Families can shake stress by choosing one fun activity to invest in, and don’t worry about the rest of it.
Families; it’s time to find your ‘thing’.
For my family, it’s travel. Last month we dropped $5K on airfare. We have family overseas, and we are committed to (trying) to see them every year. All our annual leave and a big chunk of our cash gone in a few clicks of the mouse. I’ve got no pin ball machine in my man cave. I don’t even have a man cave! But, in a month, I’m going to see my peeps. In our family – that’s our ‘thing’.
So how do you work out what your family’s ‘thing’ is? Sit down with your significant other, decide on just a couple of things that your family loves (don’t bother asking your kids or you’ll just end up with a trampoline), and then commit your time and money to your ‘thing’. Forget what everyone else is spending their hard earned dollars on.
Different families have different ideas of what the ‘thing’ should be – from fishing poles to luxe beachside units. You may be committed to private school for your kids while the neighbour loves flashy new cars. The key is to pin it down, agree on it with yourself and your partner, and don’t look back.
See, here’s the thing: We all seem to have an expectation, or at least a desire, that we should ‘have it all’. We catch a glimpse of that family that’s headed to NZ, all decked out for skiing, and we feel bad that we are not doing the same for our kids.
Take a step back and you realise there are three possibilities here for how they are getting to the slopes:
- They are well-off and they are enjoying it. Good on them.
- They borrowed to pay for their ski trip. They will be paying it off (plus interest) for years; while the shiny gear they bought collects dust in their rented storage unit. (And, they are also paying for the storage unit with credit cards BTW).
- Skiing is their ‘thing’.
Yes, of course, every family is in a different financial position, but, (beware, I’m about to state the obvious) a lot of us are somewhere in the middle of the pack, give or take. Sure, we like to pretend we’ve got some secret recipe for making money in our sleep, but except for a very small number, we generally have a pre-defined limit on discretionary spending and how we use our free time. Without a ‘thing’ you could just end up wasting time and money and feeling generally dissatisfied.
Here are some tips to help you choose your ‘thing’:
- Ask, “What have we already started doing as a ‘thing’?” “Is it bringing us joy?” “What are the best times we’ve ever had as a family?”
- Choose one ‘thing’ to invest in and rent the rest of it. I’ve wanted a catamaran for years. Turns out you can rent a Hobie Cat for $60 an hour. Many dreams are available as an experience – which can save you thousands.
- For some families, cash, shares or property investment are their ‘thing’. Freeing yourself from financial stress is an often overlooked, yet, very satisfying pursuit.
- Consider both ongoing costs vs. the upfront costs. Buying bikes for the whole family may seem like a big outlay, but tennis lessons cost you money each week.
- Your four-year-old is probably going to be just as happy going for a walk with you as they would be on a stressful trip to the lake where you smash your boat’s propeller backing it into the lake.
- Time with your friends and your loved ones is really what you want. ‘Thing’ accordingly.
Has your family found its ‘thing’? Tell us what it is in the comments below.
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