Sunday, March 1, 2009

Deficit Spending

I was walking home from school drop off the other day with a couple other parents. We got to talking about the high cost of living where we live, one of the reasons my family is moving away. One of the parents told about his families decision to run a deficit so he could stay home with his twins while they were young. He said if the government can run a deficit why can't we. Makes sense to a degree. Governments will run deficits during difficult economic times or when there is a national priority that cannot be funded by current revenue. The hope is that this spending will either help turn the economy around or that the priority will be worth the debt and pay off in greater rewards in the future. For my friend's family this meant that his being home with his kids for the first five years of life was deemed important enough to incur a small amount of debt now.

When we moved to this area we came with a healthy savings account knowing that we would also be running a deficit while we lived here. Tapping our savings was a part of our plan. And it worked. We were able to provide a comfortable home, in a safe neighborhood with excellent schools for our children. But I have recently realized that we also have been running an emotional deficit these last few years. Long hours, stressful work and family situations, life with three small children and no real breaks has taken its toll and pulled all of our emotional reserves from the tanks. Both my husband and I are running on empty. And this is a greater problem than running out of money.

Because when I run on empty, just getting from day to day, any little unexpected interruption becomes overwhelming to me. Last week, my son's school called me to let me know that he had a little temperature and I needed to pick him up. He never gets sick. This is a once in three years of school event. And yet my first reaction was to be a bit annoyed that my one quiet moment of the day was being interrupted by having to wake up the little one and go pick up his brother. I thankfully was able to muster all the appropriate responses. Lots of loving words and mommy care that made my little guy feel better. But it should have been real and not faked for my son's sake.

So running on fumes is not an option for me. And just like personal finance I need to be diligent to not only pay off the debt, but to build up an emergency fund. And the only way to do that is to make the hard choices and do the work to create the space I need in my life.

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