Monday, July 07, 2008

The ramifications of our financial decisions

I have been considering more and more the ramifications of our financial decisions. There are a couple of financial situations in my past that have rippled into other areas of my life and its interesting to try to find those today. The first time I have seen this pattern in my life was when I had bought my first house at 22 years old and was house poor. The stress from that financial decision rippled into my work life and affected my job satisfaction. For the most part, I kept it out of my relationships although I was upfront with the girl I was dating (who would later become my wife) and we dated differently then. I often cooked her dinner instead of taking her out and when it came to us getting engaged, she got a hand-me-down ring my dad gave my mom instead of a big shiny rock. (Yes, she has the big shiny rock now but she didn't get that until after we were married)

I have read a lot about how personal financial stress can affect you throughout your life. In the workplace, some examples are people unhappy with how much they are earning, not getting good results at work because they are distracted by their finances, becoming workaholics to get overtime or to ensure they keep employment. In relationships decisions are made that can negatively affect people. Some examples include people avoiding activities because they can't afford it, ruined relationships because one person is trying to mask their financial problems, and avoiding trips to see relatives and friends that you haven't seen because of the cost. There are lots of other ways this personal financial stress can eat away at your life.

Recently, I found another area that I myself have allowed a financial decision to affect relationships. I found this when considering this Sue Stock blog posting that said that CarMax claims SUVs have gone down 25% in value and she asked how our lives in SUVs have changed. I wrote the following:

Unfortunately where it hurts us the most is our trips to see friends and relatives that live further away. Our SUV is our primary kid carrying vehicle. Traveling nearby is not so painful, however when traveling to neighboring towns like Chapel Hill from North Raleigh can be a painful commute. I think we reconsider plans with friends and relatives when the trip itself will cost $20-40. What used to be a "one and a half hour each way trip" to see parents has now become a "$40 trip." Cost starts to become the largest factor rather than distance/time.

With cost now bubbling to the top, we do tend to make fewer trips and use the vehicle more sparingly.

I think that letting relationships suffer in the name of keeping our monthly gas expense down may be a bad decision. What do you think? Should we cut other areas to keep making those "$40 trips" to see relatives and friends? Or should we be locking down and cutting out excess trips?

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