You’ve paid your bills, given some, invested some and still have some money leftover at the end of the month — congratulations! So, what should you be doing with that cash?
It won’t surprise you that there are limitless opportunities to spend your extra money (the leftover that economists call “discretionary income”). Entire industries are built up around helping people have fun with money that they don’t need to spend on other things. And while I doubt that you have any trouble finding ways to spend your money, I wonder if you’ve ever asked yourself this: Am I enjoying my money in worthwhile ways?
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your money — in fact, having a little bit of fun is part of God’s Master Plan for your finances. After you’ve taken care of priorities like providing for your family, tithing and giving generously, saving for your future and building an inheritance for future generations, enjoying yourself is a perfectly acceptable way to use your wealth. But if you’re committed to living with financial wisdom, shouldn’t you be enjoying yourself in wise ways?
I think you should. So, here are five meaningful ways to enjoy your money.
1) A great place to live
If you add up all of the hours, you’ll find that you spend more time in your home than any other physical location on earth. And while it’s certainly possible to have a fulfilled life in a modest home, many people find that upgrading their living quarters brings a lot of peace and enjoyment.
If you have more money coming in every month than you need, there’s nothing wrong with moving up in apartments or houses, especially if this helps you do something like get a bedroom for each child or get some space so that your family can spread out. Maybe you’ll really enjoy a bigger yard or a garage where you can work on handyman projects. That’s all great; the key, though, is to make sure that you add these luxury elements to your life after you’ve met all of your other financial obligations. Too many people chose a big house over important things such as investing and giving. Don’t be one of those people.
2) Healthy lifestyle
It’s a sad fact that cheap lifestyles are often also unhealthy lifestyles. The most affordable food in the grocery store tends to be frozen, canned, processed and full of calories, while fresh produce and healthy food items cost a lot more money. If you’re tight on your basic budget, you may have to eat this cheap food for a while. Once your income grows and you have some money to spare, though, upgrading to more expensive, healthier food is a great choice for you and your family. The same goes for other elements of healthy living: Things like gym memberships, fitness classes and the like cost some money, but if they help you stay healthy, they’re a great way to spend your extra cash.
This is a good place to talk about restaurants, too. Eating out is perhaps the most popular way that people enjoy their money (Laura and I certainly do this a lot). But it’s worth asking yourself this: Am I getting good, fresh, wholesome food at the restaurants that I frequent, or am I simply loading up on McCalories? Because spending money on food that isn’t good for you probably isn’t the wisest idea.
3) Worthwhile entertainment
The entire entertainment industry is built on the abundance of discretionary income in the developed world. This includes television, movies, video games, magazines, books and pretty much anything else you might do to pass the time. One of the great blessings of our modern world is that we have more time available for entertainment than previous generations did. Entertainment can be a great way to enjoy your money and spend time with your family, as long as that entertainment is worthwhile.
Think about it this way: Have you ever walked away from an awful movie and thought “There’s two hours and $10 that I’ll never get back…”? I think we all have. When you have that feeling of regret, that’s your realization that you’ve just spent your money on entertainment that wasn’t worthwhile. Unfortunately, there is a glut of crappy entertainment out there, from reality TV to sleazy movies and mindless video games. So if you’re going to spend your valuable discretionary money (and even more valuable time) on something, ask yourself if this book, movie, or show is going to enrich your life in some way. If not, it’s probably not worth paying for.
4) Making memories
The older you get, the more you realize that time really flies by, and the more you cherish special memories from the past. If you’re a parent, you probably want to create as many memories with your children as you can; if you’re single or married without kids, you probably have a small window of time to create some fantastic memories of this stage of life before moving on to the next one. Whatever your life situation, making great memories with the people you care about is a wise and valuable way to spend your extra money.
The way you do this is going to depend a lot on the kind of things you enjoy. I’m a big proponent of travel, and Laura and I enjoy saving up for adventurous vacations every year. We also both cherish memories of family trips that we took when we were kids. But if travel isn’t your thing, or if it’s a little too expensive for right now, you can find ways to create memories that your people will enjoy. Going to professional sports event, concerts or amusement parks can be really special occasions for your family. However you chose to do this, you’ll probably find that memories are much more valuable than the money you spent in making them.
5) Blessing others
It may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways that you can enjoy your money is by using it to bless other people. God made us to be givers, and promises us that we’ll find more fulfillment in giving things than receiving things. You’ve probably seen this in your own life, too — if your parents or other friends enjoy taking you out to eat, for instance, it’s probably not because they feel obligated to buy your dinner. It’s because they genuinely enjoy doing something for you that blesses you and makes you happy.
Laura and I have found that using our extra money to bless people is one of the most rewarding things that we do on a regular basis. Whether it’s taking someone out for a meal, having them over for dinner or simply giving gifts to people to celebrate special occasions, we never regret blessing other people. After all, God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. What better way is there to enjoy our money than to do what God created us to do?
So there you have it, five worthwhile ways to enjoy your money. How do you like to enjoy your extra cash? Jump into the comments section below and let us know — we’d love to hear from you!
Photo by Jose Calderon. Used under Creative Commons License.