Up here in Duluth, MN, it’s basically summer (or at least an approximation of what summer generally looks like in this part of the country. It’s a bit like one of the Magic Eye pictures: if you stare at it long enough, you might start to see it.) Along with summer comes a different lifestyle, especially here. We hunker in so long and so deep over the winter that by the time the weather has finished changing, we want to spend as much time being active as we can. There are two ways to go about this change of lifestyle, financially: 1) The responsible way; and 2) The wrong way.
Here’s what I mean: I play golf. In fact, lately, I’ve been legitimately golf crazy. I had given up the game for a couple of years but was reintroduced to and reinvigorated by it a couple of months ago while visiting the Atlanta area for a wedding and the bug is officially back. I’ve enjoyed dragging out my swing training devices and swinging them for a few minutes here and there in the yard or even around the house (I’m single—I’ll swing my golf clubs wherever I doggone feel like it. :p) I’ve enjoyed logging time at the practice range again and I’ve been trying to get out to play at least once or twice a week when I’m able. I’ve found that golf is really something that you need passion and drive to even be decent at. Something else I’ve found that you need? Money.
Golf is expensive. It’s probably the most expensive hobby I’ve ever had. It costs money to buy equipment. It costs money to re-grip your clubs (which should really be done every year or two.) It costs money to go to the range. It costs money to play a round. It costs money for a golf pass, if you play enough to warrant one. This year, I needed to update my golf wear, and so it cost me money for that, too.
This all points toward two of the fundamental questions of our financial lives: Does what we spend our money on work within our budget and does it match up with what we value? I’ve had to make some changes in my budget in order to feed my recent obsession. I’m spending less in other areas in order to make sure I have the funds for golf. I’m eating out less. I’m spending less on other entertainment. If you’re someone who is overspending or feeling like your budget is out of control, you can almost always track down the source in the discretionary spending choices you make—especially if you are making those choices without structure (such as a budget) and without limits (such as without tracking.)
You may not play golf. Maybe you mountain bike. Maybe you hike. Maybe you camp and/or canoe. (I do all that stuff, too, when I’m not busy golfing!) Whatever activities summer brings to your life, remember the simple philosophy behind staying in financial control: Adjusting the budget to address my values while staying within my spending limits to keep my financial life in order is the responsible way to go about things. Any other way is the wrong way. And, if you’re like me, you’ll definitely want to make smart enough choices to avoid both being financially reckless and hitting out of the sand trap because THAT is just no fun, at all…
Are you in a financial sand trap? An appointment with one of our financial counselors can help you get back on the green! Call us at 888-577-2227 or visit our website to schedule a free and confidential appointment with a credit counselor.
Dan Szymczak is a HUD certified housing counselor who enjoys golf, biking, and helping people Conquer Their Debt!