Where would you put your money?

thumb_bills_and_coinsNo, this is not a post regarding the current economy or the stock market.  I want to talk about how you invest in your life and your family members’ lives.

When I was growing up, my parents had very hard and fast rules regarding money:

  • If you didn’t have the money to pay cash for the item, you couldn’t have it.  
  • There is no point browsing or window shopping.  Why torture yourself looking at what you can’t have?
  • If the whole family can’t afford to go out and eat, no one will.  My dad would say he wasn’t going out to eat steak while the kids were home eating cereal.
  • We don’t waste money on “intangibles” like vacations.  If we have extra money, we buy “things” we need and can use for years to come.

It’s this last item I want to explore.  If my parents had, say, $5,000, they would rather buy new furniture which would last 15 years or more than go to Disney World for a week and, after the week was over, have nothing to show for their money.

I accepted this logic as a kid.  I have a hard time not always adhering to this logic as a grown up.  It’s pragmatic.  It’s practical.  Why wouldn’t you be happier enjoying your $5,000 investment “every day for 15+ years” instead of for “only 7 days”?!

But there’s a flaw in the logic:  memories don’t last 7 days; they last a lifetime.

Since I became an adult, I’ve learned the wisdom (and, dare I say, logic) in investing in experiences and memories.  Truthfully, when you buy a new piece of furniture (or whatever), how long do you really “enjoy” it?  Now, think about an experience you had while on vacation.  How much pleasure does the mere memory still give you?

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday!  (Happy Birthday, Mom!)  My sisters and I decided to treat her to a concert this past weekend.  Would she have been happier with some “thing”?!  Nope!  I saw the look on her face when her favorite songs were playing; I watched her bounce with excitement and sometimes dance in place; I saw her grin for a solid 3 hours!  That was, as the MasterCard commercial says, “Priceless.”

I’m not advocating that we aren’t practical or sensible with our money, nor am I saying I don’t sometimes want “stuff” more than I want to go somewhere or do something.  But I am saying that sometimes we need to invest in making memories.  Incidentally, memory making doesn’t always need to be the size of Disney World.  Sometimes memory making means exploring the place where you live, which brings me to another family maxim: 

  • Wherever you live, people vacation there!  Yet the people lucky enough to live there have never taken the time to enjoy it!  Why not vacation in your own town, a neighboring city, somewhere in your state?  Then you can worry about going somewhere else!

So, where would you invest your money?  In experiences or things?

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