Living Below Your Means
Generosity and being Foolish

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By Hauptstrasse94
June 10, 2004

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When I first met my husband five years ago, we were both about 3 years out of college and in the midst of "Living the Life You Live When You Get Your First Real Job and All of a Sudden Have Money But Don't Know How to Manage It Yet". I think a lot of people fall prey to this, but at the time we were completely oblivious and having a fabulous time. Those were the days of going out to eat almost every day, meeting friends for a beer just about every evening, and just in general having a whole lot of fun in that short period of time before you realize the future is creeping up on you. You all know the time I mean. Life was good.

One of the many things that I found irresistibly attractive about my husband was his generosity. Not just with me, but with all of his friends. He was constantly buying rounds of drinks for people, picking up the tab at dinner for a few of our friends who didn't earn as much as he did, and just in general being a good guy. What I didn't know at the time was how it was affecting his budget (or lack thereof). Neither did he, come to think of it. Sinister music begins to play faintly in the background.

So we progress- he came to visit me while I was working a one year assignment in Germany. He proposed to me on top of a magnificent castle overlooking a quaint village in a beautiful valley with a river running through the middle. It was at sunset with all the church bells ringing, echoing throughout the valley. Couldn't have been more romantic. He gave me a beautiful diamond ring that was more than either one of us could afford, but we still didn't think about things like that. We were on Cloud 9. Sinister music starts to crescendo. We don't notice.

Then we bought a house. The first serious look at our finances took place. Not surprisingly, our blissful ignorance was shattered. We both sat there, shocked at our current position and horrified at what it would take to get where we wanted to go financially. We made feeble, pathetic attempts at living on a budget and living below our means. While we pretty much failed miserably at our first attempt, we did make some steps in the right direction. We cut down on eating out- shaved that down to three or four nights a week (oh, how we suffered), and we stopped being quite as generous with money we didn't have.

At that point, I started to view generosity a little differently. We were in no position at that point to be buying drinks or dinner for our friends who had perfectly good jobs themselves. We both started to realize that, while it was a great feeling to be able to treat others, we began to resent it because a) we didn't have the money to do it, and b) it wasn't necessarily reciprocated all that often.

So, we fell into the mentality that we couldn't afford generosity. At least not that type of material, consumption-based generosity. And we noticed that our friends still went out with us, happily paid for themselves and sometimes for us too. The only charity we participated in during this time was supporting the local animal shelter, and it felt good.

Fast forward a few years- we've been married two years, have successfully mastered the art of budgeting and living below our means (after a nasty crash-course in it) and will have paid off $65,000 in debt (credit cards and student loans) in August. We have recently started being generous again- in the form of birthday gifts, wedding gifts, I-saw-this-and-thought-of-you gifts, and sometimes drinks for friends when we're out (but not as often, and we find it's reciprocated a lot more often). We don't treat anyone to dinner out, but we often treat friends to a home cooked meal and a few bottles of wine, and find that everyone really enjoys it.

I guess the point of this whole rambling story is that I have recently arrived at the conclusion that being generous is still a great thing and we still get a lot of pleasure from it. But we are now Foolishly Generous instead of just tossing money around like we used to back in the pre-budget days. Being Foolishly Generous feels even better now than it used to, because we can afford to be generous these days, and truly take pleasure in it.


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