"So, how are things? How you been?" my friend asked me as I stopped by his office to chat. His office is on the way to my in-laws so when I head over to their house, sometimes I stop by his office.
"Things are good," I said, speaking honestly. Because things really are good for me, for my family. Work is not fantastic, but it's in no way bad. Since he's our financial adviser as well as my friend, I thought I'd talk a little about how things are going that way.
"You know," I said. "When you don't get a lot of raises, instead of getting upset at all the thing we don't have, we just adjust our income to cover the things we need then go from there."
I told him that there are things we just go without. We don't go to movies. We don't go on vacations very often (two vacations longer than a week since my nine-year old was born...). We don't buy clothes very often (as my co-workers can attest...) and there are other things we just don't do like boating or skiing or camping or go to theater productions or Jazz games. I should say that we are in NO way an example of people making the best decisions when it comes to money. We've got a long way to go. I mean, we have cable, for instance. I count it as an educational cost since we homeschool.
My friend agreed that adjusting to one's income is a good way to be happy. In his line of work he sees people who make good decisions with their money and some who make terrible decisions. He knows there are happy people with less income, and miserable people with more. Of course, I'm sure he knows happy people who are incredibly rich, and those without a lot of money who are not happy at all.
We talked some more. Since we both sing, there's a local choir that needs men singers. "Have you thought about going on the New York trip with the choir?" I told him I have thought about it--it sounds like a lot of fun. Some of my fondest memories are of being on tour with a choir. He's not the only one asking--several has asked if I could go. They really need us. "It would probably only cost about $1000," he said. "They're going to be singing at Carnegie Hall."
A thousand bucks....maybe for some, it's no big deal. but for us, it seems so daunting. I could come up with it, of course, but that means the money won't go to food or credit card payments or things for the kids or helping out our son on his mission or a new computer for my wife (so she don't have to rely on her six-year old one...). That trip is exactly the kind of thing that I told him we do without. It's the kind of thing I don't think about, the kind of extra activity that we deny ourselves so we can remain happy, even though going would be a lot of fun, too. There's a trade off with everything.
Eventually it came time to go. Things have changed since my friend and I hung out together in high school and then college. We've both worked hard, but things have turned out differently. "Yeah," he said as I left. "Let me know about that trip. It would probably only cost around a thousand dollars."
"I will," I said wondering if my mind had already been made up.