As I was reflecting on some of the things we did that were radically frugal, I realized there were times we went too far. These are some of the things I’d change about my frugal ways if I had it to do all over again.
I’ve made some big financial mistakes in my life, some of which I regret more than others. Many people I speak with say they wish they had started saving earlier or invested more. Others wish they’d bought a smaller house or paid for a pre-owned car with cash instead of buying new. My regrets are beyond these. There are times I look back where I wish I had a better balance between saving for the future and living in the now. My regrets lie in the times I chose not to do something or go somewhere in the quest to save more and spend less.
Recently we asked our school age kids, “If you could change one thing about our family, what would you change?” Their answer both surprised and humbled us.
They said, “We wish we could spend more time as a family doing fun stuff together.”
When we asked, “What kind of fun stuff?”, we expected them to say, “Disney!”.
Instead they said, “You know, swimming and skating and stuff. Maybe we could go out to the movies and THEN go out for dinner, on the same night!” Had we been so concerned about funding our future retirement and their RESPs that we forgot to have fun?
Brian and I stayed up late that night talking. We decided we needed bring more balance to our lives, even if it meant reaching our financial destination a few years later then planned. We wanted to budget in fun money every month and enjoy doing things as a family and as a couple even if there was a financial sacrifice. Our kids are only young once. They may not remember the stuff they had but they will remember the time we spend with them.
It’s healthy to spend money occasionally. I’m not advocating spending money we don’t have. I am advocating budgeting money for experiences. I don’t need more stuff. I enjoy living a simple life. What I fear is arriving at our financial destination, looking back and realizing how much fun we missed.
I share these regrets with you here so that when you are faced with the same choices in your future, you can learn from my mistakes. I wish I had joined my family at the movies instead of staying back to save the $10. I wish we’d adopted a dog when the kids were younger and not worried so much about another bill to pay. I wish we’d gone to more concerts, seen more plays, visited more museums and gone out for dinner and a movie on the same night. I wish we’d gone swimming and skating, to baseball games and on a yearly holiday, even if it was just to somewhere local. I wish we had been willing to invest more in the times that create memories and had been less focused on the financial cost.
We’ve changed a lot of our ways in the last few months. We may be very frugal in some areas of our life but we’re done with being stingy when it comes time to spending time as a family.
What are some of your financial regrets?
Kathryn works in public relations and training for a non profit. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Her passions include personal finance and adult education. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.