It's the same for me as I try to focus my mind on something better than the enticing object I desire at the moment. What is more important? It will be different for each of us + different as time passes (because hopefully we'll have met some of our goals along the way). Paying off student loan debt, paying off a car loan, saving for college, saving for a new couch, paying off the mortgage, saving for a downpayment, saving so one parent can stay home with the children, saving toward a comfortable retirement, saving for a trip, saving for solar panels...all worthy goals.
A great motivator for saving and pouring all the little extras into a debt payoff or a savings goal is to use the payoff calculator that can often be found on a loan's website. I was able to see the payoff date for our mortgage by entering different monthly payments toward the principle. It is incredibly motivating to see the years tick off as the amount goes up little by little. Calculate how quickly a trip or solar panels could be saved up for by dividing the cost into monthly savings goals. Those months are going to go by whether we are saving or not.
In the pursuit of saving, I'm not personally advocating for cutting out all that makes life today enjoyable. In order to live within our means, we've just redefined luxury for ourselves. I want my life to feel abundant + vibrant. I don't want to feel deprived.
A spicy, warm chai, a glowing candle, my favorite blanket, and a good book make me happy in these cold months. I buy my favorite loose chai + make it at home. I let my tribe know that I really like candles + received some for Christmas. My favorite blanket was a gift that I've happily used for years + years. The library has an endless supply of all the books that I want to read. Saving the coffee shop for occassional friend meet-ups, watching movies at home instead of going to the theater, having friends over for a dessert potluck instead of meeting at a restaurant, or thrifting instead of taking a trip to Anthropologie...it all adds up. Often these shifts feel better too. I'd usually rather snuggle up under a blanket with my stovetop-popped popcorn than sit in a sticky seat with a $20 popcorn bucket anyway. :) (It makes gifted movie passes more special too.)
So what do Mr. Tribe + I place more value on than what we will find in front of us this year? Our mortgage is going to be the top priority for us. (I know, sort of boring.) When a borrower puts less than 20% down on a house in the USA, they have to pay for PMI, or private mortgage insurance each month. Once that 20% is paid off, the borrower does not have to pay for PMI anymore. When we reached this point, we just kept putting the amount that had been going toward PMI toward the principle. This was not the easy choice with our tight budget, but it was the right one. We've also put a large portion of our tax return toward our mortgage each year. We lost all of our home equity in the economic downturn, so actually having the end of our mortgage in sight is pretty darn exciting!
There are a couple of home improvements that I would like to do too, so those may receive some priority as well. I struggle with the idea of paying the mortgage off first (which still won't be for about a decade) versus really enjoying our home while we are paying it off. Still working through that one. Please let me know if you have any insight. :)
What do you find more important?