More Money Is Not The Problem—Or The Solution

We were on vacation with some old friends—the best kind—over 4th of July weekend. Our kids span the decades, from just-turned-four to preparing for senior year, and as such our conversation was rich and varied:

What is Snapchat anyway? When should a kid get their own cell phone? Should we go rock climbing? Are Star Wars legos better than Minecraft legos? The virtues of a big breakfast vs. a light breakfast. What was the story with the Donner party again? How long should you wait before you text back a teenage boy? The future of the Republican party?

And then, of course, it came back to budgeting.


Tim (OK, his name isn’t really Tim, but it rhymes with Tim. Oh, fine, it’s Jim. Love you Jim!) is a nurse and an Officer in the Air Force Reserves. He works super hard and provides well for his family, but they always feel like they are scrambling to get ahead.

They use YNAB, so I’m always trying to figure out where the breakdown is.

Jim and Heather are planning a trip to Hawaii for the end of the year, and I heard Jim say several times, “Oh, I can pick up an extra shift to pay for that.” And it clicked.

Jim doesn’t think of his money as finite.

No More Excuses—Your Money Is Finite

Without this feeling of scarcity, it’s easy to avoid making hard decisions. You don’t have to prioritize between A and B, you can do both! And deal with it later!

Except, then you are always working, working, working to keep up. Without the discipline of having a finite amount of money to work with, and being accountable for every dollar, you can be hand-wavy about it. And hand-wavy a good budget does not make.

My sense is that Jim feels like he works way too hard, to have to say, “No,” to something he wants. But I think he works way too hard to be stressed about money.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but by enforcing limits, and having to truly prioritize, there is freedom, and peace of mind, and money in the bank. These are all good things.

Embrace The Scarcity

So, Jim—and anyone out there avoiding the tough choices—I challenge you to embrace the scarcity. Remember that saying no to something, is really just creating the space to say yes to something else, hopefully, something much more important to you.

What would it look like if you couldn’t pick up any extra shifts for the next month? How would you spend differently? How would you save differently? How would you prioritize differently?

My bet is that your choices would be different. And that you would sleep better and start the following month feeling better about your finances. Also, you would be working less, which is also a win for you and your family.

Make The Tough Calls

The moral of the story is no matter how many extra shifts you can pick up, your money is still finite. Your money is always finite. Treat it with respect and consider your true priorities (and true expenses) before you give every dollar a job. You will have to make tough calls and it will feel great.

(Jim, if you actually read this blog, I will take you out to dinner! One less tough choice!)