At some point in your later 20s-mid 30s, I think everyone starts to question what they’re doing in their life and whether they’re on the right track. The questions/concerns that are raised can be related to money, health, relationships, and general outlook on life. I have found that as I get older, I have realized there are ALOT of things to keep up with and your brain just becomes less good at doing it without a plan.
On a regular day, my brain is whirring with things like:
- Am I saving enough for retirement?
- Did I drink enough water today?
- I have got to find a way to stay ahead of the things we’re running out of
- Did I give the dogs their heartworm tablets this month?
- Why am I so tired all of the time?
- Man, my paycheck sure doesn’t go as far as it used to.
This is quite the mixed list, but basically I find that trying to remember dates, recurring things, and general ‘you should be doing this’ is getting harder as I get older. You too? Here are six things I’ve done to help with that.
I lowered my necessary spending as much as I could to redirect money to setting myself up for the near future
We all want to lower outgoing cash flow so that we can keep more of it, right? The first step here is to write down everything you have to pay for each month. Then really think about each of these lines and be very critical in determining whether this is a necessary expense, and is it really the price you have to pay for it? We’ve all got some ingrained concepts that were subtly added to our heads by osmosis as kids. The advertising, the conversations you overhear.. all of those things may be subliminally guiding your life choices. Some of the big ones that come to mind (based on the people I know) are trading in your car ever few years for the latest and greatest, trading in your cell phone every time the new one comes out, paying more for groceries because ‘eww, Walmart,” eating out several times a week because ‘oh, I don’t cook.’
Everybody has different priorities, and that is a huge part of the puzzle. Once I realized that my priorities were different than alot of the people around me, I understood my resistance to partake in these kind of activities. I’m not judging people for spending their money differently than me, but I personally am chasing freedom and flexibility rather than the newness of the things I can buy myself. Once I truly realized that my big priorities were just not in line with those around me, I saw a lot of opportunities to do things differently than the crowd and propel myself forward in ways that make sense for my own goals. I
I’m okay with driving an older car, with buying the store brand and not eating out every week to save/invest over 50% of my income towards the longer-term because getting to a point where I can do part-time, but meaningful work is my driving force right now. The interesting part is if you asked a lot of the people you know what their big goal is right now, I think in many cases, you’d get a blank stare.
*Related: I bought a hybrid car to lower my gas bill
I participated in a healthful eating program that opened my eyes to the reality of the ‘not-that-terrible’ choices I was making every day
This is almost a touchy a subject as money. As we get older, many of us slide slowly into more sedentary lifestyles and the casual enjoyment of alcohol becomes a normal part of our daily routine. That sounds like a conflicting statement, surely our 20s are the most popular decade for partaking in alcohol, but I think many of us get to a point where we make too much money in our 30s and the need to have a glass of wine after work is no longer a once in a while thing. I’m not talking enough money to make us millionaires, but enough that we become comfortable. We take on liabilities (houses, kids, pets, nicer cars, vacations, etc.) and instead of moving on when the jobs get to be too ridiculous or we find that we have outgrown it, we become frustrated but too afraid to leave. I believe this directly translates into increased alcohol intake since that’s the way to get through the week and also the way to relax on the weekends. I’m guilty of this myself, and once I got to 171 pounds and started refusing to be in pictures, I decided that was my breaking point.
Many people will try to DIY version of taking control of their weight and health, but many fail without a coach of a program’s guidance because we all fail to see the compounding power of small acts. This is both a good and a bad thing, but in today’s world- immediate gratification and short attention spans reign all. The good news is that it will likely take you several months or even years of eating crap to see a significant difference in your weight and overall well-being. The bad news is that it takes much longer than we’d like to get back on track to where we once were. I tried the DIY version on and off without success (mostly because the amount of information out there is very overwhelming and I didn’t realize at the time that I would need to be consistent with my efforts for several months).
I eliminated all debt payments
About two years ago, I started a job in sales. I have never seen myself as a sales-type of person and so I was pretty surprised when I started making paychecks that were double and triple the amounts that I had been used to during the previous 18 years of my working life. I walked into that job knowing it would always be highs and lows and I shouldn’t get used to that commission check. I have continued to live on my hourly base pay and use the commission checks to hit goals that I have set. My first goal was eliminating credit card debt. It took me about 6 months, but I paid off about $12k worth of debt and not only created breathing room in my spending plan since I no longer had those payments to account for, but also cleared a lot of heaviness mentally.
I created simple systems for things I do regularly
All of the things that are important to me are stacked with other habits or have a routine/system associated with them. Here are the main ones at the moment:
Meal plan/shop for groceries on a two-week rotation & schedule grocery pick up at Walmart– this gives me a lot of time back in the in-between weeks. I continue a moderation approach during the weekdays and will eat ‘Lean and Green’ meals a few nights a week and a bit looser on the weekends. This is good for my health/waist line, energy levels, and self concept. I never want to get to the place I was in when I decided to join that program.
I drink 64 oz + per day – I picked this up on the Optavia program– I realized that it was tedious to remember my water consumption when I drank out of different sized glasses/bottles. At first I thought I just needed to focus more since I already had several water bottles, why did I need to buy new ones? But I found that I would often forget or overestimate how much I had drank. So, I bought two 32 oz. hydro cell bottles and only have to drink two of those per day to meet that goal. I never miss the water intake now.
I blocked my bills by paycheck and update it every morning – My spending plan/tracking system may seems chaotic to others, I’m fully aware. I manually track what I’ve spent by hand and cross things off after I have accounted for them. I charge all expenses that I can and make several payments to my credit card every week and never have to worry about being charge interest.
I keep a list of things I want to accomplish during the week stuck to my work computer monitor – this helps me utilize those small 5-10 minute pockets of time towards the things I want/need to get done instead of getting sucked into scrolling social media.
I made room for gifts and unplanned spending in my regular budget
I am an optimizer in all facets of my life. I want to make sure I’m getting the best value for everything, so I’m a big believer in the zero sum budget. This means that all of your dollars have a job and go towards something. Once I paid off all of my debt and saw that I had some breathing room, I realized I needed to add in space for the unplanned and the planned alike. Recurring things like holidays, birthdays, car registration renewals, etc. tend to sneak up on you when you’re not prepared for it, somehow. I’ve always personally really hated how you have to renew your car tag on/around your birthday. This was a low level of stress I was always walking around with, because I wasn’t prepared to deal with it when the times always came around and I would find myself scrambling to pull thing together.
By adding in a “gifts” line to my spending and an “unplanned/spontaneous/oh no” line — I was able to relax with my spending. I personally set aside about $135 a month towards gifts. If there is a gift occasion that month, I buy whatever and transfer the rest to the gifts fund. Based on the average I spend on all of my people in a year, the difference is about $1000-1100 that I use for Christmas spending. The unplanned/spontaneous/oh no spending is about $500. It is for the cute shirt I saw at Target on the clearance rack, the vet visit I wasn’t planning on, the donation I made to the humane society after seeing their call for donations to the food pantry, and the bottle of wine I brought to the host of a small get together. It is incredibly freeing to have room for both the things you plan for and the things you don’t. Variety in life is part of what makes it so great, but you can’t specifically plan for those variations. Having a pot waiting for the surprises of life (good and bad) has really helped me ride those waves and stay on top of them rather than flailing about underneath as I struggle to breathe.
I’m always adding to my systems and tweaking them when I think of a better idea or see someone else share something that they do. What kind of systems have you integrated into your life that has improved things for you? Please tell me in the comments!