If you have extra money left at the end of the month that you want to have some fun with, you’d better also have a good plan for how to use that money. Because if you do the wrong things with it, you could find yourself in worse shape than where you started.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your money — in fact, it’s part of God’s Master Plan for your financial life. Once you’ve provided for your family’s needs, tithed, given generously and built an inheritance for future generations, God wants you to enjoy what’s left of your money. It’s one of the ways that He shows His love to us. But in order to live in the fullness of His will for us in this area, we need to enjoy our wealth in the right ways.
Last time, we talked about five good ways to enjoy your extra money — things that are worthwhile, contribute to healthy lifestyle and build lasting memories. Today, we’re going to tackle the same topic from the opposite angle. There are plenty of things out there that aren’t good ideas for spending your extra money on. Many people claim to do these things with extra cash because they enjoy them; the nature of these diversions is deceptive, though, and they very often take us beyond simple discretionary spending and start costing us money that we can’t afford to part with.
So, here are five ways that you should avoid “enjoying” your money:
1) Anything that requires debt
There are lots of big-ticket items out there that make appealing ways to spend extra money. From fancy cars to boats, vacation homes and high-tech entertainment systems, it’s not hard to think of ways to spend tens of thousands of dollars or more on enjoyment items. If you have the kind of wealth that allows you to buy those sorts of things with cash, then by all means, go for it. But if you would need to borrow money in order to buy your enjoyment item, you need to re-think your plan.
The common reasoning here is to calculate how much your monthly debt payments would be on such a purchase, and then tell yourself that you can definitely afford those payments on the extra money that you have each month. But as we’ve discussed before, just because you can afford the payments doesn’t make debt a good idea. If you have a job loss or other life emergency, your ability to make those extra payments can change overnight, turning that big purchase from a blessing to a curse.
2) Risky Investments
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you may get a real sense of enjoyment out of spending money to do thrilling things. If you’re idea of a good thrill is skydiving or wrestling alligators, more power to you. If you get your thrills out of making risky investments with your money, however, you’re inviting problems into your life.
All investments come with some amount of risk — there’s no way around that — and high-risk propositions also tend to offer the highest rewards. But some investments are so risky that they fall outside of the boundaries of what is acceptable. These usually aren’t going to be found in well-established mutual funds; they’re likely to be junk bonds, penny stocks, or some kind of private venture that’s run outside of the formal trading system. It’s possible to make quick money in deals like these, and that can be exciting. It’s also possible to lose everything that you’ve invested. And the fact is that more people lose than win. It may seem thrilling to get into this game, especially if you’re playing with extra money that you don’t need for other things. But when you lose big, the sting of the loss is likely to outweigh any enjoyment that you got out of the game to begin with. Save yourself this trouble and stay away from risky investments. If you’re a real thrill seeker, try bungee jumping instead.
We’ve dealt with the dangers of gambling before, so we’re not going to go in-depth about it here too. Suffice it to say, gamblers lose more often than they win — that’s the way that the gaming companies are able to stay in business and make money. Some people say that they enjoy the games, and view the money that the spend at a casino or racetrack as entertainment spending. The problem, though, is that gaming can become habit-forming, and people that get hooked on the excitement very quickly cross the threshold between spending their extra money and spending money that they need for other things. Even if you have plenty of money now, a gaming habit poses a real risk of crossing over and wreaking havoc on other areas of your financial life. That’s simply not a risk worth taking.
4) Bad habits
A lot of people use the “enjoy your money” principle as a way to justify bad habits, like drinking, smoking, overeating, etc. But it doesn’t make any sense to “enjoy” your money by using it to buy things that are slowly destroying your health. Enjoyment is no excuse for destructive behavior. In the end, you won’t enjoy the health consequences that come about as a result of these bad habits. And if you get too deep into any of these habits, you’re likely to find yourself spending more money on them than you ever intended, which limits your other financial opportunities in life.
5) Illicit Activities
It should go without saying that having extra cash is no justification to get into activities that are illicit or illegal. But sadly, many people who have more money than wisdom end up losing it all in a lifestyle of binge partying. And you don’t have to be Charlie Sheen to fall into this trap: There are plenty of illicit activities available to the middle class. Whether your vice is pornography, prostitution, recreational drug use or even something as far-fetched as dog-fighting, none of these things is okay. They’re not cute, they’re not glamorous, they’re not fun. They’re destructive activities that slowly degrade you and victimize the people involved in creating them. If you’re involved in one of these activities, you need to pursue the help it takes to get out. If you’ve thought about dabbling, do yourself a favor and run the other way. What seems attractive from the outside is a destructive mess on the inside. Illicit activity is no way to waste your money or your life.
Photo by Michael Velardo. Used under Creative Commons License.