By Amanda Mitchell, AFC®
Military life can sometimes be a blur. You never know what will come next, so it is difficult to plan literally anything. You get into a routine, and things go smoother. You figure it out. But what happens when the routine becomes a rut? This might seem like a weird topic but hear me out. My husband and I have done ok for ourselves with our finances. You could run down the checklist; emergency fund-check, savings-check, investing-check, college funds-check, budget-check. We did what we were supposed to, but the problem is that we got stuck in the routine and the guidelines. We checked the boxes and looked at each other and thought, “now what?” We just continued doing what we were doing, but then, something happened that profoundly changed both of our perspectives on our entire lives.
I bought a plane ticket.
It all started with a plane ticket, but it wasn’t for myself or even my husband. I bought a plane ticket for my sister. My husband’s father passed away from COVID this past winter, and we needed to go help close out his estate. We didn’t want to take the kids because it would likely be a difficult task, and the kids weren’t old enough to grasp the gravity of the situation, so we bought my sister a plane ticket to watch our three children. In the ten years that we have been parents, we have never been away from them for more than an overnight trip, so I was nervous and stressed about the whole thing.
As my husband and I were planning what we had to do, we realized we had an extra day to do what we wanted. I had always wanted to go to Harry Potter World and Universal Studios since it was a thing. So, my husband spontaneously bought us a couple of tickets. Work for the both of us the next two days was crazy, and we didn’t end up planning any other part of the trip except for the business things we had to do.
A Completely Unplanned Road Trip
We set off on the route to Florida without a hotel booked and just decided to drive until we didn’t want to anymore. We ended up stopping in Savannah, GA, and getting a hotel by the River. Neither of us had been there, so why not? We spent a little extra on a room with a view. We got seafood at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, relaxed on the patio, and finished the night off watching the boats going in and out of the port. This was my first taste of spontaneity since I became a mother, and it was freeing, intoxicating almost. It felt wild. I felt this warm tightness in my chest when I looked at my husband. Was this what pure happiness is like?
Riding Rollercoasters Until We Wanted to Vomit
The next day we went and picked up his dad’s ashes and visited with family friends. Afterward, we drove to our hotel at Universal and relaxed in the pool. The day after that, we went and rode rollercoasters until both of us wanted to vomit. We ate food we normally don’t. We drank drinks we normally don’t. We bought trinkets we normally would not. We got out of our comfort zones and just did what we wanted.
Why is any of this important?
To get to the point, the reason I am telling you is this: we found our wild again and were able to indulge in it in the most beautiful way. We didn’t worry about how much money we spent because we had put in the work. We hadn’t been on a solo trip since we had become parents, and we were really selling ourselves short. We could have been putting money away to finance our wild a long time before. This is me trying to sell you on making financial goals with your happiness in mind. You have probably seen me write it many times before, but your mental health and finances are intertwined. Don’t wait ten years to figure it out. Work your happiness into your monthly budgets. All work and no play really does dull your sparkle. So even if you cannot splurge on a trip, do something small. Do something out of the ordinary. Rediscover what used to make you wild and free and run with it. If you need help with figuring out the best way to work your happiness into your budget, go here:
Don’t put aside your happiness any longer. Tomorrow is not a guarantee. Look to the future with bright childlike wonder and make those big plans that make you giddy. Find a professional that can help you map out how you will make those plans a reality. You never know what beautiful things can happen when you choose to set financial goals with your happiness at the core. Embrace your wild.