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You Can Afford It! - Jason Ross, Associate, Atwood Financial Planning (NJ)

Hi all,
As usual our blog takes a summer break over July and August. I hope you enjoy our last post until September. Jason Ross, our Associate located in NJ, wrote this post and he can be reached at jasonr@atwoodfinancial.com. He is also an hourly, fee-based, fiduciary planner, under Atwood Financial Planning. Contact him if you're interested in working with him. Also take a look at his page on our site.

You Can Afford It!

I hate hearing people say they "can't afford" something that’s critical to their desired lifestyle. The truth is, if something is important enough to you, you can probably find a way to make it happen, even if it’s not easy to figure out. In my case, the “discretionary” item that feels as if it’s essential, is to take a few “big mountain” ski trips each year and teach my children the sport I love. Sadly, from my home base in New Jersey, this is not a convenient or inexpensive hobby.

Ask How

Don't ask whether you can afford something, ask how you can afford it. Find ways to increase your income or spend less on other lower priority items and make it happen. When I created a spending plan for the first time the very first line item I added was my ski vacations (not a mortgage payment, car payment or even food). My ski vacations were so important to me, I was willing to put them first. I would then decide how much to spend on the rest of my expenses to make sure they fit around the lifestyle of winter travel I wanted.

Prioritize

Figuring out “how” is always a matter of priorities and trade-offs. Ask yourself, what matters most to your household. Is it worth living simply during the year to take big vacations? Are you willing to sacrifice a big house to have a more modest one in a great school district? Do you prefer driving a brand new car without having any cash left to travel or do you prefer to drive a well-loved vehicle and travel twice a year?

Compromise

Life is about compromise. If you’re in a relationship, having up-front discussions and commitment to each of your high priority items is essential. In my case, my wife supports, maybe just tolerates, my passion for skiing. She loves to travel, but is more of a warm weather person. We’ve struck a balance where we don't use all of our vacation time and resources in the winter. We have a completely separate line in the spending plan for warm weather vacations, which lets us both enjoy the travel we desire.

Buy Efficiently

Just because something is a priority for you, does not mean you should spend frivolously on it. You need to be economical about decisions instead of just throwing money at things. To enjoy the experience I want and keep the costs down, I plan my trips well in advance. I buy a season pass, which brings down my cost per ski day and we choose resorts that have great (and affordable) lesson programs for our children.

We sometimes stay further away from the hill to save on lodging. I use points and miles earned from credit cards to pay for flights and hotels. Lastly, I try and pick quiet times of the year when conditions are still good to find additional savings and enjoy a less crowded experience. What are the ways you can keep the cost down and still enjoy the most important parts of that thing you really love?

Focus

Planning around your priorities can be applied to whatever your priorities and passions are. The most important advice is to put some time aside and focus on how to get what you really want. I so often hear people say in passing "I’d love to travel more but can’t afford it," or talk about being stressed by having debt and not being able to save for retirement. While every circumstance is different, the approach to sitting down and thinking about your priorities and putting them first will often show that you can have what you really want by just spending less on the things that are not as important to you anyway.

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