Yes, the market has whipsawed you so much the last several months you feel like a cat dropped into the middle of a dog pound. And that's about as much fun as being a Cowboys fan in Redskins territory. (Trust me, I know!) But despite the maddening market and my awful analogies, you still know how to have fun!
You proved that last week, when we asked you to tell us exactly how you're having fun with your money these days. Your entries were wonderful, and we'd like to share the winners with you now. Each of these three fun-loving Fools will receive, as a prize, a one-year subscription to our TMF Money Advisor service (which would make a great Christmas gift... there's still time!).
Our first winner echoed a theme in many of our entries, that of helping others. Aaron Stark, an electrical engineer from Nashua, New Hampshire, found a way to combine an exotic overseas trip with a mission project:
This year, in the midst of a business slowdown, I decided to use a month of my banked vacation time to visit a new continent. I traveled to Zambia, in southern central Africa.
The airfare was a bit pricey, but living expenses were minimal as I spent the month with a missionary family whom my church supports. It was a great cultural immersion, as I spent the weekdays working on a church construction site digging footers and pouring concrete with Zambians happy to work a hard nine hours for 7,000 kwacha a day. (The exchange rate: 3,700 kwacha = $1.)
One Sunday, I tented with a couple of my Zambian friends in a farming village that was about an hour's bike ride down a narrow sandy path from town. We spent that evening sitting around a campfire with our host, relaxing on our day off, singing Bemba songs and talking (with the help of my friends who spoke Bemba and English). Our hosts served us a feast of nishima, dried fish with a relish, and boiled yams and roasted peanuts for dessert. In the morning I woke up to the obnoxious crowing of roosters right outside my tent.
At the end of the trip I spent a couple of days at South Luangwa safari park, enjoying an astonishing abundance of animal life.
It was an amazing vacation. Fun, stimulating, exciting, mind opening, and challenging all at once. Oh, yes, and since I was Foolishly doing work for a charitable organization... it was also tax deductible.
For pictures visit my website.
Our next winner, Ginney10306, also loves to travel, and knows exactly how to do it while at the same time spending quality time with her grandchildren:
How do I have fun with my money? First, I learned to "love myself," and I preach this to everyone I meet. I'm 80 years old and my husband, Bill, is 83. Do you think this stops us? Never.
We have taken our three granddaughters on vacation for the past 10 years... every summer. And always to a place of their choice. Our daughter does the driving, and we PAY! That's the secret.
We have traveled all of the United States, as well Holland, France (three times), and Spain, and our grandkids have grown learning how the rest of the world lives. We just plain enjoy it! My husband and I never lift a suitcase, and we get door-to-door service. We rent the finest car possible. My attitude is "If someone else can do it, so can I."
All of this money was made in the market, and I had fun doing it. What's more, I'm still doing it! I am a gambler, but play to win. Now I have invested in fuel cell companies and nanotechnology. It will take a while for brokers to catch on; I bought Human Genome Sciences and Perkin Elmer in their infancy. Never listen to big time brokers! They offer advice after they got in and made theirs.
Our third and final winner is Justin Fields, and we like his entry because it involves an activity you just can't help but have fun doing! (As long as you don't have a fear of falling, heights, birds, or broken limbs, that is.)
I am having fun with my money by affirming my ultimate freedom and the endless possibilities of life. The acts of Sept. 11 only strengthened my will to assert my personal power of choice. Along with asserting my freedom comes the weight of responsibility. This, too, I welcome, as they are inseparably linked.
The most obvious expression of my renewed vigor has been skydiving. I cannot think of anything a person can do that celebrates life, freedom, and responsibility more succinctly than skydiving. During the 60 seconds immediately following each leap from the plane, I am exultant. I am one with the birds and sky, savoring each fleeting second.
All too soon, it is time to save a life, namely my own. The value and fragility of human life come into sharp focus as I reach behind me and throw my pilot chute into the wind screaming by. Time stands still before the air grabs the pilot chute and it pulls open my parachute, quickly bringing me to the eerily quiet and peaceful sensation of unpowered canopy flight. Still, the glory unfolds, as I dive, turn and spiral gleefully towards the ground. A few more precious minutes remain as I gradually descend. With a final flare of my parachute, my feet touch softly back to the earth. I am alive.
An activity so exhilarating and joyous must carry a price. The potential price of skydiving is as extreme as the experience. Every year, people die participating in the sport. The chances are incredibly slim, and the risks can be mitigated somewhat through careful safety procedures, but they will always remain. Skydivers accept these risks with complete knowledge of the consequences. Responsibility for one's own actions is paramount.
There are more mundane costs as well. Skydiving training: $1,000. Parachute rig: $3,000. Altimeters: $500. Lift tickets: $18 each. The feeling of paying for everything with cash: Priceless. (Sorry, MasterCard.)
Because I have chosen an expensive hobby does not mean that I am willing to sacrifice my financial future. I habitually live below my means, so I have the flexibility to indulge with financial freedom as well. I depart for a weekend of skydiving with a set amount of cash in my wallet. I return after two days of playing in the sky without a penny of debt, and usually with money left over.
The terrorist attacks and anthrax scare have reiterated the need to stop and refocus on what's important. Skydiving isn't for everyone, and I'm not trying to proselytize. So pick something that matters to you, then go and do it. I'm not advocating either a miserly or frivolous lifestyle. Find the balance that works for you. There is unpredictability in life that ought to be embraced. Live in the present and enjoy it, while working to secure your financial future at the same time. You have the power to do both. Now go forth and celebrate your freedom. The sky is blue, and I want to fly.
Well said, Justin. If you enjoyed reading these, you might want to check out the following entries. They were very good also, and we hereby confer upon them honorable mention status. Enjoy!