A reader asks: how much money is enough to spend?

July 16, 2020 by Joshua
in Choosing/Decision-Making, Relationships

Following my request for questions, a reader asked one I wouldn’t have expected:

How much time and money is enough, or fair, to spend with your wife and children if you need to work to have money for a simple life, in your country?

First a caveat: I’ll plead some ignorance never having married. For that matter, my biological parents divorced around when I was in nursery school. On the other hand, my mom’s second marriage is into its fifth decade and my father’s into its second or third. Also, I’ve been in relationships that lasted longer than some friend’s marriages, though we never shared bank accounts, real estate, or anything big, nor had kids.

I’ll also note the question didn’t ask how much to save or how much is spending too much, say, to avoid spoiling the children, so I’ll focus on what lifestyle supports healthy living.

line art family

How to answer this question? I suspect the point is not a specific number, which would vary by city, suburb, rural area, etc, but how to reach that number. I believe the question is what makes a simple life.

I consider the main principle that wealth is less how much you possess than how little you need.

How little can one get away with? I suspect:

  • A home
  • Food, which I would limit almost all to home-cooked, since I’ve learned to cook it faster, cheaper, healthier, and more conveniently than doof.
  • Public school education
  • . . .

You know, it’s dawning on me that I know little about how much it costs to support a wife and kids. I know a few items to come include health care and insurance, transportation, entertainment, clothes, and regular parts of life, but I live so differently than the mainstream seems to, I can’t say.

A few things would cost less per person for a family, like a housing or insurance, so would cost less than what I’m used to paying. But some things I’ve worked out systems that might be unique to me, like not owning a TV, using the library for most of my books, working out at home instead of a gym, and going to doctors maybe once a year. I suspect I’d favor more home schooling to practice more active, experiential, project-based learning than most.

Some might think I’m frugal, but I seem to live in as much abundance as anyone I know. I think of my spending habits like my food and fitness. By choosing fresh fruits, vegetables, and so on, while avoiding calorically-dense doof, I eat more volume than nearly anyone, while staying fit and spending less money.

So partnering with a wife who enjoyed life as I do, we’d probably create more joy while spending less than most. Which leads me to my answer, which is to answer what I consider a more meaningful question:

How do you find a life partner and determine what makes you as a couple and then as a family work?

Hmm… I don’t think I’m reaching an answer that would be satisfying to a parent. I can’t tell if I’m revealing more innocence and ignorance or thoughtfulness, but how to make relationships work, to me, comes down to:

  • Knowing myself: my values, passions, and what creates what emotions
  • Developing social and emotional skills to bring about the emotions I want from the activities and people I want in my life

I suspect my answer isn’t that satisfying, but it points to developing social and emotional skills, for which how to spend money only is a proxy. In my experience, it points to leadership of yourself and others. I didn’t say authority or management, but leadership. Most people don’t know how to lead.

Bottom line

My answer, then, boils down to how to develop the relevant social and emotional skills of a long-term relationship. I can only say that the best I learned them came from doing the exercises in my books, Leadership Step by Step for relating to others and Initiative for learning and manifesting my own values and passions.

If my answer—to learn about yourself and develop social and emotional skills through time-tested exercises—sounds like a cop-out, I apologize, but if I could go to a younger me trying to figure out how to live his life, it’s the advice I would have given him at any age from about mid-to-late teens. I think it would have helped him figure out budgets. I’ve never paid a bill late and I don’t know anyone who enjoys his or her life more than I do.

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