Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: How much should I invest in family activities?

Mechel Glass
by Mechel Glass, Dimespring Contributor  (@CredAbility)

Do you ever wonder if any personal finance advisor has any fun in life?

I recently bought a one-year membership to a Tae Kwon Do studio for my daughter and me, and it’s the best money I’ve spent in a long time. I’m engaged in a fun activity with my child, getting regular exercise, losing weight, meeting new people and learning Korean. My 8-year-old is learning a new skill and gaining confidence and self-esteem. What could be better?

I raise the issue because this membership breaks some of my rules for budgeting and money management. It is certainly not a “need,” which is one of the criteria I always set when advising people how they should spend and invest their hard-earned money. And I could have stashed the extra money into my individual retirement account or made a larger monthly payment on my mortgage loan.

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But all of us, especially those with young children, know we need to find activities where we can build lasting bonds with our kids. At the end of the day, that’s the best investment any of us can make.

As I considered buying the two memberships, I did my homework, weighing the impact of this new expense on my monthly budget. I reviewed my expenses and determined that I could reduce costs in other categories while still contributing at the same rate to my retirement account, as well as my flexible spending accounts for health and day care. I review my regular expenses monthly to see if adjustments can be made to food, gasoline, utilities and other costs, and I determined I could keep those in check.

Next, I negotiated the best membership price possible. The regular price for a one-year membership was $130 a month, but I took advantage of two weeks of free, private classes to check out the quality of the program. After that, I spoke with the owner about costs and negotiated a price of $108 a month. I did my research, understood the expense and the impact on my budget. Once I was satisfied that the benefits clearly outweighed the costs, I wrote the check.

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While the class is good for my mental, physical and emotional health, there are also hidden financial benefits. If my daughter and I weren’t taking this class, we’d likely be spending money shopping, dining out or on another activity where there would be little financial return.

And what do I do at home on my nights off? I practice my Tae Kwon Do moves and try to keep up with the girl at the top of my class.

 

Mechel Glass is vice president of community outreach for CredAbility. She is responsible for coordinating community outreach and financial education activities across the agency’s regions and developing new education programs for both classroom settings and online. Glass, a U.S. Army veteran, is also co-author of “The Veteran’s Money Book,” scheduled for publication in April 2014 by Career Press. The book can now be ordered on Amazon.com.