In an old Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown complains day after day because all he has to eat for lunch is a bologna sandwich. His buddy Linus finally asks him, “Well who’s making your lunch, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown solemnly replies, “I am.”
This brilliant animated moment illustrates the fact that all of us have choices – about how we spend our time, and our money. We may not want to believe it, but we are in full control of the choices we make.
Just About Everything We Do or Don’t Do is of Our Choosing
Sometimes it feels like we have very few choices. Maybe because circumstances have us pinned down in our current job, or we owe too much money to make a move, etc. But the simple act of getting up and going to work is a choice.
Unless you live under communist rule, you still have a choice whether or not you get up in the morning and head to the office, and you have a choice regarding your place of employment. Accepting that can actually make bad jobs feel more tolerable.
You might even have this little conversation with yourself in the company parking lot tomorrow morning: “Yes, my job stinks, but I am choosing to go back in and put in a full day’s work.”
Thank God it’s Friday! Oh God it’s Monday!
I was once stuck in a bad job in a toxic environment – I mean really toxic. I was stressed out, burned out, and basically fed up with my job. And then in a moment of clarity it occurred to me that I was making a choice every day to get up and go to work.
Sure, I would be fired if I didn’t go. My family would lose our employer’s health insurance. A steady paycheck would cease to be deposited in my bank account. Our bills wouldn’t get paid and we would probably lose our car, our home and our other belongings. All those things were negative consequences of my decision not to go to work, but I still made the choice.
Essentially, I was choosing to exchange my time in a lousy job for pay, benefits and the ability to keep our stuff.
These same lessons apply to our finances. I’ve known many couples over the years who have been envious of my wife’s position as a stay-home mom. It does not come without sacrifice. However, my wife and I agreed early in our marriage that she would stay home with our kids until they were school age or beyond.
The cost of daycare and employment-related expenses would make breaking even difficult, and getting further ahead nearly impossible. I chose to drive an older vehicle for many of those early years, took my lunch to work nearly every day and we both gave up many costly hobbies and collections so my wife could stay home. She has put her educational and career goals on hold for the same. We made a choice.
Life’s Too Short to Spend It Being Miserable
If you are stuck in a dead end job, or are working just to make a car payment, consider setting yourself free by giving up some of life’s luxuries.
Consider a mother of two paying $800 a month in daycare expenses for her three year-old and a newborn. At $20 an hour it will take over 40 hours of work each month just to pay for childcare expenses (actually, it will take about 55 hours when you factor her household’s earnings are in the 28% tax bracket).
Then factor in the cost of a work wardrobe, a car, higher maintenance costs on that car, gasoline, eating out, etc. and suddenly you realize that mom is simply working to pay for the pleasure of working. Seems illogical doesn’t it, assuming she would rather stay at home and raise her kids?
I certainly don’t begrudge couples who agree to both spouses working. I was raised by a single mother who didn’t have a choice. However, if given the choice, I would always vote for mom or dad staying home with the kids, particularly if it was something they always dreamed of doing.
I would now encourage you to reflect on the goals you have sacrificed because you feel financial pressure to stay in a bad job. Sell the car. Cancel the gym membership. Move to a cheaper place. Stop eating out. Make the tough choices now so you can spend your remaining life energy doing the things that are most important to you.