Monday, March 24, 2008

The Price You Pay

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it well. Money often costs too much.

Have you ever stopped to ponder the price you pay for money? Sure, we all must make a living, but I know many a person who is a slave to the green. There are two things I see much of today: workaholism and laziness. There are few people who reside inbetween. It’s either all or nothing.

Workaholics usually have the worst health. They don’t sleep nearly enough, they don’t take time to eat three full meals a day, and when they do finally scarf down food, it usually lacks in nutrition. They sacrifice time with loved ones, leave their families feeling neglected and spouses feeling empty and unloved. All this work to support a lifestyle they can’t even enjoy.

Years ago, my husband told me, “I work so we can have nice things. I want you to have whatever you want.” He kept missing the point. What I really wanted more than anything else was his time. Wait, maybe I should be more specific. What I really wanted more than anything else was his genuine attention and quality time. What I was usually left with was an exhausted, cranky, irrate, unmotivated, snippy husband who had little energy left for lavishing me (or his children) with love and attention. I was tired of getting the crumbs.

In turn, I became dissatisfied. I felt unloved and abandoned. I felt as if I was a single parent. My children rarely saw their father. When he had a day off, he spent it catching up on sleep while the kids and I longed to get out of the house, to do something… anything.. as a family.

Most work places don’t care about your family. At the biggest breaking point in our marriage, my husband pleaded for his co-managers to fill in for him, and no one would. Yet, he was always there to help out when they needed it.

This is why so many marriages are in trouble. Husbands spend so much time working and little time nurturing their families. Their intentions are good, but ill-placed.

What suffered most in our situation was our relationship with God. My husband had no time for God. I would drag myself to church for the single purpose of getting myself (and my little ones) out of the house, but I still felt empty there. I was bitter and exhausted. I had little help with the children, little help around the house, and felt unappreciated. Instead of turning to God, I turned to others for comfort and advice. Definitely not a good idea.

So here’s what the picture look liked. My husband woke up early and came home late. I struggled through the routines of the day and the raising of my children without the support and assistance of my husband. Upon his return, I felt resentment boiling inside of me. He wanted intimacy, I wanted help, and at the end of the day, neither of us got what we really wanted.

Ultimately it was because we were a slave to money. Why? Well, we needed to pay for our apartment and necessities. We also needed to pay off debt. Then we also wanted a little extra to spend here and there. We weren’t getting richer. We were just getting poorer!

In this horrible rat race, we lost sight of God, our love for each other, and the reality of money. We were digging ourselves a deep, deep grave.

It took a complete collapse of our marriage to bring it all into view.

My husband gave notice at work a week before his week-long vacation. We moved out of a town that pulled us under. We moved away from people, places, and things that were damaging our marriage, our family, and our relationship with God.

We needed a big change, and we did it. Or God did it.

I’ve learned to love the simple life, and no, I don’t mean the reality show with Paris and Nicole. Sure, I still desire the pricier things in life, but I recognize these things will never satisfy. I would much rather spend time with my husband than have to sacrifice those moments so he can work to pay for something we don’t need.

Here’s a way to look at it. When I got my first job, someone told me, “Whenever you buy something, calculate how many hours you will have to work in order to purchase it. Is it worth that much of your time?”

This has been the best financial advice I ever received. Back then, I made about five bucks an hour (after taxes), so I had to work a lot to get what I really wanted. When I first moved away from home, I was paid about seven dollars (after taxes).

This meant I had to work 50 hours a month to pay rent for my small apartment, 20 hours to pay for groceries, 15 hours to pay for utilities, 7 hours to pay for my phone and internet, and around 10 hours for gas. (My car was paid off and my parents paid for insurance and my cellphone, which was for emergencies only.) There are 168 hours in a week. I worked an average of 35 hours per week. If I was frugal, I could pay my bills with about 100 hours a month. Therefore, I would have about 50 hours of money to spend how I saw fit. I usually saved half of it and spent the rest eating out. When my husband and I married, I still made the same amount of money. We rented a bigger apartment. His entire check went towards paying off his debts (which was quite a bit for a twenty-one-year-old), so I had to spend 28 more hours (in addition to the 50 hours I spent as a single) working for our apartment. FYI, we did not believe in tithing back then.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? (Or maybe it just confuses you.)

Point is, it’s great to have a habit of looking at how much TIME your possessions will cost you. I also think about this when I have the urge to speed. Is getting somewhere five minutes earlier worth a fine of about $200? How much of my husband’s time will that cost?

What is the REAL cost of that beautiful house, big screen television with extended cable, two nice vehicles, name-brand clothing, multiple computers, and fine furniture? What is the real cost of eating out several times a week, purchasing multiple monthly magazines, and that frothy Starbucks coffee you stop in for every morning? The small things add up.

And, what is the REAL cost of putting all of that on credit? What is the real cost of interest?

Is it time with your spouse, time with your children, time with God, time with friends, time to enjoy the luxuries you already have? Is it your sanity?

Just something to ponder.

The world has not yet learned the riches of frugality. [Cicero]
Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship! [Benjamin Franklin]

Money is a good servant but a terrible master. [Unknown]

1 comment:

Kristin@HomemakerAtHeart said...

I'm constantly {when shopping} thinking "how many hours do we have to work to pay for I really NEED it or do I just want it?"

It is very good advice.