For the past few weeks, I have been reflecting on one of my worst features–a tendency to think too far into the future about any given thing. Sure, this can be a good quality when reasonably applied–but I’ve let it go so far that I’m mentally mapping out what next fall’s Tuesday nights look like. No joke. Someone turn this time machine off! It can also lead to unnecessary worry and even anger when I get too ahead of myself and anticipate events that might never happen. I have yet to figure out how to control this part of my brain, but I am prayerfully working on it. And while doing so–it occurred to me that this is a great application for financial success as well. Not only practicing self-control, but finding a way to slow down your life and quiet the noisy areas can help you hang onto cash where you otherwise might spend it.
How many of you have ever said to yourself, “I’ve had a hard week, I’m getting a pedicure”? Or “I deserve this ice cream because it’s been a long day”? There are countless examples of ways we pay money to reward ourselves for simply going through the motions of life. That’s not to say you can’t have a treat every now and again, but the point is…maybe eliminating the cause will lessen the effect? In my experience, the less I stress, the less I spend.
Decluttering your friend world can be a very healthy exercise for someone who wants to lessen stress. I have long been a participant in the “big group of friends” gang–as far back as middle school. It has only been in the last year or so that I’ve truly valued the beauty of having a small inner circle of people who you invest most of your time in and it is incredibly freeing. How does this relate to finances? Well, over time you are looking at less commitments–anything from birthday parties where you’re one of twenty-five people, to seeing a person’s show that has a door charge and ticket. My husband and I went to a birthday party earlier this year where, unbeknownst to us, something like fifty people were invited and I swear every. single. one. came. We were split up into a million different tables, barely spoke to the person for whom we came and dropped $80 on the chain restaurant meal. Lesson learned. Now when we show up for something, it’s because we really want to be there to support and engage, not because we feel obligated by our (or should I say “a”) social circle. Quieting your social life saves you money.
Family planning–and I don’t mean the child kind. Having to coordinate any sort of family function– from visits here to visits there to group vacations–has kept me up at night in stress. No more. I have taken a step back from this sort of facilitating because it never changes the outcome. I’ve either relinquished control where I felt it fruitless to try, passed off responsibility to my better half, or simply left something untouched, which I wouldn’t haven’t considered an option in the past. It takes some serious discipline for this planner/thinker, but I’m doing it and it’s given me a peace of mind. I believe that clearer thinking leads to better choices and this absolutely applies to financial ones as well.
If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed my husband and I try to take a lot of small trips every other month or so. This has been an intentional, valuable part of our marriage in the pre-children era. As it’s coming to a close, we took one of our last getaways over Labor Day and even though it was fairly close to home; it cost us a lot. My next blog post might be, “A Free Day In Catalina: There’s No Such Thing”. September has been all about making up for that error in judgment. It feels painfully slow to get back to the comfortable place we were throughout most of this year. Add to that the holiday season and a baby on the way… and you can convince yourself that the present is the new normal pretty fast. What I learned from this travel snafu was that we should have been more reflective on the need for a babymoon, considered the fact that August was already packed with travel obligations beyond our control and perhaps opted to hold off on that experience for a better time. Instead, we acted imprudently and here I am almost a month later dwelling on it. Not the way you want to end a vacation.
That’s where slowing down becomes such an important exercise. If I think too far ahead, I’ve created a tragedy in my mind where there isn’t one. I need to stop and reassess to realize that we are going to be just fine even if I feel stuck at the moment. We aren’t spending more than we have, our choices haven’t affected tithing, saving, retirement or any basic needs. We’ve just dipped below our comfort zone in terms of what we expect from ourselves. That’s not the worst thing that could happen. Plus I recently noticed that October has FIVE Fridays in it–which means FIVE paychecks! What a great opportunity to catch up.
Slowing down also means taking things as they come. Trusting that the season you are in has purpose. Not over anticipating, but not forgetting responsibilities all together. It can be a tough balancing act, but as I start to integrate this pattern of thought into my life–I find things to be simpler and more enjoyable. Even financially stable people have their tough months and that’s exactly why this blog exists–to lessen the impact of those moments. Hey! Maybe I’m developing some sort of resolution here. And maybe that’s a good goal for all of us for 2015. Try to see if you can have fewer months than you did in 2014 where you are stressed about money. I recall April being particularly bad and now I’d say September is too. That’s two so far. If it stays that way, then my goal for next year will be one month or less of stress. Sounds like a fun challenge. What are some ways you slow down in regards to finances?