Time vs. Money

The last few weeks have been crazy for me. It’s one of those times in my life where I feel like I’m constantly on the move, yet feel like nothing is getting accomplished. I hate that! One of the things that has definitely gotten left behind is posting to this blog. It’s not for lack of things to write about… I have lots going on financially that I could share, and even more things that I’d love to start a conversation about. But every time I sit down to start typing, my mind is pulled into a million directions, and I struggle to pull it together long enough to write a post. My perfectionist tendencies further hurt my efforts… I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to come up with the “perfect sentence” to start a post with. Ah well, as J.D. Roth* would say, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” So, it’s time to accept good enough and move on!

One of my motivations for Financial Independence is freedom. Freedom to spend my time doing what I want, when I want, how I want. Freedom to do the things I enjoy, with the people I enjoy. But as motivated as I am, I’m also learning to “appreciate the journey”. I don’t want to be so focused on achieving that Freedom that I miss the next 10 years of my personal life. So, I’m working on finding balance. And with balance comes accepting a certain amount of imperfection.

I’ve drastically reduced my expenses over the last few years, and am continuing to reduce my spending wherever I can. However, I do have limits. Sure, I could spend countless hours couponing or making my own laundry detergent. Honestly though, so long as I’m not wasting there, I’m willing to spend a little extra in exchange for time. Time to spend with my boyfriend and family. Time to garden and get outdoors. Time to work on schoolwork.

I grew up in a very large family. I have 3 siblings that I am very close to. We grew up next door to Grandma and Grandpa, with three Uncles who were still living at home for most of my childhood. Most of my Aunts and Uncles lived in the same neighborhood, and I saw many of my cousins on a daily basis.

When my Grandpa died 7 years ago, the family dynamic started to change. People started moving further away. Frictions arose over some decisions that were made. We continued getting together for major Holidays, but didn’t see each other much otherwise. It’s bound to happen in such a large family. I continued to stay connected with everyone in different ways, but it’s hard to keep in contact with so many different people. So, in December of 2012, I instituted a monthly Family Dinner Night. Once a month, I host a very casual dinner at my house and invite the whole family. So far it’s been a great success. Anywhere from 15-20 people show up each time, and it’s a very relaxed evening of talking and catching up, sometimes followed by an impromptu bonfire in the back yard.

I decided from the beginning to keep it simple. My family does Holidays “pitch-in” style, with everyone bringing an item or two. In theory it’s a great idea. But inevitably there are always frictions over who’s keeping track of what needs to be brought, who’s bringing what, etc. So, for Family Dinner Night I decided I’d provide the food, since after all, I was inviting everyone to my home for dinner. My family aren’t big eaters, and I’ve stuck mainly to basics that can feed a lot of people. For example, in March I fed 16 people for around $40 with popcorn as an appetizer (I had gotten the kernels and an assortment of flavorings as a Christmas gift), a basic salad, chicken noodle casserole, and rice crispy treats as dessert. Everyone was happy, and it was quick and easy. I usually provide a couple of two liters of pop, and tell people to bring anything else they’d like to drink. I let everyone know the menu ahead of time, so they have the option of bringing something if they don’t like what’s being served.

My younger brother’s birthday was at the start of April. Usually we’d all go out to dinner at a nice restaurant. This year he asked if instead we could have a bonfire at my house, invite the family and have pizza. No problem! I’d make homemade salsa for chips and salsa, order a variety of pizzas from his favorite, Pizza Hut, and make cupcakes for dessert. And that’s where the problem came in.

I’ve been dating a great man for about 10 months. He’s overly protective of me, and one of his biggest issues is that he feels I let me family take advantage of me. He knows I’ve been working hard on saving money, so the whole Family Dinner Night rubs him a little the wrong way anyways. But, it’s something I budget for, and enjoy doing. His concern was escalated by the idea that this month I would be ordering pizza for that many people. His first assertion was that everyone should have to pitch in for the cost of the pizzas. But again, I’m trying to keep things simple and conflict free. His second idea was to save money by making pizzas.

I love to cook. And someday, I’d love to try my hand at making pizza. But it was one of those situations where the choice came down to time or money. I could order the pizzas from Pizza Hut, and have exactly what I wanted show up on my doorstep at the exact time I needed them, with a relative assurance of quality and very little effort on my part. Or, I could spend a large amount of time making pizzas for a large group of people, with no guarantee they’d turn out well. I wouldn’t be able to cook them all at once, since my oven space is limited. Which would mess up my cupcake plans. Plus, running the oven for a long period of time in a very small house with lots of people creates a miserable amount of heat!

In the end, I chose time and convenience over money. Make no mistake, it was a choice, and I own it. There were many other options available. But this was the one I was most comfortable with. And in the end, it *only* set me back about $80 for everything. Not great, but not a financial disaster. And well worth the pleasure of a great evening with family.

– Ms. W

Are there things in your life that you feel are worth the extra “splurge”? What are your thoughts on my Family Dinner Nights?


*J.D. Roth was the founder of the blog Get Rich Slowly. He sold that blog, but continues writing on his many other blogs, including More Than Money.

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