Life in the Fast Lane is Exciting, but filled with Stress and Risk.

Driving in the fast lane can be a white-knuckle thrill ride on certain highways – if you’re into that sort of thing. Weaving in and out of traffic, and keeping a sharp eye out for that cop sitting just out of sight. The adrenaline rush that comes from speeding and reckless driving can sometimes carry over into other aspects of our lives when you’re younger. And when it comes to money and finances, that mentality breeds poor decisions and ruined lives. Sometimes we need to simply move over into the right lane and slow it down.

Stay with me as we speed through a commute in the life of the Cash Dad. These are the things I think about during my drive to work.

Staying in the Fast Lane is Stressful.

I was driving to work the other day. I have about a half hour commute to work each way through the mountains of central Pennsylvania. It’s a beautiful drive through God’s creation. I often see gorgeous sunrises and passing by a small reservoir offers a relaxing mountain view. It’s a view that most city-dwellers only see when they vacation in the mountains once a year. And I can see it five days a week.

The speed limit on that section of highway is 55 mph, and for good reason. There are a number of sharp turns as the road winds its way through the mountains. Along with the sharp turns, there are usually many large trucks struggling up and down the steep grades. When they are traveling 25 – 30 mph or slower, and you’re driving the speed limit or faster, you can come up behind them rather quickly.

A Poor Driver “Stuck” in the Fast Lane.

This is the situation I found myself in while driving to work that day. And to be honest, it’s a situation I often find myself in while driving that road. I was driving around 65 mph or so, and I easily passed the slow moving truck that was in front of me. I got back in the slow lane, and kept driving. When I looked in my rear-view mirror, I noticed that a substantial line of cars was forming farther back on the highway behind the truck I just passed and another car who was attempting to pass.

That lead car must have been going a little over 65 or so, because they were gaining on me. But that wasn’t fast enough for the dozen or so cars right on the tail of their leader. And as the lead car passed me, slowly I might add, I looked over to see an older lady gripping the steering wheel tightly with both hands. Her face looked strained and her demeanor was anything but relaxed. Obviously she had been in the fast lane for a while. She was afraid that if she were to switch lanes, she would never be able to get back into the passing lane if she came up on a slow moving truck. So she just drove in the fast lane most of the way there. This had caused other cars to come up on her tail and further exacerbated her stressful drive.

Certainly none of those drivers were taking in the beautiful scenery all around them. They were too concerned with the car directly in front of them. And the lady in the front . . . Well, she was leading a line of irate drivers up a windy highway. Her blood pressure was surely rising.

I Had a Stress-free Drive in the Slow Lane.

All the while, I was able to pass the slow moving trucks and then move back into the slow lane – the low-stress lane. You see, I wasn’t right on anybody’s tail. I didn’t have to worry about them slamming on their brakes, nor did I have to maintain my crazy speed in order to keep those drivers behind me content. I was able to enjoy the scenery and still get to work on time. For me it was a low-stress commute. We were driving the same road, at the same time, with polar opposite attitudes and stress levels.

I have to confess. I have been in the other lane. Driving like a maniac, and keeping others from passing me used to be dangerous game I played. But eventually I’d come up on a slow moving car, like the lady I described earlier, passing a truck, and my blood pressure would start to rise. Because I couldn’t maintain the speed I wanted. And for what? So I could get to work a minute or two earlier?

I realized that the slow lane has its advantages. Staying out of the rush allowed me the opportunity to actually enjoy my commute. Driving became secondary and the scenery was more enjoyable. I arrived at my job in a better frame of mind ready to do good work.

But How Does Driving Apply to My Finances?

In the fast lane, life seems to happen at warp speed. Decisions are made, and money is spent. Maybe you don’t remember where it went or why you spent it. But it’s gone, and life goes on. The bills are piling up, and stress is building. Not knowing just adds to the stress.

Does this resonate with you? Do you play it fast and loose with your money? Are you sometimes wondering if there will be money left in your account by the end of the month? Are you always living life on the edge, financially speaking? The experts sometimes call this living paycheck-to-paycheck. Most Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. Sometimes by choice or sometimes by circumstance, but it doesn’t have to stay this way. You can move over and slow down.

Because after a while, life in the fast lane isn’t as exciting as it once was. The thrill is gone. Now you wish you could slow down and enjoy the scenery, but you can’t.

Just like the lady driving herself crazy in the fast lane, you’re afraid that if you move over and slow down, you’ll never be able to be happy again. You think you can’t change your lifestyle even though you have a mess to clean up, because fixing things will take so long. And then you won’t have any time left to live. So you just keep doing what you’ve been doing, and your stress level keeps rising. You feel “stuck” in the fast lane . . . Until something finally breaks. That aha moment! That financial awakening!

What Does Life in the Slow Lane Look Like?

Welcome to freedom. It’s counter-intuitive. But moving slower and more deliberate has its advantages. Staying out of debt and only buying what you can afford may seem limiting and boring. But the stress is gone! The scenery is in focus now, and life isn’t moving so fast. When money becomes secondary, you can enjoy the little moments in life more.

So how do you get there? How can you finally take your foot off the gas, and start living without the stress of money and debt pushing you faster and faster?

Start by tracking your spending.

Then implement a budget and stick with it.

Pay off your debt and resolve to never borrow money again!

Acting on and completing those three small sentences can take so much work and yet have so much meaning.

Do you feel like you’re moving at warp speed in the fast lane? Or are your finances in order?

Think about where you are, and leave a comment to let me know what you thought of this article. Thanks for reading.


Chris is the original Cash Dad. He's a father of 3 and a mechanical engineer by trade.

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