The thing about money is…

you don’t need it and then you do. The trick is all in the balance.

I have lived the life of no money. I became a single mom with two kids in diapers unexpectedly, recreating myself and paying $1 a month for rent to the US Government. We made the best of it. I made household cleaners out of products you could by with foodstamps. (This was back in the day when you would have to tear out coupons from a book and actually stamp them. We didn’t have the luxury of dignity back then.)  I shopped at yard sales and thrift stores and depended on the generosity of others. I would drink alcohol when it was cheap or free. I used coupons religiously and spent many hours tracking down child support and any benefit afforded to my children and me. I had time to do stuff and not much money. We would take trips to historical sites and free events on the weekends and gifted handmade items for Christmas. I was poor but found happiness.

I have lived the life of money. I remarried and we began to build what I lovingly and often in humor refer to as our “kingdom”. It’s not much in the world of America’s materialism and pursuit of wealth, but it was comfortable. A lot of it in part to a decision made for my husband to pursue a career with a young and growing company versus delivering beer. It was dependent upon my sacrifice of an already established career to allow my husband to take a risk and grow from it. We took the risk knowing that we were young and could rebound should things go array. I re-established my career. We lived well. We accumulated three properties, numerous vehicles, three horses, four dogs, a tractor, 100 pecan trees, a boat, a pool, the ability to take exotic vacations and to never want.  For awhile we were happy. We were busy and had little time to do much else than work. We were rich and I became unhappy. 

Money became the justification for a lot of things in our marriage. The reason to involve ourselves in other peoples’ fuck ups. The reason to work more. The reason why we could only take vacations where there was phone reception. The reason why we did not plan more trips to visit family. The reason why one of us began to feel invincible. The reason why the investment in the person in our marriage making more money became more important than the investment in each other. We ultimately grew distant and pursued different life goals.

The thing about money is that it is for the most part, it is an exchange for time. I remember so many discussions about paying someone to do something for us or giving money away when we were capable of doing it ourselves or giving the money away was to no benefit. I know how much I am paid an hour on any given day and no, it does not make sense to spend two hours of my pay — my time — on dinner for your brother and sister-in-law once again.

The thing about money is that to be happy in your life, you only need enough to maintain your level of comfort, as defined by you. If your comfort requires the ability to travel around the world and stay at the best resorts, you are going to need more money. If you would rather accomplish the same goal by taking the time to research ways to travel more affordably, you can do that too. I remember reaching a point in life where we were no longer living month to month and had a decent amount of savings built up and goals for our retirement. That felt good. I knew my comfort level.

The thing about money is that it never replaces the very most important thing in life–love. The investment in your most precioius family and friends is love. It is most often tangible in the form of time, often unproductive time that is not in the pursuit of anything. It is the gift of shared moments, the creation of memories. It is the gift of yourself – parts of you – dedicated to others in positive ways. Money can sometimes “buy” you more time so that you can spend that on your loving investments, but if you lose sight of love and it becomes a secondary priority along the way or have neglected these relationships as your primary goals, then just what exactly is your thing about money? Ask yourself…what are you making money for anyway?