Pick Your Priorities


These days, everyone seems to want more and more, bigger and better – a bigger house with a better yard, fancier furniture and fixtures, flashier cars, designer clothes, luxury vacations – and they want it all now. Here’s the thing: unless you have an unlimited income (and how many of us do?) you can’t have it all. And you certainly can’t have it all now. Pick your priorities. Decide what’s important to you, your family and your lifestyle and figure out what you’ll have to sacrifice to get it.

I did the bigger-better-more-more-more thing in my previous life. Barely out of school when we married, my first husband and I spent our entire marriage broke as we bought and sold house after house for a teeny-tiny profit – which instead of using productively we poured into the next bigger better house to fill with stuff stuff stuff. We were so house-poor we couldn’t even afford the luxury of a bottle of wine on a Friday night or an occasional dinner out.

It wasn’t until a few years later, after the children arrived and the husband left and we sold the enormous house, when I found myself raising two babies alone and broke but finally debt-free that I realized how little I actually wanted or needed the big house and all the stuff. They brought me no joy. Alone and poor in a tiny rented townhouse, sleeping little and working late into the night on my laptop to save on childcare costs during the day, I realized I was happier than I’d been in years.

Since then I have made it a point to keep my priorities at the forefront of our family’s planning. For my new husband and I the first priority is our children. It’s very important that one of us be home with them during the day. We want our little athletes to be able to participate in their elite-level sports for as long as they choose, and their education funds are considered untouchable. Spending family time together going on field trips and outings is not something we are willing to give up. And if we want to go out for the occasional dinner or take the kids to a movie or spend a sunny summer afternoon on a patio we want to be able to do that without feeling like it’s a burden.

Nowhere on that list of priorities are things like a big home, brand-new car, fancy furniture or extravagant vacations.

It drives me crazy when I hear comments like “aren’t you lucky you get to be home all day?” Of course I’m lucky, but I’ve made a million sacrifices to get to this position. I’ve made these sacrifices because being home with my kids is a bigger priority for me than driving a BMW, having a newly renovated kitchen or carrying a Coach bag.

We live in a small home – a cozy, comfortable three-bedroom townhouse for the five of us with just enough room for what we need and not a square inch more. Though an extra bedroom or space for a home office might be a nice little luxury, the money we save on mortgage payments each month is well worth living in a smaller space.

We gave up our second car. A car is not a necessity for a suburban stay-at-home mom – I have two perfectly functional legs and a stroller, and my husband is home with the family car by dinner. The cost of a second car – loan payments, insurance, gas, maintenance – is just too much when we don’t really need it.

Because I don’t work outside the home, my wardrobe budget is minimal. The kids wear each other’s hand-me-downs whenever possible. We don’t eat out often but instead make it a treat. I bring coffee from home everywhere I go. My husband packs his lunch for work. A little bit here, a little bit there – the same way money trickles through your fingers when you don’t pay attention is the same way it can be saved when you do.

Living in our little townhome with our shared family car and keeping our luxuries limited we can afford to have the life we want. We can afford for one of us to stay home to raise the kids. We can afford for our boys to play rep sports and we can afford to send them all to university. We can afford little extras like our zoo pass and science centre membership and day trips and dinners out. We could never afford these things that are so important to us if we were ever buying bigger homes with bigger mortgages and bigger rooms to fill with more stuff.

I would never want to be back in the position of choosing between giving my kids the life they deserve and financing a bigger-better-more-more-more lifestyle. I feel far more spoiled knowing I have enough money to spend on the things I that are most important to me than I would if all our earnings were sitting in a big house or another car in the driveway or a closet full of pretty clothes.

Once you decide what is a priority for you and what is not, nothing will seem like a real sacrifice as long as it helps you meet your goals.

avatarAuthor Bio ~ Jessie (76 Posts)

Writer, blogger, swimmer, soccer mom, cocktail enthusiast. Mom of three amazing boys, wife of one amazing man. Passionate about making family memories and living well on less. Jessie blogs about frugal family life as Pleasantville Mom at littletownhomelove.blogspot.ca

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11 Responses to “Pick Your Priorities”

  1. Well said. I agree with you 100%. Unfortunately, for some people their priorities are screwed up because they haven’t yet learned what is really important in life.

  2. I think your last sentence summed it all up – it is all about priorities. Lately my husband and I have been watching a lot of the shows on t.v. re: buying homes, renovating etc. and it seems like everyone NEEDS – an open concept kitchen, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, 4 bathrooms, man cave, media room – we are even inventing new names for new rooms. I can see where young people want it all after watching these shows. Our children are all grown now but we also had 5 people with 3 bedrooms and can you ever imagine ONE bathroom and it is just an ordinary old-fashioned bathtub (gold in fact). I do admit that is our next project – renovating modestly our out of date bathroom, but until we have the money it still does the job.

    • Yes – a lot of people seem to confuse the words “want” and “need!” I can see how it’s hard for newer home owners / buyers to see the difference…but you do have to figure it out! Good luck to you on your bathroom reno!

  3. Great article. At the outset of our relationship, my wife and I set a goal for us to purchase a cottage. Yes, it could be perceived as one of those “more” items, but my wife had grown up with a cottage and I was fortunate to camp with my family, and we both felt that a cottage would truly enrich our lives. 9 years later, we have two wonderful children, have a house that’s completely paid off, and we take ownership of the cottage in just a week. It’s not because we’re wealthy, we’re not. It’s because for those nine years we pinched almost every penny we could. No cell phone, the least expensive (voip) phone service we could find, no cable, limited food, clothes, and entertainment budget, etc, etc, etc. All the little things added up, and now I can happily say, at 36, I’ve achieved my goal. Now I need another one 😉

    • Good for you. I’m very impressed – that kind of discipline and dedication takes a lot of work. Congrats on the cottage, I hope you make a lot of wonderful family memories there!

  4. really great post!! so true. it’s like Gail always says ‘you can have it all, just not all at once’

  5. I couldn’t agree more that if you know your own priorities and willing to do what’s necessary to achieve those, you are on top of the world!

    I have to laugh when I see those shows where the wife/mother does not earn a paycheque but expects her husband to earn enough to have the large home, two luxury cars and their kids all in excessive sports/hobbies. Then complains that he’s not home enough!

    Don’t get me wrong, I take pride in my professional career. It brings me a sense of accomplishment, independence and keeping my mind active. However, I hear some of my colleagues comments to me about why am I renting an 800 sq ft apt instead of owning a 2500 sq ft house and how can I function without a car.

  6. You’re right, tasii.
    On HGTV and in real life I’ve seen many instances where the wife expected her husband to provide the nice house with all the most up to date fixtures but she wasn’t even contributing financially. If these things are a priority the wife should get a job so she can help pay the mortgage and upkeep.

  7. avatar Veronica Says:
    June 9, 2014 at 7:26 am

    Its nice to read about a family with a similar perspective. I am 28 and my husband is 32 and we just had our first son. I find we are in a stage of life where it’s tempting to want it all, fast. Especially because our friends are in a similar time and are buying more, bigger, and better. It helps us to not get caught up by talking often about our priorities when we budget or are deciding on big purchases. I want us to focus on OUR family not keeping up with the Joneses. Thanks for reminding us that we are not alone!

  8. I’m so happy to hear you can relate! It is sometimes frustrating – but you get to a point in life where you just have to decide, “this is what’s important to me and that’s all that matters.” Right?

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