A European Adventure

When my husband and I were newly married, we got a sort of crazy dream into our hearts. We dreamed of going to Europe. We knew that it would not be long before we would want to start a family and we knew that having a baby would push the dream back by a lot of years, so we decided that we would start saving and go. At the time, we were not making very much money. We were going to Bible school together and both only working part time… so not exactly wealthy… actually, far from it. But we had a dream, and we decided to go for it. So we scaled back our budget to a bare minimum, simplified our lives as much as possible, and started to plan our journey. We wanted to go for at least a month. We figured if we were going to pay all of that money just to get there, we needed to make it worth our while. It truly seemed an impossible dream, but so much fun just to dream.

We started saving. For over a year, we squeezed ourselves as tight as possible. We would continually ask ourselves, “Do we want this (t-shirt, meal out, new book, etc.) or do we want to go to Europe?” I won’t lie to you, it was not an easy year. We sacrificed a lot, but at the end of the year we had saved up the money that we needed. Honestly, even we were amazed at what we were able to save. We bought our tickets, reserved our Eurorail passes, made reservations, and had the most amazing month of our lives.

Now in financial terms, this trip to Europe may not have been the wisest decision, and I am sure many financial advisors would have advised against it. Most would have advised us to put that money into our retirement savings and not to waste it on a trip. There are many people who do save all of their money for the end of their lives, and I admit, I am torn on this issue. I am absolutely a believer in saving for retirement, but I also believe that life is so rich and full and precious. To me it is foolish to save all of the best moments for the very end. So I think there is a delicate balance to be fought for between planning for the future, and not delaying living until the future.

Many financial planners put such a heavy emphasis on the future, that it feels like it sucks all the life out of today. I don’t know the exact answer to this except that I don’t think our lives should be ruled by a fear of what will come. So absolutely plan for the future, but you have to make a place for in your life for your dreams today. What do you have in your heart today?

One of the things that we learned in our savings adventure for Europe, is that you can only live in that place of intense deprivation for a limited time and you have to have a very clear goal that is motivating you. It was such a powerful experience for both of us, not just the actual trip, but also the journey up to the trip. We learned what we can accomplish when we come into agreement, and the power of savings. We discovered how much fun it is to realize a dream. There really is nothing that seemed out of our reach after that experience. It truly changed our lives.

Now I am not recommending that you live in that place of intense saving. It does seem to leach the joy out of life right now. However, if you can incorporate the principles of saving into your life, while still giving yourself breathing room to enjoy your life, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. As you write down your dreams and financial goals, it is a great idea to ask yourself, “Do I want this new DVD player, or do I want to be out of debt? Do we want to eat out tonight, or do we want to be able to buy our own home?” Whatever the little desire is that pops into your head today, compare it to the dream, or the goal. It is so easy to lose sight of what you really want and what is really in your heart for your money, and to waste the resources that God is giving you to get there. This is the heart of purposeful spending and the really beautiful part of budgeting. Budgeting is not just to get you out of debt or to help you live within your means, it is also a way to see your dreams realized. So dream big. We did, and we have the most amazing European pictures to prove it.