Determine Your Own Financial Path

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The end result is financial responsibility. How we get there can differ from those around us.

Map of North America.

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Imagine that you are going on a trip across the continent of North America. You start in San Diego and you zigzag your way across the South. You curve up the Eastern seaboard, you cut back across through the Northern States and then take a right in Seattle and head north into Canada. You hop and skip across Canada and find yourself in Nova Scotia. There you catch a plane and zip back to California.

A life’s accomplishment

You’d have accomplished an amazing feat. You’d have seen so much country and met so many people. You’d have journeyed the trip of a lifetime.

You get home and you share your experience with some friends over coffee. After looking at some photos, an interesting conversation takes place.

One of them asks, “So how did you get from Seattle to Vancouver?”

YOU: Oh, well, we took a train. It was great, we….

One: Yes, but don’t you know it would have been better if you had taken the bus? The bus would have been so much cheaper. You didn’t take the train the whole time, did you? Because taking the train just really doesn’t make sense. There are much better ways to travel.

If this conversation happened after you had taken the trip of a lifetime, your jaw would be on the floor, would it not?

This, THIS is how we sometimes treat each other when we question each other’s spending. 

Meet Joe.

A drawing of Joe and his take-out coffee.

Joe is a hard-working guy.

  • Joe is living a debt-free lifestyle, creating a budget every month, and assessing expenses carefully before he makes financial decisions.
  • Joe has no car loans and paid his student loans off three years ago.
  • Joe volunteers his time at the local soup kitchen and sponsors a child in the Third World.
  • Joe works overtime and puts that money toward building his assets.

Folks criticize him because he treats himself to a daily coffee at Starbucks. Folks tell him he’s being unwise for not using coupons when he grocery shops. Folks raise an eyebrow when he drives to work instead of taking the daily commuter train to work.

Seriously? Folks need to get a life.

Sometimes we need to get a life. We make assumptions about other people. We see their spending and assume we know all the where’s and what for’s. Sometimes those assumptions are right. But, not always.

Get going in the right direction.

Joe is certainly not perfect. But, he’s going in the right direction. He’s working hard and sharing what he has. He’s acting responsibly given the life and circumstances that he has. He’s doing okay.

Let’s remember that the destinations are what matters. Did you make the journey of a lifetime, being financially responsible, and have someone tell you you should be spending less on groceries. Well, that’s not really the point,  is it?

We share our experiences so that folks can come alongside us, to support and encourage us. We share our experiences so that we can learn from one another. Unfortunately, we think we can get up in other people’s business and think we know better.

Got your savings goal? Got a plan to get and keep your finances in order? Know where you want to go?

Then choose your own mode of transportation to get you there. And feel good about it.

Enjoy the journey.

How do YOU determine your financial path?

Tell us about a splurge or a way in which others misunderstand your financial choices. How do you deal with it?

This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link. But better yet, chat with us in the comments.

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  1. Thank you so much for this post-I needed to hear it! I am proud of we’re we are financially, but that pride does not have to translate into criticism of how other people get there. Conviction is a good thing. I have some “Joes” to apologize to.

  2. So true. This world seems to be full of competitive money experts who always could have done much better. This is the main reason I avoid talking about money with people I know: a) they might make me feel like an idiot, b) I might make other people feel like an idiot. There is always a loser out there. Thanks god for all the personal finances blogs out there, they are personal stories, without the bragging/competition factor.

  3. We’ve been to Disney World quite a few times in the past 3 yrs. It felt good to save up and then be able to go and enjoy ourselves. It was hard for me to relax and splurge on us whenever we already have so much and this trip was just a fun thing. The other day we sat down to watch the video that my husband put together of our trips and I just started to cry. My baby just turned 4. He was so little in that video. And my other kids were giddy over meeting characters and riding roller coasters. Those days are gone. They went by so fast. I know we had lots of fun memories at home. But I’m oh so thankful, that we were able to go and make some memories there.

    1. I love seeing your videos. Rest. Enjoy those memories. Life is a roller coaster.

  4. I always get a chuckle in retrospect at a neighbor’s kid who was haughtily telling me on a regular basis that her mom wouldn’t buy gogurt (I used it for lunchboxes way back when–frozen defrosted for lunchtime). Although I detested the coloring and stuff, I opted for that over the box of Twinkies the girl and her siblings downed in a single day after school. **rolls eyes** (I was pleased to see some gogurt now comes without as much junk in them but since I’ve weaned the boys to greek yogurt, I’m not going back). 😉

  5. I spend our money on organic food. Most people say its too expensive but are cars are paid off, have money set aside for kids college, we all wear hand me downs, etc. each family has to decide where they thinks its worth it to splurge. No two families are alike!!!

