We all have stress in our lives. Much of it comes from things we can’t control. We have trouble at work, someone we love gets sick or dies, our kid has problems in school, or we have too many things to do and not enough time. With all the stressful events in our lives, why would we intentionally cause ourselves more stress? Yet this is exactly what we do when we live above our means.
It always amazes me when I see someone in the throes of planning a vacation, planning a wedding, buying a home, or some other expensive activity who is completely stressed out because of the money. These things can be stressful from a logistical standpoint, for sure. However, you compound the stress when the vacation or home is something you really can’t afford. Not only are you trying to plan this stressful event, you’re also trying to figure out how to pay for it. It’s stressful to try to cut the rest of your budget to accommodate the thing you can’t afford. It’s stressful to take a second job to make more money. It’s stressful to worry about whether or not the credit card can take another charge. It’s stressful when you pay for a vacation and the roof starts to leak the next day, but now all your money has gone to the travel agent. The stress of the event is nothing compared to the stress that results when you can’t really pay for it. Why add on to the stress of travel or wedding plans by making plans you can’t afford?
We stress ourselves on smaller scales every day, too. We decide to buy that $300 purse instead of putting the money in our much neglected emergency fund. Then when the car breaks down and needs a $300 repair, we stress out because we don’t have the money. We spend $150 eating dinner out five nights a week and then stress out when it’s time to pay the $150 electric bill. On and on we go, causing ourselves unnecessary stress by spending money we don’t really have. Then when we need that money, we stress because it isn’t there; it’s been frittered away on other things.
Money is stressful enough without living above your means. It’s stressful to earn money. It can be stressful to figure out how to invest it and to create a budget. It can be stressful when you and your partner have different ideas about how money should be spent. Money can be stressful when an emergency strikes and you are un- or under-prepared. There’s no need to make money stress worse by planning everyday activities and buying things that you cannot afford.
We all complain that we have too much stress in our lives. We all want to lower our stress levels and have smoother sailing. There are a lot of stressful things we cannot control. However, we can control some of our money stress simply by getting smarter about how we spend our money. When you don’t have the money to pay for a lavish vacation or wedding, plan something smaller or go without. You’re just as married if you’re married at the courthouse versus a $100,000 princess wedding. A camping vacation near home can be just as relaxing as the Caribbean cruise. And it may be less stressful overall to just stay home. If you have to have the lavish affair, save for it. Once you have the money, the planning and the event are far less stressful.
Don’t spend all your money on things you don’t need. Save some of it for things you do need. Then you won’t stress when the roof leaks or the car breaks down. Think about what life would be like if you didn’t freak out when your kid has to get a $100 prescription or you could handle a $300 car repair with ease. The underlying conditions (sick kid, broken car) would still be stressful, but your stress would not be compounded by worrying about where the money is coming from since you spent your last $300 on a new cell phone you didn’t need but really wanted. The world is stressful enough without our adding to it with our stupidity. Don’t bring more stress upon yourself by constantly spending more than you can afford.