Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What I Really Want

The other I blogged about mulling over tossing out the budget for a month to plan a getaway weekend with my husband. We've decided to go ahead with our escape plans, although instead of 3 nights and 4 days, we'll opt for 2 nights, 3 days away, and then enjoy an extra day and night at home.

We're waiting on a new schedule of doctor's appointments before we book, but we're ready to take the plunge into some much-needed time away, despite the budget impact.

As we were discussing and planning, I got to wondering - can you periodically put your goals aside for immediate fun - even if your financial goals involve doing something pretty impressively expensive, like funding a downshift in 10 years? And if not, how do you know?

One could argue that, if a two nights in a bed and breakfast and a few restaurant meals destroy all hope of our being able to downshift, then we're probably in trouble in the first place. But I can't imagine this will be the only time that we consider a little 'up front' fun instead of long-term savings. So I mulling over how I might go about figuring this out.

The pure numbers approach doesn't so much appeal to me. Sure, I could sit here and figure out that for every $500.00 of unplanned expenses, if we saved instead of spent the money, assuming a certain rate of growth, would come out to X. But I tend to see that as fuzzy math - because it's an assumption of growth. No one knows what the markets are going to do, although they do historically grow. And there's a huge distinction between putting that $500 in a CD earning 3%, and in a mutual fund that earns 8%.

And it's not clear to me that money would have been invested for the long term. There is several ways that money might have been used: we would have either put the money towards a savings goal, or towards another, planned, more immediate goal.

That said, it can be assured that spending the $500 means that we'll lose out any potential earnings.

So there's that piece. The other piece is guessing whether our income will sufficiently make up for the shortfall. I can, and do, forecast the budget out several years, but that's not a guarantee of earnings by any means.

I realized that I needed to figure out what we really want to get from this time away - what it was worth to us in non-financial benefits, before I could even begin to calculate the financial impact.

So I thought about that for a bit - and the answer surprised me. Not only did I want rest, but was worn out by worries about our tomorrows, and how to make our tomorrow goals work. I wanted to get away from tomorrow, and live in the moment. I wanted to be able to make decisions no more pressing than what to have for dinner for a while.

I realize that I have over-planned our budget, and at the same time, I was unable to make almost any plans for our time.

We are in limbo, schedule-wise for several weeks of each month due to our medical appointments, and with some work travel planned for, but unscheduled, we have found ourselves able sometimes only to plan out a few days or a week at a time. We don't know when we'll have a child - every month I shift the budget forecast forward a month to accomodate a maternity leave, childcare costs, and other baby-related costs. But we have to keep assuming it will happen, and keep marching to our goals, without the definition of knowing when those plans will come to pass.

Living like that can take it's toll. And it has.

Knowing that if we stayed home the whole weekend, chores and projects would invade our relaxation, the decision to get away is, for right now, the best one we could make. Our mental health is worth the cost.

Eventually, I hope downshifting and early retirement will eliminate this need to escape, to get away, in order to relax. In the meantime, I'm slowly acknowledging that it is necessary for us to periodically get away from our responsibilities, both domestic and work. Isolation from planned time and to-do lists is essential.

The process of sitting down and defining what I truly wanted from this weekend away was enlightening to me. It made it clear that this was a good spend, and that if needed, other money could be shifted around to accomodate our mid and long term goals.

I'm still working out the impact of our decision to our future plans, but now I know that the price tag is worth it.


Jessica said...

I agree. While making your future top priority is important, doing it to the exclusion of living today isn't a good thing. And the occasional breaks not only help keep your sanity from disappearing, but help make all the saving and planning worth it.

Anonymous said...

I strongly believe that vacations are important. My mom told me that her grandfather used to say "what good is money if you can't enjoy it?" But it's also important to save.

We put aside a small percentage (5%) of every check that comes to us into a separate savings account for vacations only, and we only go on vacations when we have money in that account to pay for it. And when we're on vacation, we use that money for incidentals, like dinners out, souveniers, etc.

It's one approach...

Ms.Moneypenny said...

We too, save for vacations - although we use an amount, rather than a percent. Unfortunately do to project timelines slipping at work, our planned September vacation may be cancelled or rescheduled - so a weekend getaway is truly an unplanned expense. I think it's smart to save to get away - as you say - what good is money if you can't enjoy it.