There’s been a theme lately among the inspirational graphics populating my feeds. I’ll be happily scrolling along, and see the words Life is Short… followed by a decadent image of a desert, some cute clothing items, or a vast sandy beach. Then, Eat the cake, buy the shoes, take the trip adorns the bottom. These graphics have been torturing me like whack-a-mole, popping up and frustrating me. The problem isn’t with the graphics, it’s with the messaging behind it.
I see a lot of danger in promoting the ‘life is short, be irresponsible’ mantra. The problem with the wording of this message is that 1) life is literally the longest thing we will ever do and 2) perhaps if you haven’t prepared for the cake/shoes/trip, it will do more harm than good.
Let’s break this down by starting with the cake. As I daily remind my children as they jump from high places and throw themselves wildly at things, you only get one body. You have to take care of that body because you are going to be in it for the rest of your (hopefully very long and delightful) life. That means carefully and intentionally choosing what you put into it. While I love cake, and I’d love to eat cake every day, that isn’t a good or healthy choice. So yes, splurge and use those calories on cake. But do so consciously deciding this is how you want to eat, and knowing you may need to eat some extra veggies or add some time to your workout if you do so to keep your body healthy. Or maybe don’t eat the cake multiple times a day. Know your values and limits, and respect them.
Next: the shoes. Please don’t think I’m hating on shoes. I love shoes. Shoes are a necessity. But if you haven’t budgeted for the shoes, then perhaps you should not be buying the shoes. Life is long- plan for the shoes. Save up for the luxurious ones. The enjoyment you get from wearing them, and not just paying for them in monthly installments for the next three years, will be worth the wait. Limiting yourself will also help you leave room for only the shoes you truly want, that are a great fit and comfortable and make you feel like you’re part of a photo shoot. Choose the right shoes, not just any old pair.
Finally, the biggest thing of all: take the trip. Trust me, there is no place my toes would rather be in February than nestled in the sand. But if I haven’t been planning, saving and budgeting for the trip, then it isn’t in my best interest to take it. Sure, I’d have fun. Absolutely, I’d feel refreshed. But once the tan fades and the memories are relegated to photo albums (or that app on your phone you keep meaning to print photos from), I’d be dealing with the fallout. Debt is not your friend. Debt allows you a moment of fun for a long period of payment. You don’t want to be pinching pennies through September to pay for the trip you took last winter. Don’t set yourself up for failure and an endless debt cycle. Save up in advance, and then bask in the freedom (and sun) of not having to worry about the cost, because you’ve already got it covered. Spend guilt free when you’ve planned it.
On the note of trips, I fully believe in budgeting for and taking trips with your kids while they’re little. We don’t take trips to remember them, we take them to experience them. Your three year old will experience Disney or the beach differently than they will at eight, or ten. Let them have their experiences, and you’ll have yours. Some will turn into memories, others will be recalled through flipping through photos, and some will be so relished in the moment they became a touchtone life moment. Absolutely take the trip, as a family…that has planned for it.
Life is long. Intentionally and thoughtfully spend it so that you’ll have plenty of room for joy.
Life is long. Leave room for joy.