Balancing Work vs. Play and Making vs Spending Money

Life is full of interesting characters: frugal hermits the squeeze every penny and cut every coupon, spendthrifts in debt up to their eyeballs, and everything in between. Generally speaking in life you don’t want to be on either extreme if you can help it. Somewhere in the middle and keeping balance are key.

The Parable of the Rockstar and the Hermit

There once was a Rockstar and a Hermit. The two grew up together, but after college their paths diverged significantly. The once best friends soon would not recognize the other during a random encounter.


The Rockstar

The Rockstar loved life and lived it to the fullest. You think you’re a glass half-full kind of person? The Rockstar’s glass was full and then he grabbed another glass and filled it up. Always traveling, always meeting new people, and a list of friends in international locales that he always seemed to visit at least once every few years. He worked, when he could, but work took a back seat to enjoying life and having the time of his life.

But behind the nights out to 3am with people he shared no common language with was a distressed man facing financial ruin. Holding down a steady job was difficult since he liked to travel so much. And without a steady income that travel got put on credit cards with massive interest rates. He was rocking and rolling down the tracks, but the train was headed for a financial cliff.

The Hermit

The Hermit loved life, too, but in his own special way. He valued hard work, routine, and spending as little money as possible. He had plans to travel… someday, but not now, no, now was the time for work and saving. He had a nice group of friends nearby after college, but when they would call to go out to dinner or take a weekend trip, he always turned them down. His saving goal wasn’t met yet, he needed to stay home this weekend to bolster his accounts. “Maybe next weekend” became his creed.

Slowly his friends stopped calling him back. And slowly he retracted his social life until he normally sat at home alone every night. This was a sad state to be in, and he was intelligent enough to know it, but he always pushed it off with the idea that once he saved enough he would start spending some of that money.

How to Keep Balance Between Saving and Spending

Does the Rockstar or the Hermit sound like you? Does it sound like any fun?

They live on the extremes. One is constantly out spending money, but too much. The other never spends any money, and even if he wanted to no one would want to be around for it.

In this case the extremes aren’t where you want to be. Being in the middle — saving some, but enjoying life too — is a better choice.

But how to get there?

Realize What You’re Drawn To

Know thyself. Know whether you are drawn to be the guy who never goes out with friends and alienates himself or the gal who doesn’t have a clue how she’s going to pay this month’s credit card bill.

Once you know where you are and what you’re drawn to, you can put in place some mechanisms to keep you from going toward your natural extreme and moving you toward a happy medium.

Set Reasonable Goals

Setting and sticking to goals is a fascinating task that can help you automatically get where you need to go.

Maybe you’re more like the hermit but you do want to force yourself to travel. Pick a trip for 12 months out, set a budget for it, then set up a savings account with an automatic contribution for the next 12 months that will fully fund the trip. You’ll be able to spend the money without any guilt about how you’re going to pay the bill.

Or maybe you’re the hermit and know you need to build up your emergency fund. Again, setting up a contribution to go into an account each month will slowly build up your balance. Even if it took you two years that’s better than nothing.

What About You?

Are you more the Hermit or the Rockstar? How do you balance yourself out?

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

About the Author

By , on May 5, 2013
Kevin Mulligan
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for, Discover Bank, and many others.

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  1. Yavenay says:

    I live by this one simple rule when it comes to money.

    Invest some
    save some
    spend some
    give some away

    Simple enough….it allows me to enjoy life today while saving for tomorrow.

  2. I’d have to say I am in the middle. I splurge on the activities I really like, and then panic when it comes to spending money on the things I need. I want to travel but I am terrified of putting all my money into one adventure incase I find something else I much rather do.

  3. krantcents says:

    I think you can be a rockstar with out spending a great deal of money. I never felt deprived saving and investing. I managed to achieve financial freedom in my late 30s!

  4. Great Post! This analogy is spot on. Life really is a balance, and finding that balance can be a journey.

  5. Tom Gorski says:

    I kind of identify with both the rockstar and the hermit— I am actually someone ruled by phases… sometimes I am too eager to meet friends, embark on impulsive trips and spend as much as I can , while at times I act too frugal thereby surprising friends as well!

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