I’ll be honest, I’m not writing about my financial health because I’m financially healthy. I’m writing about it because I’m not great about my money… and it bothers me.
A lot of people in my life would say that I’m a pretty good adult—perhaps that I have been since I was about four. It’s a hazard of being an only child. And in a lot of ways it’s true. When I’m presented with a task or an area of my life that I’m responsible for, I tend to grab it by the horns and figure out a system to make sure I take care of it in the rhythm of my life. I build these rhythms because to not do so leaves me in a state of overwhelm and distraction where I can’t be present in the moment (a.k.a. my own personal hell). So naturally, I’m pretty motivated to stay on top of things.
What makes this harder with money? It’s not that I’m terrible with finances. I pay my bills on time (thanks, automatic payments), and I don’t have very much debt. But I’ve also been working for four years and I don’t have a reasonable emergency fund, much less any other savings account that would prepare me for large future expenses, aside from a bit in a retirement account. My savings account is smaller than it was four years ago when I was three months out of college and had moved to a new city.
So, what gives? Why does a generally responsible person have a hard time bucking up and saving for expenses that I know are coming?
I think the hard truth is that I struggle with accepting limits when those limits cost me something I find important.
For example, I eat out a lot. I know I do it more than I can really afford for my income level. Sometimes I do it to be social. Sometimes I do it because I want regular access to fresh food—and I’m not willing to take time away from other things in my life to cook more than once a week. Sometimes I do it because I just need to get out of the office during the day for my mental health, and I’m not sure where else to go.
I know when I do this over and over, many times a week, I am failing to build my emergency fund. I am failing to move beyond my emergency fund and save for a house, or school for my children, or make investments that will have a higher return later because of how much time I have left for the interest to build.
Having an active social life, eating fresh food, and mixing up my environment for my mental health are all good things. Building an emergency fund, saving for my family, and keeping myself from being a burden on others when I can’t work anymore are also good things. So really, I think, what’s hard for me to accept is that I might not have the means to do all the things that keep me feeling like a healthy, balanced person. That I might not be able to do all the things that are, or seem to be, good for me to do.
So, I’m in denial about it. I don’t feel like I should have to make that choice, so I live as though I’m not making that choice. Even though I am.
I think the solution, for me, is to get my nose into my finances more. To force myself into the reality of the fact that I’m making choices when I spend my money. And once I accept that I’m making choices, I think I’ll find myself naturally making the ones I need to make. Learning to cope with the places in my life where I choose to give something up—that will be a separate issue. But at least I’ll know I’m facing the reality of my limits and doing the best I can with what I have.
This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on wealth from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.