Mar 12, 2009

A Priority Shakedown

I often have the chance to go into schools while I'm reading meters. A couple weeks ago I was in a high school where Caucasian was the clear minority. On Tuesday I upset some preschool kids as they had to move their desks so I could access a closet. Today I was in an elementary school, and while I was waiting for the engineer to let me into their electrical room, I read some of the work the students had posted on the hallway walls.

With St. Patrick's day coming up, the kids had all drawn four leaf clovers on a big sheet of paper. In the middle, they were clearly instructed to fill in the sentence, "I'm lucky because..." I read about a dozen of these one sentence insights into the human soul, and it was easy to recognize a clear pattern as there were only two responses. I am lucky because I am in relationship with a person, or I am lucky because I have this cool toy. Now, they weren't exactly in those words. They were more like, "I am lucky because I have a PS3/Nintendo DS/lots of Wii games", or "I am lucky because Nicky is my friend/I have a cool teacher/I have a nice family". Of those dozen responses, only one was different. They were lucky because they had a sweet teddy bear.

It shocked me, because at such an early age kids are already prioritizing what is most important to them. When they think of their life, and what makes them lucky, it is either a person or a thing. It makes me wonder what I prioritize in my life, whether that's my PlayStation 3, my fiance, or my teddy bear. What makes me lucky? Sure, I am lucky to have a video game console, a nice TV, and a bottle of scotch. But even if I didn't have those things, I would still be lucky because I have a number of good friends, and my girlfriend said yes when I asked her to marry me.

So if people and relationships are my priority (and I think that it should be), then how does my money reflect that? As I mentioned in my last post, I think we would agree that it would be great if our lives were a little less complicated, and a little less stressful. So how do I go about making my financial life work for me, towards my priorities? If my priority is a financially stress free life, with a focus on my relationships, how do I make my money work for me? How does my spending reflect my priorities?

I want to be clear though. The purchase and acquisition of things is not wrong, it is not bad, it is not sinful. Buying a television or a new pair of really nice jeans is something that should be enjoyed, and treasured, and cherished. For me, however, that joy should not supplant relationships, and it should not put me in a financially precarious situation. Each of us is going to have to figure out that balance in our own lives.

So what about you? What are your priorities? How does your lifestyle and spending habits reflect that? Want something to change? What makes you feel lucky?

Have you opened an online savings account yet? Don't think you need one? On Monday I'll show you how I put $30 in my account for just a few minutes of work.


  1. ooh, what kind of scotch? (please say it's an Islay Single Malt... :D)
    Yes, I know... It's odd that what I take from that post is that you have scotch. I'm a shallow person.
    I think your list of priorities is largely determined by your situation; take away one of the more basic needs (food, shelter, security) and you have a value system that will be significantly different. For example, two years ago I would have answered the I feel lucky question with: I have a great house, with some really great roomates. Today I answer it with: I feel lucky, because I'm still able to eat the way I want even though I'm living paycheque to paycheque.
    What Changed?
    Two years ago, I was making more than I am now, and paying less in living costs, and so my stresses were primarily social ones. Today, I'm paid the least I've ever been paid, and I'm paying quite a bit for my place. My primary stresses now are food and shelter, so I feel lucky that I can have panseared big eye tuna loin with a lobster stock risoto, or braised chuck and roasted new potatos

  2. Cheap duty free airport scotch, thank you very much.