyes feel more rested.

  5. Mattress – I’ve been thinking about getting those Tempurpedic memory foam mattress forever now. They are expensive (actually, ultra-expensive), but I have a pillow made from that company and it improved the quality of my sleep ten-fold. If it can further improve our ability to rest and recoup our energy, then sleeping on a really cheap mattress doesn’t make sense even if it was free.

Spending more money

The list goes on, but here are some of the immediate ones that popped into my mind.

Ironically, I was thinking about possibly switching out my shower head to a high pressured one a few weeks ago. It all started when I tried one the other day at my friend’s house after a round of golf. For whatever reason, the high water pressure felt good. Instantly, I wanted it, but that’s a topic for another day.

Making More Isn’t Always the Right Choice Either

No matter how wealthy we are, it means nothing if we aren’t healthy. Many people, including myself, work so hard at our jobs. We miss lunches and sometimes sleep just to advance our careers a little more. We work late on weekdays and on weekends because we think we can make more money that way. Although I can tell you first hand that the financial reward is there, our health definitely suffers.

Whether it’s the extra stress we put on our bodies or the lack of healthy food we consume, it takes a toll on our bodies over time. When we are young, we don’t feel it but we are slowly and surely paying for it with our body. We might end up being rich, but we are more likely to end up being sick.

By overworking, we are also likely neglecting our family and friends. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day. Knowingly or not, we are constantly deciding how best to use our time every minute of the day. When we are working, we won’t have time for anything or anyone else.

My family, for instance, decided when I was growing up that my dad should work in Hong Kong while the rest of us immigrated to Canada. Consequently, I spent most of my teenage years away from my dad. The separation was hard for me, but I bet it was much harder for my father since he was the one making the most sacrifice by living alone in Hong Kong.

I’m sure our family’s financial situation improved because of the decision made years ago, but we no doubt traded many potential family memories for the extra dollar signs in the family piggy bank.

On this blog, we discuss ways to achieve financial freedom. But if we are sick, our finances are one of the last things we think about. When my grandfather was sick, I was lucky enough to go see him before he passed away.

I only got to visit him for a few days while he was in the hospital though because I was already working in the US while he was being treated in Canada. No gold would’ve made him happy then. It was our love that he longed for, and to this day I wished I was there to be with him more on his last journey.

The economy could be collapsing before our eyes, and making ends meet is probably at the top of your mind right now. But I want you to think about your actions next time you get to work a little more.

Is making money worth getting yourself, or your family sick?

What is truly important to you? Money is a lot of things, but money isn’t everything.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Workaholic says:

    I am guilty of working too much. Even during the pandemic, I’m going to the office every day and putting in 12 hour days. I justify it by having a huge house for my family.

    I’m not even sure my family misses me either because my kids always look for mom whenever anything goes wrong. I feel like an outsider sometimes. I’m providing but I doubt my kids know.

    Thanks for the reminder. Money definitely isn’t everything. The balance is something I need to figure out on my own.

    • David @ says:

      I remember my wife’s former boss once told her how his daughter made him really sad when she said “welcome to our home”. He felt like he was traveling so much that his daughter thinks he’s not part of their “home” by welcoming him inside.

      I felt at the time that he was reading too much into it, but being gone because of work is something many of us struggle with.

      Are you going into the office because you own your own business? If so, then being a boss means you can set your own hours. Don’t kid yourself to think that you actually “have to” work that many hours. It’s all just about priorities. What’s important to you?

  • Beau W. says:

    Quality of life is more important than the money. I could make more money going back to my old line of work but I would be losing the benefits and security of the job I have now. And it’s less stressful and doesn’t take toll on the body.

  • Michelle Kun says:

    Sorry to hear about your grandpa. It’s often too late by the time people realize that money isn’t everything. My wish for you is to do better from now on so that you won’t have any more regrets.

    • David @ says:

      Thank you Michelle.

      I definitely need to do better from now on. Family first, every time!

  • Rene says:

    I had a girlfriend, gal-pal, and companion ( who just passed away ) whose health was in crisis since 2007. She and her husband were financially comfortable, with him being a former engineering department head of Smith’s/GE industries. She had been a college professor. All he worshiped was his fame, power, prestige and of course money. He worked long hours, weekends and also spent many hours thinking about work when home. However, because of his living up to being an Engineer, he lost his wife’s affections and need of him other than the great health insurance and yearly salary.

