Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Maybe There's Something to being Reasonable...

I have a tendency to be a little extreme. This has demonstrated itself in my life in many ways over the years. I was extremely Christian in high school and college...to the point of being judgmental and dogmatic. I was extreme in my spending habits-shopped all the time and wanted lots of "stuff" to make me feel good and successful. I was (and still am) sort of extreme about achieving academically. I didn't get straight A's in undergrad, but I never got below a B, and graduated with high honors from my grad program. I went straight from undergrad to grad school, literally only taking one weekend off after graduation. And now my extremeness extremity tendency to be extreme manifests itself in my attitudes toward finance.

This isn't always a bad thing. I am proud of my academic accomplishments and they have put me where I am in my career. I have gotten out of credit card debt and worked hard at being more responsible and paying down my car loan.

But I think sometimes I need to be a little more reasonable with myself and others. I've been mulling over this for the past few weeks, since I read this from the website of the Episcopal Church the bf and I have been attending:

"We are biblical in the best sense of the word. We are not fundamentalist Christians who believe in the literal infallibility of the Scriptures. Rather, we believe the bible is the story of how the people of faith understood and responded to a God who acts in history. Each book of the Bible is a record of what people at a particular time wanted to say about their experience with God.

We are a historical church in the sense that we are conscious that our beliefs and practices are deeply rooted in the past. We are also historical in the sense that history involves the passage of time and that the passage of time involves change."

I thought to myself, "How reasonable!" This is exactly how I want to believe. I value the Bible and Christianity deeply, but I've been struggling with my faith because I felt that I had to believe EXACTLY what my conservative college and church taught. Frankly, I don't. And this was keeping me away from church and from God. When I read this, something clicked for me. 

These thoughts that it's okay to be reasonable and maybe it's good not to be so extreme were still in my head when I was reading Get A Financial Life by Beth Kobliner last night. I picked it up at Book Swap a few weeks ago, and read a chapter before I went to bed. Her guideline for debt is that it should be no more than 20% of your annual take home salary. 

Not, "Never go into debt EVER." Just a guideline to go by. 

How reasonable. 

I'm not advocating for debt. I still want to pay off my car early and hope to avoid credit card debt for good. But, I think what Ms. Kobliner suggests is very reasonable. It would be good to keep in mind when buying a car or financing another large purchase. I'm sure she'd say that NO debt is best, and obviously that's what I'll shoot for. But it was refreshing to read financial advice that didn't make me feel like ordering a pizza is a sin if I still have a car loan. 

Do you ever think you're too extreme in certain areas of your life? Or do you value that passion as it helps you succeed?


  1. no but my mom thinks I am a little 'extreme with my desire to be debt free in 3.5 years"

  2. I have always been extreme too, but learned to tone it down after graduating college. Now I am extreme towards finances and I like it that way! I think that's one thing to be extreme at. But I am also extreme at exercising. I'm just glad I no longer am extreme about shopping.. used to buy EVERYTHING I wanted! It wasn't healthy.

  3. Ummm, yeah, I can TOTALLY relate to this post! I also have perfectionism mixed into my extremism. If I set a goal I have to be PERFECT at getting it done (paying off debt, losing weight, etc.) or I just throw in the towel. I really need to work on this because I think I might be missing out on a lot of experiences because I'm afraid I won't be able to do them perfectly.

    I need to learn to be more reasonable, too. The idea appeals to me but I just fear that if I lose the "all or nothing/do it perfectly" mentality, I won't get anything done.

  4. This post made me want to read a book about the concept of the extreme in American culture (what comes to mind first is a man tv announcer saying, "Most extreme!" in an extreme tone of voice), as it relates to religious extremism and anorexia. Will you write that? Thanks.

    Balance, balance, it's hard to achieve and harder to maintain. For me. For most people, I think.