A Money Coach in Canada

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This weekend I splurged and spent a chunk of change at a spa.

And not any old spa. The Spa Utopia. Pan Pacific location. Yes, it’s every bit as wonderful as it sounds.

It raised the questions it usually does: I walked by beggars, including women who sleep on stairs and cardboard, enroute to the spa. How can I justify this splurge in face of the people whose primary needs are not being met?

Like many of you, I have grappled frequently with this question. Here are a few thoughts I have, and I hope to god I’m not defending the indefensible.

  1. No one is served by everyone being destitute. Rather, we need to find ways where we all enjoy a reasonable standard of living. The fact that I have a reasonable standard of living is a good thing.
  2. Spa experiences are a good thing. A gorgeous luxury. When it is within my means, and when I go to a spa, the appropriate response is not guilt, but rather ensuring I celebrate and enjoy the experience fully.
  3. Notwithstanding, I remain accountable (to whom? For me, the creator of all people. But also, to my society. And also, to the marginalized themselves. Food for thought: a priest in an inner city church in the states made the comment: No one gets to heaven without letters of recommendation from the poor) — I remain accountable for the people I encounter locally, and the people across the globe, who are going to bed hungry, and outside.
  4. I cannot solve the planet’s poverty with my salary. But I can give with increasing generosity. My rule of thumb is that I both give monthly to a charity and also, for every splurge, I give an equal amount to the charity, in addition to the regular amount.
  5. I can request political change and policies that do more than I can do singlehandedly to eradicate poverty locally and globally.

Readers:  how do you balance luxury spending in the midst of a planet of hungry people?

About the Author


Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com

5 Comments

  1. one of those posts that deserves a lengthy answer, and to be looked at from many points of view.

    here is just one: this question used to drive me crazy. and then one day i saw that, for me, there was a sort of perverted perfectionism in trying to wrestle this question to the ground.

    i then figured that if i give about 5-10% of my time and my money to help others, i’m definitely not totally irresponsible, and it’s a good enough start. in those times when i do more – all the better.

    and as that poem in my last post says (thanks for making the connection, nancy) – there is much more than money that we can contribute to the world.

    when i give a loonie or a toonie to someone on the street, i often feel that those coins are not what’s most important. what’s really important is the human connection: two people looking each other in the eye, exchanging a smile, blessing each other.

    [Reply]

    Jun 23, 2008
  2. @isabella yup, that’s what I was thinking about, and actually, mourning a bit: what could the world look like if *everyone* really did have the inner confidence to sing, and to allow themselves to fully *become* themselves?

    [Reply]

    Jun 23, 2008
  3. oh, and how about this – as we contribute materially to our brothers and sisters who for the moment are not as well off as we are, why not sing to them and with them – metaphorically, perhaps, at times, and at other times musically?

    [Reply]

    Jun 24, 2008
  4. E

    I know I may get stoned for sounding like a heartless conservative here, but here goes:

    I do not feel it is immoral for the reasons you listed above (mainly #1), and:
    #2. Who do you help and how much misery must be eradicated before you are morally allowed to treat yourself? The permanently homeless hungry mentally ill drug addicted person on the street? The inadequately housed hungry person who is trying to find employment? The housed hungry person who is in long-term debt? The comfortably housed hungry person who overspent their latest paycheque?
    #3. Extravagance in the face of poverty has a bad ring to it because historically it goes hand in hand with an exploitative classist society. We see all the trappings of royalty spending in the face of extremely poverty or aristocrats with their households full of slave labour. Those are immoral because those people are in a position to provide better conditions for their people, but choose otherwise out of apathy or negligence. That would be immoral. If you are in a position of power, you need to bare appropriate responsibility. If you are in a position of employer, you need to pay your workers in a fair and non-exploitative manner. If you are not withholding or using your wealth in an exploitative manner, then I do not believe it is immoral.

    [Reply]

    Jun 24, 2008
  5. E, far from stoning you, i’d like to commend you on your insightful comment, particularly what you say about the historical context.

    [Reply]

    Jun 25, 2008

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