    By the time they both were 34, she no longer liked him or loved him as a wife should. She cut him off from all sexual-physical contact, with no kissing or other contact as well. She kicked him out the bed, and he had to sleep in the second bedroom alone. He was as emasculated as a man could become. Yet, he continued to call her “his angel”!?

    But he had his money intact because he insisted they couldn’t divorce. She stuck with it because of appearances ( for him ) and a teenage daughter. She busied herself with her girlfriends and me. Her health suffered because he was a bully, for he is a mental and verbal abuser. He never ever would apologize or say he was sorry for his in-artful insensitive way of talking to her or her friends ( me ) which was often. She had tried for years to make him aware of his less than stellar personality. It didn’t matter. In his mind, he was greater than God, rich, powerful and in charge.

    He’d sit at his computer daily checking all of his/their investments and gleefully rubbed his hand together as he saw his dividends and interests accrue. Money was/is his God. It is what he worships. He has no real friends, and all of his past colleagues despised him. His daughter lives on the East coast where she too is a money grubber and not very likable. He lives in Michigan. He too has many health issues and is over weight and out of shape. He is 70 yrs. old. But now, he’ll have all of his Bags o’ Money for just himself. Interestingly, he is telling people he is still a great catch! He is woman shopping via his bridge circle. God help us all.

    To some people, nothing else matters in life but a fat bank account. Sickening.

  • ProJabber says:

    Even I believe that worst part in chasing money is that you miss-out so much of precious family time 🙁

  • Jenny says:

    I realized this after I got sick, and couldn’t work, made me realized that all the money in the world wouldn’t make me happy.

  • Marcellino Lopez says:

    You’re right-money is not everything-it’s the ONLY thing.

    • Paul says:

      Money is nothing. Just a means of purchasing what you need. If what you need (as opposed to want) is covered by your income then do you NEED squillions of dollars?

      Happiest people I know are content with what they have, don’t glorify money for money’s sake. Some are quite wealthy… most are on modest incomes.

      Unhappiest people I know are always trying to make more and more money and to hell with everybody else. They pretend they are happy but little things slip out that prove otherwise.

  • Andrew @ Financial Services says:

    So true. I used to be a sucker for overtime. It came to the point where nothing made me happier than to see my savings grow leaps and bounds. It grew alright, up to the point where I got burnt out. Almost half of my savings went to medication.

    Health is indeed equivalent to wealth. Our family could have saved up a lot of cash today had we not been spending on my dad’s diabetes treatment.

    To your grandpa’s speedy recovery…

  • The Digerati Life says:

    I know first-hand how it is to be in your grandfather’s situation. I haven’t yet talked about it (and maybe someday I will) but I’ve been in his position a couple of times because of health problems I can completely attribute to a stressful lifestyle.

  • Fiscal Musings says:

    It’s always good to be reminded of what’s really important in life.

  • Money Blue Book says:

    Hi Dave,

    I understand what you’re going through. My grandfather was very sick and ultimately passed away recently and it threw my financial life plans into a spin for a while. Luckily I was able to pull through and things are better now. Good luck

  • Modern Worker says:

    Indeed, one of the worthwhile goals in life is to keep things in perspective all the time (as taught in Buddhist study). Striking that balance between relationships and material goods can prove to be a lifelong lesson which continually evolves.

    I can tell you care deeply about your family David 🙂

  • Jude says:

    Sorry to hear about your grand dad. The striking balance that juggles between work, health and family time isn’t really easy and I’m glad you’re that kind of person David.

    Take good care.

  • verena says:

    Amen. My father always says “If you have your have your health, you have everything. “

  • Brencan says:

    Almost 3 years ago I sat at my Father’s bedside thru the nite with my 2 brothers and 2 sisters waiting for him to take his last breath. At 4 something in the morning I realized that we were really the ones that mattered to him most and the one thing he gave us (that was MOST appreciated) was his time. I have 4 kids age 18 to 6 … I coach every one of their sports, never miss an audition and kiss them to bed every night.

    Hopefully, some here will pause to reflect on their desire to acheive financial freedom, like it says on the banner up top “… because the little things matter …”. In my case its my kids that matter the most.

    Sorry about your grandfather and I hope he pulls thru. You seem to be realizing your health is important, but so is quality time with those you love most.

  • Double Journey says:

    So true. I recently wrote a post about what it meant to me to have a good life. I made it very clear that none of it was possible without your friends and families. It’s times like that really highlight that.

  • David says:

    My thoughts are with you…

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