Lately I've been taking a hard look at my money (and lack thereof).
To be frank, this is a radical departure from the days of refusing to check my balance and relying on the warning I would get from my bank coldly informing me that I’d gone below a certain amount in my checking account. (I’m writing this with the fear that I’m the only person who has ever done this, but also the knowledge I’m not. If you haven’t, bless. If you’re still doing it...now’s the time to adjust your habits.) I’ve fallen asleep, phone in hand, credit score glowing back at me while I dreamt of the perfect number (between 300 and 850, the higher the better), featuring a mix of types of debts with long histories, no late payments, and low credit utilization. It has taken over my brain.
I've been varying degrees of determined to pay down my credit card debt in years past, but I want this time around to be different. So on a recent Saturday, I checked out a financial book from the library, tracked down some resources I’d been holding onto, and spent the day carefully noting my spending habits and their categories, my income sources, and making a plan on how to manage the difference.
Running parallel to this recent fixation on my debt, I’ve been hitting (face-first, repeatedly) a wall when it comes to my time. Which is to say, I don’t have enough of it and I’m not managing the difference well. I wished that time could be sorted as cleanly as my credit score, and that I could know how mine looks from a clearer view. In order to understand it better, I’ve been tracking how I spend my time,which is a decent exercise, but also makes me feel too close for comfort to Anne Helen Peterson’s recent piece about Millenial Burnout.
To give you a sense for what I found, these are some of the biggest takeaways I’ve had after tracking how I spend both my time and money.
Let people do their part.
If, for example, you’ve consistently been paying for (or doing) something that someone else is both fully equipped and able to cover, let them. It will save you time/money, and the cost to them will be less than would it would take from you.
Decide what your priorities are, and align how you spend your [money/time] with it.
According to the USDA’s food plan chart, my partner and I spend too much money on food. I guess I don’t disagree, but I also value food as an investment and one I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to make at this point in my life. We also spend a pretty significant amount of time together cooking. None of this shocks me, but we will be trying to tighten that budget line up moving forward.
Some minor ‘wastes’ of time/money can be worth it, even if they add up.
For all the articles that talk about not buying coffee every morning (is that what life outside the nonprofit sector looks like?), some relatively cheap ways to boost your week can be worth it. Eating $6.32 of Wendy’s at midnight rather than come home way late, cook something, and save that money once in a while? Worth it to me in the moment. Do the dishes a bit more slowly because I’m watching Vanderpump Rules? That’s just an investment in myself.
Be gentle when you try to understand why you do what you do.
A budget or time inventory isn’t a great mechanism to punish yourself for your previous bad behavior. For one, since all the power is in your hands, it would be pretty easy to just discard the budget or abandon the time inventory. In order to give your new approach some lasting power, use it as an opportunity to learn about yourself rather than judge yourself.
Open up about it.
There is little more reassuring than coming clean with people you love that you’re grappling with an issue, only to hear that they’ve felt the same way. Better yet, they might have another perspective on how they see you spend your time/money that isn’t visible from your vantage point.
If you want any of the financial resources or recommendations I’ve found helpful, DM me @itscamillemn and I’d be glad to share. If you want to talk about whether I’ve learned some lessons and am now using time very wisely, let me assure you that I’m writing this while I should be asleep, so let’s just leave it at ~it’s a process.~