Money should be the means and not a goal.

Another one in my collection of “nice beaches within cosy surroundings”. The beach in St.Maria de Castellabate, Cilento, Italy. View to your right…

You probably know the phenomenon:

When travelling, or general when being in new situations, one starts to see things different, or additional ideas pop up that are faded out as long as you are struggling in the daily thread-mill.

Something crossed my mind the last days:

Not to confuse the goals of life and means to reach them

The goal clearly should be a maximum amount of happiness and well-being. And it is not to forget that frugal living – the topic I wrote, read and discussed most about in the last months – is only a means to reach that goal. Strictly saying it is only one out of several means.

“Well, obviously!”, you might say, but to be honest I think the risk is high (and I observed myself frequently doing so) to confuse frugal living accidentaly with a value itself.

Actually, for some people frugal living might be a value and a goal for itself, if they chose frugal living as an actual goal in their lives (for what ever reason), and if they get happiness just out of the fact of living frugally. I guess e.g.  some of the readers of the excellent MoneyMustache’s blog might actually be of this type. This is absolutely fine with me as you cannot discuss goals of life – everybody has to set his goals him/herself. And it sure is a more healthy attitude than the dominating consumerism surrounding us. But for Woodpecker personnaly the goal  in life is not about frugal lifing for its own sake but as a means for maximizing happiness and saying “This is a good day to life” as often as possible.
Thus I’d advertise that saving money should be a means and not a value itself. Sure I don’t want to spend money unnecessarily, but I don’t really care if something is costly IF it produced sufficiently happiness and fun for me.

Woodpecker and family actually enjoys spending some money every now and then on a good meal, on a funny activity and so on. If we set budgets, forgo something and optimize spending, then it is not primarily because we see saving as a sport and not because we find frugal living is fun (although I admit it is often fun to do a special bargain or to beat your budget).
But it is mostly because spending the saved money on other things or later (on an activity, a purchase or simply on free time by working less) often will yield a better result than throwing it out of the window for stupid things now.

Still, money typically is a means only, and of no intrinsic value itself!

This is what I recognised you have to be careful not to forget when doing all the budgets, saving plans, renunciation and so on.

When travelling this is a more urgent problem, because compared to at home, there are more situations that are non-standard and thus less under your control. Sooner or later there will be events that force you to spend extra money on something stupid, or blow your daily budget otherwise. That happened last day when there was a misunderstanding about extra charges for our boys in a hotel. It costed us some money, not significant enough to affect the total holiday budget at all (which is in excellent shape btw), but enough to blow that day’s budget. And as there was no way out and the bucks were just gone, I got in a bad mood, getting angry about the hotel and about myself that I was not clear from the beginning.

However, getting angry about money that is definitely gone is not very wise. The money won’t come back and you are about to ruin a day that otherwise still could be a good one – the sun continues to shine, the sea is still warm and the landscape still is beautiful…

…and the view to your left…

Other situation is when you have to decide on fun activities or on conveniences like dining out, a costly boat trip etc. Sure some of these things are more expensive than you wish, but IF they really bring you a great day that you and your family will never forget, then what is more important:

Enjoying a great day or strictly keeping your daily budget?

Especially when you are outperforming overall, i.e. your total holiday budget is well within the green…

Well, no worries, this Italy trip will definitely not turn Woodpecker into a money-throwing squanderer. And I will definitely continue to fight for spending money only on the right things and to spend as little as possible overall to allow for downshifting, but what I would like to suggest is:

  1. Money is the means not the goal.
  2. Be strict in general but don’t be to strict with your self always, as this might kill the fun out of life. You would be hurting your own freedom.
  3. Don’t become a nickel nurser – I’ve seen too many of them and they all seem to be unhappy and often unpleasant company.
  4. Don’t get upset about thing you can’t change and money you can’t get back. You are only hurting yourself.
  5. Think again about the middle way.
  6. Spend money applying the concept of opportunity costs (see e.g. here), think about “is this spending worthwhile, if I compare it with something else I could buy for this price?”. If the answer is “yes”, fine!

Cheers and have a good a day,


4 comments on “Money should be the means and not a goal.

  1. Alexander says:

    ich kann deine Einstellung absolut nachvollziehen. Sparsamkeit ist eine richtige Einstellung aber man muss auch Kompromisse eingehen können. Ich würde auch lieber etwas Geld ausgeben wenn die Situation gerade passt, z.b. sich bei schönem Sonnigen Wetter ins Eiscafe setzen und ein schönes leckeres Eis genießen auch wenn ich für das Geld im Supermarkt die 10 fache Menge bekommen würde aber dann gönne ich mir Lieber diesen Moment, auch wenn’s gerade nicht in meinem Budget liegt.

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Ja, ich denke das ist der Punkt: Im Eiscafe zahlst Du neben dem Eis eben auch die nette Atmosphäre und die Aussicht etc. mit. Nun kommt es eben darauf an wie hoch man diese bewertet um zu entscheiden ob es das teurere Eis wert ist…
      Obwohl ich im Allgemeinen schon dafür plädieren würde, auch dann zu versuchen das Budget einzuhalten, oder eben das Budget des nächsten Tages (oder welchen Zeitraums auch immer) entsprechend zu kürzen.


  2. Good Deed says:

    Treat money as a servant, not as a boss. It is extension of you, and your success. If you get otherwise, you will be in all kinds of trouble…

  3. […] …and as a good downshifter, you never made your happiness depend solely on money, and you know that money is a means only and never the goal. […]

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