Debt & Perspective: “It’s Only Money”

DH = Dear Husband
DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
                “It’s only money.” I’ve heard these words in various situations since my childhood, and I never used to doubt their meaning or their truth. When people said, “It’s only money,” I understood that they had good values. They knew there were things in life that were of greater importance than money. They weren’t going to get tied in a knot over finances. They were above such superficiality.
                That way of thinking fit in nicely with my complete irresponsibility when it came to money matters. I had better things to do than keep track of my receipts. There were more important things in life than creating a budget. I was above such superficiality. The mundane people of the world worried about number crunching. I was lofty. I kept my head in the sand, immune to any common financial wisdom, my state of denial reinforced by an underlying arrogance about my good values.

Debt Reduction Isn’t About Money?

                In his book, The Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey says that ultimately, getting out of debt isn’t about money. At first, I found his statement to be slightly annoying. As we started our journey out of debt, DH and I began saving receipts, tracking expenses, creating monthly budgets, cutting out certain non-essentials, and analyzing and reanalyzing particulars. “Here’s the receipt for the groceries I bought when the Sinclairs came for dinner. Should it go under our regular grocery budget or our discretionary budget?” “I bought a water bottle for DD3. Does that go under our household expenses or her sports expenses?” Such attention to the merciless, nonstop barrage of details, such painstaking focused intention was certainly all about money.
                But from the incessant receipts, discussions, budgets, and decisions, there has emerged evidence of Ramsey’s statement.  For instance, last spring, we started to save for a new sofa, but now we don’t even care about getting one. Our old sofa is visibly worn, but it’s comfortable and sturdy. I can live with that. And while I love going out for dinner, I find more and more that I’m enjoying the company of friends and family around our own table – whether things are tidied up or not. Furthermore, I used to feel an obligation every time our daughters would tell us about a friend’s parents taking them out to dinner or treating them to a movie. How will I pay them back? I’d wonder. Now I just think, That was nice. So while there have been nit-picky money details in our debt reduction, big-picture results are emerging: We’re less materialistic; we’re more content with what we have; DH and I have a better relationship as our increased communication dissipates stress and irritation; we don’t care what “The Joneses” think of our furniture, and we don’t feel pressured to live up to their lifestyle. We’re more confident. More at peace.

More Important Than Money

                I know a young couple who are in the process of international adoption. They’ve spent thousands of dollars knowing that there is no guarantee that they will have a child in the end. They’ve got hope and reality well balanced, and they’re doing what they can to make things work out. “The way I look at it,” said the potential dad-to-be, “it’s only money.” And of course he’s right.
I know a recently married man who was unable to sell the house he owned when he was single. The vacant home became a sink-hole of time and money, and recently, matters got worse when water from a burst pipe worked its destruction to such an extent that he thought he’d have to declare bankruptcy. As it turns out, the house can be salvaged without breaking the bank, but it means he has to take on thousands more in debt. “The renovations will actually make the house more appealing so that it will have a better chance of selling in the spring,” he said. I was amazed at how well he was taking his bad luck. “Besides,” he said, “it’s only money.”
My hope and prayer is that the young couple will bring home a child before long. And that my friend will sell his house as soon as it’s market ready. And then, I hope that they will all get to the business of paying off their debts. Because there are big-picture issues at stake: communication; relationship; confidence; peace. And these are worth a sometimes maddening focus upon the minutia. They add incalculable value to the households where they settle in. Good for marriage. Good for children. And they free us from the life-sucking mess so often brought on by financial setbacks, allowing us to say, without irresponsible denial or false arrogance, but in simple truth, “It’s only money.”   
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  • Some people misuse the phrase “It’s only money” when they spend and use in unwisely. For example, I have a friend that went to the grocery store, bought over $200 worth of stuff and then commented that they couldn’t think of more than two actual meals they had purchased things for. Then followed it up with “it’s only money.” That kind of application of the phrase makes me insane. On the other hand, when you’re agonizing over what fund to take a purchase out of….just pick one and say “it’s only money” OR you’re trying to figure out whether spending money on a great experience (like for me, running a very cool marathon) and you have the cash to do so…well “It’s only money” is perfectly appropriate. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, Travis. With regards to what you say about “agonizing over what fund to take a purchase out of,” I have actually found that it is really important for me to do this. It’s not remotely fun, but if I don’t do it, money escapes chaotically and fast. I suspect we all have our different strategies to keep ourselves on track with debt reduction. Like you, I’ve become sharply aware of the things other people say to justify poor money management – but only because I used to say them myself : ) Thanks for your sharing your insight. Cheers!

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