The right financial plan can increase your level of freedom and enjoyment.
In my previous post, I mentioned my inclination toward an unstructured lifestyle. That applies to many areas of my life. For example, I prefer to keep my free time free. I don’t want to follow a rigid schedule all the time. However, a recent experience gave me new understanding in this area.
My family and I vacationed in Pigeon Forge a couple of weeks ago. My wife won a free trip through her job, but her company only paid for the resort. Sight-seeing and other fun activities were on us.
There are many different things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. There’s no way to do everything in a 5-night stay and the cost for most attractions is significant. So, we had choices to make.
As with most tourist areas, the pricing for various attractions can get a bit confusing. You’ll see multiple prices depending on where you look. There are all kinds of package deals, discounts, and coupons available. It can overwhelm you.
We had an idea in our minds of some things we wanted to do, but we didn’t arrive with any kind of plan. After a couple of mistakes that cost us time and money, we decided it was better to have a plan.
With a little research and discussion, we came up with one. We would buy a package deal for multiple Ripley’s attractions. This allowed us to do a lot of fun activities that were perfect for our children. We saved a lot of money as heavy discounts were available for larger packages. We even found that our two smallest children were free if we purchased the tickets online, whereas only one of them was free if we purchased the tickets in person.
Due to this strange pricing quirk, I ended up buying tickets on my phone while standing next to the guy in the ticket booth. I’m sure he appreciated that since ticket salespeople in Gatlinburg seem to work on commission. “Please, buy tickets from me... You tell me, what do I have to do to put you and your family in a show today? Hey, where are you going? I’m still yelling at your family – why are you walking away? At least let me give you these coupons with my reference code at the bottom…”
I’m kidding. Gatlinburg is a friendly, wonderful, almost heavenly place where the fudge flows freely (for $8 per slice).
Anyway, we ended up seeing four major attractions for the same cost as one of our original ideas. We also realized later that our original idea (a dinner show) had the potential to be a disaster. It might have gone well with the small kids, or we might have gotten publicly scolded, kicked out, asked never to return, lost our rights as U.S. citizens... In some settings, we just don't know if they’re going to be angels or terrors.
The point is, a little bit of effort and planning actually increased our freedom. With the Ripley’s package, we were not locked into doing any particular activities on any particular days. The tickets were good for up to a year at any of seven different attractions. We didn't even have to choose specific attractions before buying the tickets. We still got up each morning and did exactly what we felt like doing. The big difference is, we were able to do a good bit more for the same amount of money. So, having a plan actually increased our freedom.
I recognized an application to the area of personal finance. We need some kind of plan. Having one can actually increase our freedom and enjoyment.
One of the reasons we haven’t had much of a formal plan is that our income has been highly variable. Going back a bit further, we were believing God for a financial miracle. We didn’t just make it up. We thought He was leading us to believe Him for such a miracle. In a way, that was our plan (and our faith did not allow for a backup plan). But it didn’t happen the way we had hoped. So, now we need a new plan.
I recently prayed that God would give us more stability in our income. It appears that He might be answering. This should enable us to construct a simple, workable plan. We have some amount of structure right now, but we don’t have any specific goals or a plan for how to reach them. We’ve just been operating freestyle on the principles of putting God first, being generous, and spending less than we make. But with the Lord’s help, we’ll take it to the next level soon.
Discussion: I would love to hear about anyone else’s experiences going from freestyle finances to having some kind of simple framework. Please feel free to share in the comment section below.
Want to get an email alert for new Personal Finance posts? Sign up for Personal Finance email alerts here.