Last week I took a day off of work in order to spend the day with my family. The plan was for us to eat breakfast on our back porch together, then head to the local zoo for a morning of walking and discovery. As you can imagine, my wife and I aren’t big spenders, but we do have a membership to the local zoo because we get a TON of value for the price (I believe it’s around $40/year), and with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old it’s a great way to spend a summer morning.
As we’re eating breakfast my younger sister calls me up. Her car is broken down on her way to work, in a part of town that she’d rather not be stranded in, and she’s looking for some help. Her car won’t start (after stopping to get some gas) and she doesn’t know what to do– which is what big brothers are for, right?
Not to toot my own horn but OF COURSE I said “I’ll be right there!” I care about my siblings and want the best for them. At the same time there was a tiny voice in my head saying “Howdy, Pilgrim… you know this is going to eat into the time you’ve taken off of work to spend with your wife and kids, right? And you’re going to drive about 20 extra miles to assist here, right? And there may be other expenses you don’t know about yet, right?” I’m not proud of those thoughts, but they did happen. I’d love to tell you that I always help folks out with no thought toward my own interests, but that would absolutely be a lie.
Responsibilities Are A Fact Of Life
As it turned out my wife, kids and I ended up spending 3 hours at that gas station, having to facilitate a new key being made for my sister’s car and a service guy come look at it and get the ignition switch to work, while my sister got herself to work (2 hours late). I paid the $43 in fees that she will probably reimburse me for, if she remembers, but no guarantee there.
I should note that my wife totally understands and agrees with us helping in this situation, which is already a big win for me because a lot of couples don’t see eye-to-eye on these kinds of family issues. But still, there’s that feeling between us that every time something like this happens (and since I am the oldest of 7 kids it does happen) we’re taking another small step away from one (or more) of our priorities, both for our time and our money.
We All Have Goals, Some Of Them Financial
Stepping back to the larger discussion, regarding what’s important in life, I have to continually ask myself the question “What are our financial goals for?” Because I can so easily get caught up in the means and lose sight of the end.
Everyone has interests in life that they feel are important. Priorities that have nothing to do with money. Some folks play good Samaritan, some volunteer, some work for a cause they feel strongly about. Incidentally, I volunteer at my local church, and there is definitely cost involved with that! At the same time it’s some of the most fulfilling work I could possibly do.
But I’ve already answered this question for myself: “What would I do with my time if money were no object?” Those are the kinds of things I’d like to do, and how I’d like to live my life. I’d love to look back on my life and see people helped, people encouraged, and causes that I believe in aided by my time and energy. Why should I sacrifice long-term goals for shorter-term financial goals, when these are the very things I’d like the freedom to do long-term?
I read a lot of financial gurus online, and there are all sorts out there. And I can definitely learn from all kinds of situations. But there are often folks out there that will preach financial independence, and even show you how they’ve arrived there themselves, then when I look closer I find out that I don’t have the same priorities that they do. Kids, family, and church are important to me, and I welcome the responsibilities that come along with those. I wouldn’t be able to facilitate those priorities very well by living in a remote town away from friends and family just for the cost of living (or biking ability), or by living a nomadic lifestyle where you don’t plug into the community.
Everyone is different, and it’s important for each of us to define our own financial goals and priorities. But even after that’s done, give yourself a little grace to follow what you believe in now, when necessary. I certainly won’t blame you! And you’ll be giving grace to those that need your help and encouragement at the same time, which is worth way more than money.