  6. SO true!

    Now that we are debt free (except for the house), we are planning a vacation to Italy this summer. We have lot’s of reasons for doing this particular splurge now (airline miles, several years without a vacation, grandparents who are willing to watch our tot, etc etc), but I think some friends and family are really shocked that their frugal friends are splurging on such a luxury. My biggest hope is that if people really want to know why, they just ask us rather than making assumptions or judgments! It’s also a good reminder to me because I have definitely been the one making the judgments on other choices before :).

  7. You make such a great point here. We really don’t know anyone’s full story, we only assume things based on what we see in front of our noses. I want to try to spend my time asking questions and learning something from others rather than always assuming I have “the right answer” for everything, and it’s certainly something I can improve on!

  8. I’m about to go splurge on a latte at a local coffee shop (no Starbucks here) on my way to a grocery shopping trip that I’m not really excited about the potential size of the bill. I have to restock and buy some out-of-the-ordinary things for the Superbowl. Go 9ers!

  9. We have a large family (7dc). The most commen comment we get is: “wow I can’t imagine your grocery bill!”
    Then I tell them what we spend per week and they are instantly amazed (sometimes upset) that we spend the same or less than they do.
    We have been through 2 job losses and 1 job change in the past 3years. We were blessed to have an emergency fund to see us through, but now we are tapped out & have to build again. It’s actually quite exciting! I know that sounds crazy but when we put on our frugal mindset everything tastes better or is more fun, simply because we really know the value!
    Being frugal allows us to see the “joy in the ordinary”.
    I can’t judge others, and their decisions anymore, because I am too busy trying to make it thriugh my own life lol! I love getting older because my rough edges get smoother 😉

  10. This is so interesting to me – where I live it’s the exact opposite. “What do you mean you won’t go to Starbucks?” The judgement is never about spending, but always about NOT spending. Sure wish people would just mind their own financial business.

  11. Yep, we all have our opinions about how other people ought to do things. “Letting” them do what God calls them to do and supporting them in this can be a big deal to us.

    Partly I think it’s because we want to be helpful. But as my husband often says: unasked for help is often not appreciated. Another part is probably because we want our own choices to be validated. And finally, we may be envious of that Starbucks coffee or whatever. I think it helps to figure out what makes us want to tell others what to do, so we can decide how to deal with that tendency.

    And isn’t it wonderful to have kids? For quite a few years it’s our JOB to tell them what to do and how to do it. We can plan their path for at least a dozen years, to some extent for even longer! That should get it out of our systems for the rest of our lives. LOL

    1. I think part of the challenge is to really be in relationship with the other person before we pipe up. If we don’t know their habits and priorities, we can’t offer advice in a helpful way. Some people do need to be shook up, but I think we can only do it when we know what’s up.

  12. Have you been reading the comments on my blog this week? 🙂

    I think that everyone (myself included) wanted to help the reader who spent $500 on a birthday party for a one-year-old. I hope she understood that.

    But oh, yes, lots of suggestions! There were many people commenting. I commented myself more than once . . .or twice, even. I may not have, had she not suggested that I would have the same bills . . . .

    Your note about commenting follows the same topic as this particular blog post.

    We choose differently. If a $500 party if one person’s splurge, so be it. I know it isn’t mine (which is why I said something when she said it would be mine) but I use disposable diapers, and that shocks some of my readers . I’m squeamish like that. Sure, I could have passed them down by now (and they would be worn through by now). At the same time, I’m so grateful to have a large family in an age where disposable diapers is an option. I already do 22 loads of laundry a week.

    I have expensive tastes, and I know that I do. I live frugally to make ends meet. One day, when our finances are different,I will take that trip of a lifetime, too. Like you, I want to take my children with me (across the ocean!) I like to dream big. I plan to pay cash and enjoy every moment!

    1. Ha! No, I haven’t read the comments, but I can only imagine. We all have different priorities, don’t we?

  13. If you took a right at Seattle and flew from Nova Scotia to California, you’d miss the best state! What about Oregon? Oh, wait…not my road trip, not my critique!

    Anyway, I love this post! There are things we do that make others cringe or lecture. There are things others do that make us cringe or lecture.

    We spend a little extra once a year to stay at a nice hotel for an event we attend annually instead of staying at a more economical hotel. We love the hotel. They support the organization we’re part of. They have an AMAZING breakfast buffet. It might cost us $150 extra once a year, but we’re happy. If it’s in the budget, no big deal!

    I also splurge once a month to have someone else wax all the little black hairs off my upper lip and chin…but shhh! I didn’t tell you all that!

  14. I’m careful with our budget, make many foods from scratch, and bring my lunch to work most days. But I also get a massage every month. I am worth it!

  15. what a wise thought. Totally resonates with the book I’m reading right now: All the Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam. Totally recommend. Love the artwork, btw. 🙂

    1. I got that book from the library, but haven’t started it yet. Interesting.