We were walking home from school drop-off and chatting to a neighbour; the usual June chatter: what are you up to this summer? Heading out of town or sticking around? Camps? etc.
He said, “Well, we bought a tent trailer this year, so we’ll try to do some camping. I thought that our vehicle would pull it, but it’s very slow & heavy, so I guess we’ll be getting a new one.”
It goes something like this: I don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars a night for vacations, so we will invest in camping instead, which is WAY less costly.
It seems true. Until you buy a trailer. And a new vehicle to pull the trailer. And $20 away your financial margin on gadgets and tools and second items to live in the trailer.
Loads of people love camping and are delighted to spend the money; it’s exactly what they want to do. If that's you, fantastic! Maybe you will use that trailer for years and years and the financial equation will totally come out in your favour. Maybe it's not about money at all, and you want to access places you wouldn’t otherwise, or there are benefits that you can’t replicate in a single location rental. If all of that is the case: great. God bless. Enjoy!
Here’s the thing: I’m not really talking about camping.
This conversation is a perfect example of our tendency to look at money in isolated, incremental ways, rather than the big picture. The first thing my husband said, after we parted ways with the neighbour, was, “I wonder how many weeks of a timeshare we could get for the cost of all that camping equipment.”
His comment obviously reflects his own holiday affinities much more than a dedicated camper, but it also reveals why he’s rarely had regrets when it comes to money he’s spent.
It’s not just about comparing between types of trailers or types of vehicles… as Dan Gilbert said: money doesn’t know what it’s being spent on, whether it’s $100 saved on a car or on groceries. Do I want to spend $15,000 on camping-type vacations, or $15,000 on a house rental on a lake, or $15,000 on renovating my home, or $15,000 to give to disaster relief or refugee assistance??
It’s all the same money, and we’re too smart to let it slip away in “I guess we need a new vehicle now.”
This summer, go in eyes wide open. Practice the art of comparison! Think about the value, to you, of holiday purchases & spending choices. It may sound like a hassle, but trust me, you will actually start feeling better about your money, not worse.
And, if you're going camping, eat a s'more for me! ;)
The Enneagram is super popular right now as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. I am familiar with the Enneagram and while it hasn’t been a particularly impactful tool for me personally, I value the depth of the insight and the common language it provides.
Similarly, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework provides definition and a vernacular to what is already present in ourselves. For me, this one has resounded like a deafening gong in my ears & in my life!
Over the last year or so, I've made a conscious priority to read books written by — or written from the perspective of — people different than me. As a white, rich person (and I have a job, a bachelor's degree, a house, 2 cars, and 3 computers, so that sounds pretty rich to me; maybe not in the 1%, but high enough), I have a pretty limited perspective. Also, our culture is essentially designed for me to thrive, so it's easy to take that all for granted.
Books, both non-fiction and creative stories, have a way of landing you right in the viewpoint of an other, and I am so grateful for that gift; it's one of the best things about reading.
Conversations about money can be awkward, but having uncomfortable talks, at age appropriate times, will set up our children's essential, lifelong skill in handling money well. Allowance is a key tool to teaching these money management skills.
Money, along with politics and religion, is often considered impolite conversation to have outside of yourself & maybe (hopefully?) your spouse. How much do we spend on groceries, gas bill, or date nights? Is this car payment normal? We are often afraid, or at least reluctant, to compare any of these details… R. Paul Stevens said the proverbial fig leaf from the Garden of Eden has moved from our naked bodies to our bank accounts!
Add kids into these conversations, and there is an additional layer of hesitancy: kids can be notorious loud-mouths!