What I’m Saving For: The Dark Side of Money Management

If you chose to read this blog post because you are saving for a new pair of boots or an Xbox, you’ve come to the wrong place. I want to scratch beneath the surface of basic money management and expose the dark side. You know - the things that don’t really scream dinner conversation.

When we’re young, we often say things like just have fun and live your life. The problem is, our minds might translate that to say "buy another round of drinks for your friends at the bar" or "buy that expensive outfit for one night out". That climbing credit card bill might seem like no biggie right now, but you don’t know when you’ll suddenly need to cope with something you never saw coming, both personally and financially.

A few big life events have left me with a much darker outlook on money management. I’ve had phases where I took saving money too seriously and wasn’t enjoying life because I was so focused on feeling financially secure. I’ve also experienced loss that made me wonder why I was saving in the first place because life is short.

I think it’s time that we stop glazing over the dark side of money management because - let’s face it - very few of us have it all figured out. Here are a few things I’m saving for that might make you avoid eye contact at the dinner table and question how you think about money.

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I’m saving to support the people I care about

Let’s just say the effects of Calgary’s economic downturn hit me harder than I ever would have imagined. It can be easy to read stories in the news and feel detached because you never thought it would affect the people you love most. When someone close to you can’t find a job, it makes you feel completely powerless. You feel guilty for the moments that you took your own job security for granted or felt frustrated about not being able to take a trip when the people you love are struggling to pay everyday expenses. It’s not always reasonable to lend money to those who need it, but it is great to have the option to do so. Feeling like your hands are tied in any financial situation is unnerving.  

I’m saving for the things that make me feel fulfilled

Travelling is the one thing that I prioritize every year. I know that I’ve received a few questioning stares when I say that I have planned yet another trip. I know there are people who don’t see travel as a necessary expense and consider it careless. Even after a few poor financial decisions, I still believe travelling is worth every cent. As great as it feels to have a hefty savings account to fall back on, I don’t love the idea of planning for life’s natural progression. Whether you’re saving to buy a house in 5 years, pay for your child’s tuition in 20 years, or retire in 40 years, there is no guarantee that any of those things are going to happen - simply because nothing in life is certain. I’m trying to balance saving for my life the way it is right now with saving for the future (whatever that future may be).

I’m saving for the emergency fund I never thought I would need

When you’re young and just starting your career it can be really hard to get ahead. You’re paying for student loans, rent, a car payment and you’re usually just figuring it out as you go. Putting a couple hundred bucks aside for your savings can seem nearly impossible. After a tough year of family and personal health issues, I decided to book a three week trip to Europe after I had already planned a week long trip to California. I was in the euphoric just live your life phase. I knew money would be tight after my trips were over, but I decided that I would make it work. When I was dealing with the aftermath of a drained bank account, I found out that I would be out of work in 3 months. After only a few weeks of being unemployed, I found myself crying on my bathroom floor feeling paralyzed because I didn’t know where my next paycheck would come from. I had no flexibility to help anyone else, including myself. That fueled the fire to put all of my energy into my job search, which is how I landed a new job exactly one month later. The thing is, I really wish I have saved an emergency fund because I’m still struggling to get back on my feet 6 months later.

I’m saving for all aspects of life

This is my number one goal. Our economy needs to diversify to thrive, and so do we. No I’m not talking about investment portfolios or anything super adult like that. In my mind, diversifying financially can simply mean being prepared for anything. You don’t need to save for every possible life event, but you do need to have diverse savings goals that will help you and your loved ones get out of an emergency, allow you to take the trip you’ve been dreaming about, and set yourself up to accomplish long term goals like retiring or buying a house. Being a little bit prepared for a few different things means you won’t take as hard of a hit if one thing doesn’t go as planned.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it’s important to be transparent about your finances when you are working towards a goal or struggling with your money. Your friends may seem like they have it all together, but you might be surprised by the state of their bank account. By being more open about the less glamorous side of money management, we can be more supportive of one another and more realistic about what we spend our money on.

After I figure out this whole balance thing, I’ll start saving for some new shoes…