As you look closely at your spending, you can bring the heads and tails sides of your money back into harmony. When the heads side runs rampant, with uncontrolled spending, you’ll soon get kicked by the tails side when the bills come due. What happens, in effect, is that you have a tiger by the tail — if you’ll pardon the string of cliches and mixed metaphors. It ain’t pretty, all the same. In fact, it can hurt.
The point of getting your spending under control is simply to allow you to redirect your efforts to ends you dream of achieving.
When I took up this Talking Money project, I was still reeling from a divorce and subsequent broken engagement. I wasn’t yet ready to reenter management, and I’d had a taste of freedom in the sabbatical I gave myself … before the money ran out.
Remember, my big goal was to have time to more fully devote to the practice of writing — poetry and fiction, especially.
It wasn’t the only one, as I’m reminded by the exercise, “List your top five ongoing life projects.” That still sounds pretty ominous, by the way, and I’m not sure the top projects are lifelong. But we have to start thinking somewhere.
I found myself looking at my categories of spending.
I was single, but dating was a big item — what I really wanted was an appropriate marriage and family.
I was renting, but I really wanted to be living in a suitable community. Translate that into homeownership.
Quaker activities occupy much of my time, but I’d really like to contribute more financially, too — as I would to a broader range of charitable, artistic, and religious causes.
As my fifth, I’d have to say culture — books, music, art, theater, film, even dance. Well, yes, dancing, too, now that I’m decent in New England contras and Greek lines.
Looking back on them — and the way they’ve morphed in my life — I’m dazed by the financial scope each one entails. Marriage and family, for instance, led to an old house needing tons of repairs and, as one of my wife’s dreams, a big garden needing labor. That in itself would seem plenty.
Now it’s your turn.
List your top five ongoing life projects and rank them by importance. How closely do they fit your dreams?
Be honest. Don’t go by what others would say.
Now list them by what you’re spending on each.
Do the levels match? Do they differ? Why or why not?
As you review your overall spending, do you see ways your expenditures advance or divert your goals? Are there ways to adjust spending patterns to further them?