We have all heard the saying about money not buying happiness, and I wholeheartedly agree. However, having adequate income to fund the basics in life goes a long way.
I have spent much of the weekend evaluating my work/life balance in light of my self-employment situation. There is a definite imbalance going on right now, and I had to sit down and chart out my workload for the rest of this month to figure out where I am with priorities and deadlines. From that analysis I determined I can be away from work for the days we have planned without losing any ground, missing deadlines, or upsetting my balance of priorities. If only my type A brain would accept that there is only one of me and working 24/7 is not only unsustainable it is completely unrealistic.
In budgeting and managing money I have the same sort of “go big or go home” type mentality. I may slash our spending budget to bare bones, send off huge chunks of money to debt (when we were in debt) or savings (now that we are not), and maybe I actually carry out that plan. Except what typically happens when I go all gung-ho draconian on the budget we run out of cash before the next pay period and have to resort to credit cards or withdrawing some of that savings deposited, which tends to add stress or dissatisfaction to my life.
Through the years I have learned that a really healthy income stream or just barely making it from one paycheck to the next matters less in the bigger budgeting picture; the extremes never work out well. I have had to learn discipline and pacing myself when it comes to budgeting. In truth this has surprised me, because for a long, long time I always thought more income was key to solving all our financial problems. There were many years when M and I were both working and making about what we make now. Our expenses were different yet less – we were renting a home for about half of our mortgage and the kids were still at home – yet we were saving significantly less than we do now and I was frequently frazzled and worried about money. We as a couple and family were okay, happy, but M was working at a job he hated, we had kids in school and extracurricular activities, and since we both worked full-time we ate either a lot of convenience type foods or ate out most of the time. We were debt-free yet still not saving that much of our hard-earned money.
When I finally developed “the plan” to save for future goals rather than frittering away every available extra dollar the whole “budgeting” concept really became reality. Even now, with our current stripped-down spending plan in place while I navigate self-employment we have plenty of room for little luxuries and wants. Last month we had $165 grocery funding left in the budget, almost unheard of for us. While we were out of town for several days and therefore using adventuring dollars for food and such, there is no way we eat $165 worth of food in 5 days. We had no stocking up to do, we were eating out of the freezers and the pantry, and we really stuck to our meal planning. I am rolling it over through the end of the year, and perhaps in January will adjust the monthly allotment.
I was thinking earlier that I am bored. I have been working non-stop it seems since I got off the plane on Monday and had finally caught up with everything that needed to get done and had a day just to laze about. Part of me thought about going to the gym, but a bigger part of me really wanted to go shopping. For what, I wondered? And I realized there was nothing I genuinely wanted to buy much less needed to go out to get. Not. A. Single. Thing.
However, the allure to spend money was powerful. But on what? Looking at the budget there is money available to spend on frivolities, yet I could not think of anything I wanted that badly. In the end we went to Costco for a larger SD card for our camera and some eggs, only we were undelighted with the egg selection and ended up with only the SD card and a supplement M takes regularly. Then we stopped at Target for the eggs, super-size ziplock bags, and some fluffbucket food – all were needs, not really wants, and remarkably unsatisfying for shopping impulses.
I recognize that the impulse to spend is mostly a reflexive habit, and resisting it is just as much a response as anything else. Nope, for today at least, money is not buying me a greater share of happiness. It is, however, getting my cats some of their favorite cans of wet food until our shipment from Amazon arrives on Wednesday. Darn spoiled fluffbuckets.