Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Joy of Personal Finance

A couple of great recent articles (here and here) address the pleasure to be found in taking control of your finances and actively working to improve your financial position. I couldn't agree more. I wouldn't be able to keep doing the little things I do each day (let alone blogging about them) if I didn't enjoy them. I think cultivating this enjoyment is really key to aligning one's financial mindset in a healthy way, because otherwise you really are just marching yourself through the paces of some hated drill-team exercise, and that doesn't sound like much fun.

For me, being on top of my finances provides enjoyment in two major ways:

1) Peace of mind. I never have to worry that a bill is coming that I can't afford. I don't have to worry that I won't be able to buy groceries because I have to pay my credit card bill instead. Basically, I don't have to endure financial fear. Now, I'm an anxious type, and I do devote a fair amount of energy to my finances at the moment, but the worst-case scenario of my day-to-day financial decisions is more along the lines of "I won't be able to save extra" than "I'm going to bounce a check and go over my credit limit." I can't imagine living with those kinds of consequences hanging over my head, and, because I'm on top of my finances, I don't have to.

2) Sacrifices become stepping-stones towards my goals. Turning down a movie and drinks with a friend, or even just choosing to skip the popcorn and have one drink instead of three, is a pain in the ass. It's no one's favorite thing. But when I choose to do those things, they're choices that I make because they bring me a benefit: when I make a sacrifice like that, I can see my savings account growing toward a goal I want to achieve, and that excites me. The situation becomes sort of win-win: either I spend money I know I can afford to spend to do something I'll enjoy, or I opt to save that money towards a goal I want to reach for myself. This creates a decision that's less about shame, guilt and obligations (i.e., I know I'm not supposed to do this, but...) and more about a free choice of what I want (i.e., would I prefer to have a couple more drinks or save an extra $25?). Those choices don't come with nearly as much baggage, and either way, I'm doing something nice for myself, whether that thing is "buying another of these delicious mojitos" or "moving closer to my savings goal."

I'm also kind of a nerd and slightly numbers-obsessed (odd for an English major?), so I really do enjoy the minutiae of tinkering with my budget and projecting my financial future. I don't think you have to enjoy that angle, but I do think that enjoying establishing a system that works for you and setting and meeting financial goals is a big help. I think we can all benefit from learning to take pleasure in our own progress and ultimate success. That way, we have more fun and make more progress.

6 comments:

Ashley said...

ha! You are the only other English major I know that also enjoys numbers! Most people just think I'm crazy.

gildedbutterfly said...

Hey, guys...I'm another English major obsessed with numbers. (And Excel--what an AMAZING thing!) Wanna start a club? ;)

Strange Bird said...

Does Comp Lit and numbers count? ;)

honugurl16 said...

Another English major (and teacher) here who enjoys crunching numbers. My math teacher boyfriend even thinks I'm nuts.

Caroline said...

Hey, I'm a French major who enjoys numbers! I even work with numbers.

Annie said...

Dude, I was an English major who also majored in *physics*. That's some serious numbers ;).