My priorities cause financial anxiety

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 31, 2016, 11:40 PM | comments: 0

One of the goals of our post-Seattle financial makeover was to eliminate as much debt as possible and have a respectable savings situation. I'm glad we achieved that, because God knows moving back to Cleveland sure wasn't a great idea. There aren't many grownup things I'm particularly proud of, but turning it around is on the list. I suppose it wasn't that big of a miracle, getting down to one housing payment while maintaining income, but after carrying various levels of revolving debt for around 17 years, it was a big deal to me.

As I've mentioned before, this swing has also made me cash-obsessed. I still use revolving credit (a lot), but I always pay it off. I also have to remind myself that because long-term credit is so cheap, it doesn't make sense to throw too much cash into things when your money works harder elsewhere. Finding a sweet spot to target with our house, and even the car, took some restraint. It just seems like the right thing though to have liquid cash, ready to go if it's needed for an emergency, and I keep these arbitrary targets in mind that I feel like I have to meet. I'm not even sure what the targets are supposed to protect me from.

Those targets cause me anxiety, because for the last six months we haven't really moved toward them. We're in a great place in terms of conventional wisdom, and I'm still putting money away via 401k, but I imagine better. We haven't reached "better" mostly because of our priorities. Sure, part of it was buying that silly car, but we have also placed travel very high on our priority list, and it's not cheap. Last fall we decided it was time to go to a new place, and Alaska (via cruise) was at the top of the list. The cruise itself was only about double the 3-day excursions we had been making, but pile on the airfare and activities in the various ports, and it's certainly the most expensive vacation I've ever taken. (To be fair, it does include three people instead of two.)

Again, priorities matter. We don't spend a lot of money on "stuff," but we'll spend quite liberally on doing things to create fantastic experiences. Heck, even the EV, which is technically "stuff," has led to a lot of great experiences. I've been accused of being "rich," but I'm far from it. We just make deliberate choices about how we prioritize the income we have. I wish my 20-something self would have understood this, because I think I would have had a very different, more interesting life.

On the plus side, the vacation, since most of it had to be paid for well in advance, is already paid-off. The airfare hit in last month's cycle. At this point, we will be able to take the trip and not have to think about paying for it. No more anxiety.


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