With all the numbers we ran last week in the formulations of our new plans, I was reminded just how long is really left in our journey. I’m impatient by nature and would like to retire yesterday! As I made a batch of peanut butter balls, I realized the journey is worth it. The recipe for peanut butter balls comes from my great aunt, Joanie, who always knew that delicious candy could make the world a better place. These tiny bits of heaven are simple to make, but take quite a bit of time. After the peanut butter center is mixed, it has to be rolled into balls and chilled before dipping each one in chocolate. As I carefully rolled and dipped a batch recently, I started thinking about all the parallels to personal finance (geek alert!):
- Momentum is Hard to Stop – As you roll peanut butter balls, it’s easy to start small. Very quickly, however, peanut butter gets stuck to your hands and the spheres quickly start gaining in size. This is the good kind of inflation! Who doesn’t want more? This is a true principle of saving as well. It’s easy to start small. Save $20/week. Increase your contributions at work by $250/month. That’s how we started. But pretty soon, you want more! Saving a little didn’t make enough impact. I wanted to see my accounts grow! We recently threw caution to the wind and upped all of Mr. T’s contributions at work to the $1500/month that will equate to a maxed out 401k each year! It has only been two paychecks so far, but we did it! Saving is based on momentum, but so is spending. Throw your weight and momentum towards savings!
- Sometimes You Have to Start Fresh – As your hands get covered in peanut butter, it gets harder and harder to make nice, smooth, round candies. Sometimes you have to just wash your hands and get a fresh start. This is true for your financial plan as well. It is healthy to step back and recalculate every year or so. You don’t lose the progress you’ve made, but it’s helpful to stop what you’re doing and assess how things are going before moving forward.
- Everyone is Different – Dipping the candies in a bowl of chocolate is best tackled with two spoons. Drop the ball in the chocolate, roll it around, and use the two spoons to pick it back up and remove extra chocolate. Mr. T and I usually make these together because they are so time consuming and labor intensive. Mr. T’s candies are uniform in size and shape, have just the right amount of chocolate on the outside, and are topped off with a perfect swirl of chocolate that make them look professional. His are the ones we give away. Mine are the bulky ones with the hardened puddle of chocolate stuck to the side of them. All of the ingredients are the same. The taste is just as satisfying, but I can’t make a peanut butter ball like Mr. T can. Put two people in the exact same financial scenario and everyone will be different. Isn’t it great that personal finance is personal? But because it’s personal, no one can tell you what to do. You have to be the one that makes the hard choices because you know yourself best.
- Sometimes You Need Time – These candies require a lot of waiting. You mix the peanut butter and then you chill it. You roll it into balls and then you chill it. You dip them in chocolate and then you chill them. If you try to do everything all together without the waiting, you end up with a messy swirl of gooey peanut butter and chocolate. Still good, but not as. I get frustrated with saving. I want to see all the dollar signs add up right away. The problem is, the power of compound interest takes time. We just have to do our part and then wait.
- Treats are Good – I love peanut butter balls. And it’s always an event when we make them. They are delicious and we all enjoy them. But we don’t make them weekly. We save the treat for special events. It is good to reward yourself. Going out to eat is fun. Buying that thing is a celebration. But if you do those things too often, they no longer become treats. Instead, they become habits that are hard to break and threatening to your finances. In short, those things could turn into stressors. Make a financial goal. When you hit that goal, celebrate with a small treat, but save those treats for goals achieved and special events in your family. Keep them special and exciting.
- Giving Feels Great – One batch of peanut butter balls makes a ton! If we ate all of them ourselves, we would regret it. We like to package them up at Christmas time and bring them to other events throughout the year. Joanie knew that sharing candy brings joy to everyone. And because of that, everyone loved Joanie. Giving joy feels good. Giving candy, time, and money all feel good. We should all do a little more giving.
If you want to make a batch to share of our family-favorite recipe, here it is!
Joanie’s Peanut Butter Balls:
- 2 cups creamy peanut butter
- 1 cup softened real butter
- 5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- Big bag of chocolate chips (Costco’s Kirkland Signature chocolate chips taste the best, in my opinion)
- Mix peanut butter, softened butter, and powdered sugar with a mixer. Chill the bowl for 30 minutes.
- Roll into bite-sized balls onto cookie sheets. Chill 60+ minutes.
- Melt chocolate chips in microwave – start with about 3-4 cups of chocolate chips. Be sure to stop the microwave and stir every 30 seconds or the chocolate will burn.
- Only take out one tray of balls at a time for dipping. Use two big spoons to roll the ball in chocolate and drop onto a cookie sheet or tray covered with wax paper. If the balls start to get too soft, let them chill for a bit before dipping more.
- Chill the covered balls until hardened.
- Eat, share, and freeze some! – This recipe should make about 6 dozen peanut butter balls.