Updated on 05.29.07

The Choices You Make, The Dollars You Make

Trent Hamm

After a weekend completely off of the internet and off of writing, I had some serious catch-up to do yesterday afternoon here at The Simple Dollar. I take this site pretty seriously as a hobby / side business, particularly as we move into a new house, and I want to consistently write high quality entries, and that takes time and focus.

As I was just settling in to get some writing done, my nineteen month old son woke up from his nap and announced loudly that he wanted to go to the park. I tried to focus, but he kept grabbing my hand, pointing at the door, and saying “Park! Park! Slide!” It didn’t take long for me to relent, put my laptop away, and take my son to the park. It came down to a choice between effectively putting in more work to earn money or spending quality time with my son, and without much question, I chose to spend time with my son.

Why did I make that choice? To put it simply, no amount of money that I could ever earn from The Simple Dollar or any other endeavor will ever be able to buy back my son’s toddler years. Even now, I sometimes miss his infant days, when he would just cuddle in my arms for hours, and I know how fleeting it is. He’s already a little boy, and there’s no turning back the clock to being an infant – that time has passed, and the good memories I have of those times will remain just that, good memories.

Now he’s a toddler, and he loves going to the park and climbing on the small child playset and going down the slide. Right now, he’s too timid to go down the slide by himself, so he can make it up to the top there, but he sits down at the top of the slide and reaches for me. I stand to the side, reach up to him, and he grabs my hand tightly and holds it as he goes down the slide. It won’t be very long at all before he won’t need me to go down the slide – he’ll do it by himself – and then that time will be gone forever and no amount of money will ever bring it back.

Time after time, choices present themselves in your life where you can either make some money or you can do something that is in line with the central values in your life, an opportunity that might not come around again. Take the opportunity every time and leave the money on the table. That’s perhaps shocking advice from a personal finance site, but I mean it more sincerely than perhaps anything I have ever written here.

Yesterday, I could have invested a few hours writing a few stellar pieces for this site that might have picked up a few more readers, or I could have gone to the park with my son. Maybe my choice means that I won’t be able to post a great piece today, but the opportunity to stand there and be able to take my son’s hand as he reaches out for it to go down the slide, that’s worth more to me than the greatest piece of writing that my spirit could ever produce.

As he grows older, my son will probably not remember this day specifically, but he will remember the fact that I consistently made very similar choices, and it will profoundly change him as a person. He’ll be more secure in who he is, feel safer and happier at home, and will have more courage as a person to make wonderful choices in life. With my values, that’s the greatest investment I can make.

With your values, maybe it’s something different, like working on environmental causes or working at a women’s shelter. One individual session might not make a difference, but realizing that fundamental value and making the right choice to reflect that value over and over again will make all the difference in the world. Never, ever let the need to earn some extra money get in the way of that, because it won’t be the extra $20 you remember when you look back on your life, it will be the choice you made to help someone else.

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  1. Matiasrg says:

    I read your blog form some time ago, and I think that this one is your best post. There are so many times that this is applicable! It´s a pitty that I am from Argentina, I have some ideas that my english isn´t good enough to translate.
    Having a kid is incredible, it makes you reallize which are the important thngs in life.

  2. PJA says:

    you got it right on

  3. Wil says:

    Knowing that there are more important things in the world than work and money makes you wealthy beyond measure. Your son has a great role-model in you.

  4. GHoosdum says:

    I don’t consider this out of place. Our personal finance choices are ultimately made to put us in a position to spend time on the things we value in life. Family is something that you can enjoy now without having to scrimp and save to get there. Seems pretty natural to me.

  5. Rob in Madrid says:

    Most blogs post max 2-3 times a week so posting daily is (and top quality posts at that) is quite an accomplishment. So take a well deserved day or weekend off once in a while. It’s Un American I know but sometimes you need a holiday to clear the brain. Taking a few days to refresh can do wonders for your thinking.

  6. Laura says:

    “Maybe my choice means that I won’t be able to post a great piece today…”

    To the contrary – this was beautiful and thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing such wisdom.

  7. Giancarlo Angulo says:

    Great Post!

    I believe what you wrote about is exactly the reason one would even strive for financial security! To have time to enjoy the real substance of living!

    Once again great post!

  8. Ogden says:

    Kind of building on (and agreeing with) what Laura posted above, I think that perhaps you could re-frame the choices that you outlined. Instead of (very simplified) choice “A” will attract more readers and choice “B” will give me more time with family, you could think of it as this:

    My choices regarding lifestyle and what is important to me will attract readers to my blog. Choice “A” will attract a one sort of reader and choice “B” will attract a different sort of reader, and there is likely to be some cross-over between the two.

