Some things are more important than money, or more accurately, some things are worth spending money on. Here are a few:
- Physical health – Regular doctor and dentist visits should never be put off to save money. In fact, in the long run, these visits can save you lots of money by preventing minor problems from growing into major problems. Health insurance companies know this, and some (many?) plans cover 100% of the cost of preventive checkups. If you do have to pay out of pocket, you can minimize the costs by using a Flexible Spending Account or possibly deducting the cost if you itemize deductions on your taxes.
- Mental health – Psychotherapy can be the difference between a happy life and an unhappy one. I don’t think I would have emerged from the depression I sank into after my two miscarriages without therapy. The healing process that my therapist guided me through was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Therapy is not cheap, especially, if it’s not covered by your insurance company, but again, you can minimize the costs by using an FSA. Also, make sure you’re really willing to put in the hard work that comes with good therapy so that you’ll get the most out of your sessions and be able to minimize the number of them.
- Education – A college education is almost a must these days. In 1997, college graduates earned $18,000 more per year than high school graduates, and I would guess that the difference grows greater every year. You can minimize expenses by attending a community college to fulfill general requirements before transferring to a public four-year college, or better yet, by earning a scholarship. If you have the time and the money to invest, consider a prepaid tuition plan or at least invest in tax-advantaged plans like a 529 or Coverdell ESA. Take out as few loans as possible, and consider living at home or working part-time.
- Giving – I didn’t want to call this category “charity,” because I don’t mean to limit your giving to nonprofits. Charities are wonderful institutions to give to, and FMF had a wonderful post about tithing a few weeks ago. (Even if you don’t tithe to a church, I think the concept of regular giving is a good one.) But I’m also including money spent to make someone’s day, like sending flowers to your grandmother when it’s not her birthday or Mother’s Day or to the old lady down the street who never seems to have any visitors. There’s nothing quite as uplifting as knowing you did something wonderful for someone else, just because.
- Items that make your life better – Anything that genuinely improves the quality of your life fits into this category. For example, don’t buy $30 shoes just because they’re cheap if they hurt your feet. Spend $100 or more for shoes that are cute and comfortable, and don’t hesitate to wear them. You can maximize the life of the shoes by having them re-soled so you may even end up saving money. Here’s another example: for several years, I insisted that I didn’t need a television in the kitchen because I didn’t want to spend the money. Last month, we finally put a TV in the corner and it’s transformed how I feel about cleaning up in the evening. The television distracts me from how tired I am while doing the dishes or prepping food for the next day. It’s made me happier, which has made Marc happier. Now that’s what I call money well spent.