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Monday, February 8, 2021

Throwing Money at Problems, Take Two. Is More Money a Solution to Problems?


I realized after I wrote my last post about how I threw money at the issue I was having with my broken freezer, which ended up being cheaper than taking care of the otherwise might have been, that the title of the post promised a lot more than it did. I talked just about my freezer and paying my son to help with part of it, but didn't go so much into the concept of throwing money at problems, which is a topic worth discussing.

I'm trying to think about the best way to start this post because have so many ideas. I hope therefore that I can write it in a way that doesn't sound so disjointed while I try to piece together all the different thoughts about this going through my head.

I run a local frugal Facebook group where I share lots of frugal ideas; many others share wonderful money saving ideas. There is a similarly themed group called "Living Financially Smarter in [My Location]" and in the past when I'd share frugal posts in that group, I'd often get comments like "It's not financially smart to cut your costs on this- the real financially smart thing is to make more money so you can spend normal amounts of things and not need to cut corners on things."

To be honest, I would always get annoyed when people would make such statements. How could they? Of course being frugal is financially smart! Of course what I was doing was the smart thing to do! How could people be so blasé about saving money and think that the only answer was making more money.

You know what? I think that the answer to whether it is smarter to earn more money or spend less money is a complicated one. There are people that earn more money than most people, supposedly wealthy people, who are dealing with financial problems. Having more money doesn't mean you're financially smart. 

Furthermore, sometimes people who earn more money are so overworked by their job that they end up being unable to do most frugal things and end up eating up all the extra money they're earning via shortcuts. 

It isn't either or. Its a combination.

But one thing a friend told me once that sank in really deep is that there's only so many ways you can cut back. You can be frugal left and right but if there isn't actually any money to spread, you won't have enough money for things, no matter how frugal you are. Since then, I did try to balance my frugality with money making, because they were completely right.

I heard from someone recently a mantra that I don't agree with. "If you can throw money at your problems and they go away, they aren't real problems." I mean there's some truth to this- issues that even money can't solve are big issues indeed, and they're really tough. Things like mental health issues, health issues, family issues, etc. Those don't get solved by money. But not having money is a real serious issue, one that so many people around the world struggle with, and their problems are real indeed- the fact that people with more money don't suffer from those problems don't make their problems any less real. 

Even things like mental health or physical health issues that can't be solved by money can at least be somewhat alleviated with money. Spending money on things to make your life easier can make your mental health issues less difficult. Or spending money on therapy or medicine or medical treatment make a difference with mental health or physical health issues. Even marriage issues, while not solvable with money alone, can be helped by reducing stressors which money can do.

I read about a study once upon a time that statistically money does make people happier... up until a certain point. That without enough money for food, shelter, and basic necessities people are definitely more miserable, but once you have basic needs met more money doesn't mean more happiness. Recently, though, this research has been disproven. 

According to this latest study

[O]ver one million real-time reports of experienced well-being from a large US sample show evidence that experienced well-being rises linearly with log income, with an equally steep slope above $80,000 as below it. This suggests that higher incomes may still have potential to improve people’s day-to-day well-being, rather than having already reached a plateau for many people in wealthy countries.

Unfortunately, though, the knowledge that more money makes peoples lives better doesn't really help so much for most people, because making more money is often easier said than done. 

However, what it does answer is that yes, money is a solution to problems. Many of them, anyhow. And even if you aren't wealthy, there still are ways to throw money at problems to make things better.

For example, paying my son to empty out my fridge and freezer when I was so overwhelmed so that I could fix it before all my groceries spoiled. Another thing that I've mentioned in the past- if you're having a hard time with lockdowns and corona regulations, or even just general mental health issues, giving yourself a break and spending more money on ready to make foods and disposables is probably a good idea. 

Lets talk about ways that throwing money at a problem can actually save us money overall. If you routinely get so overwhelmed by the need to cook dinner that you end up getting takeout, spending more money on ready to eat foods like sandwich fixings, deli, sandwich fixings, or instant foods (noodles or potatoes), or ready to eat freezer meals will probably save you more money overall. Or if you can't function in a mess, but are too overwhelmed by your mess, and the mess is stopping you from being productive at work (because it paralyzes you with stress), spending money on cleaning help will probably end up benefiting you financially overall, because you'll be able to earn more money. On a similar vein, if you spend hours commuting by public transportation every day, and you can increase your hours and get paid hourly or you get paid by project, and spending money on transportation, either paying for an Uber or buying a car, will give you more time to work and earn money, then that's another way you can throw money at a problem and end up with more money overall. And lastly, if you neglect medical care or dental care it will just get worse and worse- throwing money at your cavities now will save you money when you don't need to pay for root canals.

Unfortunately, that's how the world works. Money does make your life better. But even if you aren't wealthy, try to see if there are ways, within your means, that you can throw money at some of your problems to make your life better. It can make a big difference.

What are ways that you personally throw money at problems to make your life better? In general would you say you pursue money making or frugal living more, and if you try to find a balance with those, how do you do that?

3 comments:

  1. Very true. Sometimes you should, if possible, spend to make things easier, because less stress needs to be the priority. Right now, I spend less on food that requires complex cooking because work takes up so much time. I love to cook...but we need the money more.

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  2. This is such a thought-provoking topic. After spending a few years with a significant decrease in income, when our income finally edged up somewhat, I can say that that our happiness definitely increased and some anxiety was alleviated. I think after the difficult years I appreciated the money more than I did before - I used to take it for granted until things were so hard that at one point we wondered if we'd wind up homeless. (We didn't, thank heavens!) I do find that if I make more I spend more just to keep the train on the track. It's really hard for me to economize hard when I don't need to critically in that moment. That's something I need to work on. But there's only so much energy (often not enough to go around), so if I'm working more or life is more complicated, then there's less energy for money-saving measures, and less energy for will-power. I would like to find a happy medium so that I'm not just spending all-the-money regardless of income level!

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  3. I have been following you for 9 plus years - our children are close in age. And truly - it’s a blessing to have worked hard and have choices of where to put money. I think it doesn’t make your frugality less but instead a testament to your frugal ways to have the choices now because of them.
    I have also started paying my children for small chores that I don’t enjoy. Because it saves me time and money but yet is more economical than a housekeeper.
    It’s the same for most moms I think - all the bloggers I have followed have more income now than they did years ago. That income allows them to help more people ( as moms with more time with Their own kids / helping others by employing virtual assistants/ giving their platform to other newer moms and businesses for mutual benefit) it’s a testament to your frugality and it I believe is meant to encourage us to keep trying

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