Personal finance is a never-ending topic of discussion, philosophizing, and pontificating. And for many of us, it’s just another source of stress and angst. One of my goals with this blog is to help demystify so much of what makes managing our finances so difficult.
But first, before I get to the more practical stuff, I get to indulge in an introductory, quasi-philosophical ramble!
Mindful Spending: Is It Just A Term For Frugal Living
How do you feel when you hear the phrase “frugal living”? Positive, negative, neutral?
Merriam-Webster defines frugal as “characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources.” Delving deeper, we find entries on the word economy that reference thrift and efficiency in the use of both material and nonmaterial resources.
I really like this angle when thinking about frugality. It’s not about deprivation. Instead, it’s an approach to managing your life and your finances that can help you maximize what you value while minimizing what you don’t.
In other words, Mindful Spending.
You’re looking for appropriate stewardship of the resources available to you as a way to live the life you envision. Not thrift just for the sake of it but in support of that life.
What do I mean by this? Applying the principles of thrift, understanding one’s personal values, and a certain level of mindfulness, you can find equilibrium in managing your personal finances.
It’s necessary to understand your own priorities in life and apply them to find this balance in how you allocate your resources of time, money, and skills.
Of course, you need to account for the basics of life. Pay for your housing. Provide for any dependents you might have. Maintain any needed insurance coverage.
But beyond these basics, what do you really need to be happy? Have you really examined your life in this way?
It’s not easy to do.
We’re all busy with competing demands on our time, attention, and resources. Self-reflection requires a deliberate separation from the craziness of life, even if it’s just 10 minutes at night while flossing your teeth and washing your face.
And what “balance” means to you can change over time.
Maybe money is extremely tight right now for you. Your version of balancing your resources could place a much greater emphasis on pushing the envelope in finding ways to save money than the version for someone else with a bit more breathing room financially.
For that other individual, balance could manifest more toward carving out extra time in the week to work on building a new side hustle business. But doing so means giving up weekends out for a time: balancing short-term against long-term goals.
In my view, part of the personal finance journey for each of us – bringing our finances in harmony with what we value in life – is finding this balance. Determining for ourselves that point of equilibrium between not enough and too much of whatever we value.
Of course, no discussion of personal finance in this day and age would be complete without the topic of debt. Sadly.
I think we’ve all seen the statistics about the growing levels of credit card, student loan, and other personal debt in the United States. And I admit to being part of those statistics.
It’s part of why I wanted to start this blog. I have been in denial for far too long about how my debt (mostly credit cards) is weighing on my soul and affecting my life options.
I definitely hope we can go through this journey together. And find some answers together.
Because eliminating debt is simple, but certainly not easy. It takes conscious effort and behavioral change. I’ve paid off specific debts in the past, but never everything. And have then just added new ones.
So I’ll offer up some of the usual tips – many that will fall into the mindful (or even frugal!) spending category. We all need practical ideas to actually implement a debt reduction plan. And maybe I’ll even be able to come up with some different twists to keep things interesting!
But I expect I’ll also indulge in the occasional philosophical ramble, like you see here. I just can’t resist pontificating – it’s an acknowledged character flaw LOL
A common side effect of watching our spending and eliminating debt is – we hope – the accumulation of wealth and savings. And even when we achieve something positive like this, many of us struggle with how much is enough.
Do we have enough to retire? How do I figure out what to do with my savings?
And plenty of us are in the situation of figuring out how to handle retirement savings – courtesy of our employer’s defined contribution plan – even while in debt. So it’s not like we can focus on only one area of our personal finances.
Some of you reading on this site might be in your twenties, others in your forties or fifties. Specific strategies might vary depending on age or goals, but we all need to figure out this savings and investing thing.
Personally, I tend to keep things pretty simple in my savings and in my 401(k) investments. You might prefer more exotic options. And I’m no financial advisor! But I think it’s also time I learned more about what’s out there beyond index funds.
Even if I stay with those funds. At least I’ll be making a more informed decision.
And that’s something we can explore together.
Our Personal Finances And All The Rest
So what about actually living your life?
That’s the point of finding financial peace. Money is a means to living your life. It’s not life itself.
Don’t be surprised to find posts about travel, books, sewing and needlework, concerts, and holidays. These are all part of my life. For me, finding my balance means keeping those activities and things that I value in a way that works for my finances.
Your “keeper” expenses will probably be different from mine. We each need to find those for ourselves. No right or wrong answer. Simply what works for you as you pursue your own financial peace.