    So your choice to spend time with your family doesn’t cost you any readers, if people who also value time spent with family are the people you hope to attract to your blog. In fact it might (and probably does) gain you readers who are also trying to find that balance of family, work, and financial freedom.

    There are a hundreds of personal finance and lifestyle blogs out there that will provide some kernel of wisdom, good or bad, for their readers every single day just to get something out there each day. If someone wants a daily financial quick-fix, they can find it many places.

    But I suspect you, and many of your readers, prefer quality over quantity. So if you spend a day away and it leads you to some experience or realization that you can the share with the blog, (even if it’s just that time-off is a good thing) it’s time well spent, IMO, and an experience that we all can share and learn from.

  9. HappyRock says:

    Yep, I think making that choice added to your fulfillment and helped you write a great piece!

  10. Minimum Wage says:

    If you make minimum wage, can you afford to leave money on the table?

  11. K says:

    A good post, Trent. I’m in a similar place in life to you (my son is 18 months, we are moving into our new home in July, and I’m just shy of 28 years old), and I too miss those days where he would just curl up in my arms and go to sleep — and your post reminded me that every single moment with him today is one that I will miss tomorrow.

    You feared your choice would lose your a reader or two. Au contraire, I suspect you will find the opposite is true.

  12. Kai says:

    I have been lurking around here for some time and have been enjoying your writing a lot (though not everything is applicable in Germany)

    I think with this article you kind of did both: because the resulting piece actually adds to the value of your site. Just as HappyRock has noted above.

  13. Mardee says:

    I wish more people felt as you did – I honestly feel that one of the major problems with our country is that too many people rush past their children’s growing years. There’s a poem that I used to read when I was the single mother of a small baby. The message always helped me with my choice to keep my income low but spent time with my daughter. it’s been commercialized a good bit over the years, but the basic message still rings true. It’s a longish poem, but the last stanza goes like this:

    The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
    for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
    So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
    I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

    Congratulations on your choice, Trent – believe me, the time you spend now with your child will reap rewards in the years to come.

  14. Tim says:

    Great choice, Trent. You invested into your most important investment, so to speak. My son is 13 months, but he already doesn’t like being hugged as much as I like to hug him, and if he’s as independent as I was, then I’ve got a tough road ahead. :) Long gone are the cuddly infant days.

    On the upside, I’ve come up with a new form of discipline. Whenever he’s bad, he’ll have to give me a hug in public. If he’s really bad, have to endure a kiss on the cheek in front of his friends.

  15. Tracee Sioux says:


    I enjoyed your blog. I too am a blogger. We’re on the Dave Ramsey plan and just bought a mini-van outright. I’ve blogged about the evil of credit cards and how debt effects marriages at my website So Sioux Me to empower girls at http://traceesioux.blogspot.com/2007/01/i-saw-satan-on-tv-and-hes-little-dork.html .

    I think I’ll link your site to mine. Lots of common themes, working vs. kids, etc.

    Tracee Sioux

  16. David says:

    You gained a new reader here because someone passed this along to me.

  17. Excellent post Trent. Values before money… always.

  18. Steve says:

    Hi Trent! I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I will know what to do. I guess it is applicable to a few other things/situation – not just kids. Thought-provoking. Lucky kid, your son!

  19. Looks like we share the same thoughts. I too juggle many things, including and most especially: life with 2 young children. And nothing else is more fulfilling than seeing them happy and growing up healthy.

  20. Thoglette says:

    Ah, little grasshopper:-)

    Going further, nothing will buy back time with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins when growing up.

    I’ve dashed several careers agaist the rocks to keep the family close and regret none of that (though, by my age, there are plenty of other things to regret).

  21. yong lim foo says:

    I am from Singapore. This blog seems to cater towards the US resident. Nevertheless this particular entry is universal truth to me.

    Thank you for opening up my inner self.

  22. reulte says:

    Minimum Wage – its a choice, and if I had to go hungry or eat ramen noodles for the next week to spend an hour at the park with my boy, I would do it. As it is, I have categorically refused all overtime for the past 5-going-on-6 years and made it plain to my supervisors that I religiously obey the clocked work hours. I do not volunteer my time for anything that takes me away from my primary value – which is the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual health and well being of my son.

  23. Kelsey says:

    I’m in the middle of “Your Money Or Your Life” right now which I know was a life changing book for you. Obviously, you know that money is simply a tool to reach the goals and values we set in our lives. Being a full time blogger/writer allows you the freedom to put the laptop away and go to the park with your son. You’re a great example of how to set up your finances in such a way that you can focus on life! It’s awesome.

  24. Sue Garner says:

    I love this post. I have recently discovered your blog and been unable to stop reading articles from your archives. I agree so deeply with much of what you post and have read most of the books you review. Your parents must be very proud of you.

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