Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Budgets: Paying for Our Past and Financing the Future

Money has a certain energy and flow and it often feels like it responds to our energy and emotional responses as individuals.  While I truly love the flow of money in and out of my experience and the manner in which I can help facilitate that flow, there's one thing I don't really love.  That's budgeting.  While, I can really get into bean-counting, and love strategy (I mean, come on, I also prepare taxes), I don't really want to spend my time assigning what feels like arbitrary dollar amounts to a zillion little categories.  I'm not sure why.  It just doesn't spark joy.  I've written about budgets before and how I tend to utilize the 50/30/20 Budget popularized by Elizbeth Warren.  It's called a budget, but to me, it feels a little bit more like a guideline with three subcategories: Fixed Spending (Needs), Flexible (Lifestyle) Spending, and Goals.  Warren recommends that no more than 50% of our take-home pay go to the Fixed category.  Frankly, mine is way under that.  She goes on to suggest up to 30% for Lifestyle and leaves 20% for Goals.  Her recommendations feel really balanced to me.  It strikes me that if I allotted 30% of our household income to lifestyle, we'd be living the Slow FI dream.  Perhaps after we achieve our "new apartment" dream, that'll be something to strive for.  As it stands, we're only spending about 16% of our income in that category.  That's only for a season though because we have a very important short-medium term goal in mind: purchase a primary residence this year.

By Law of Attraction standards, the now is the most important time to give our energy to, and on the surface, the budget seems to be fully in the now.... or is it?  Arguably, those fixed and lifestyle expenses are all directly related to the now, but you may find some resistance when you look into your goals category.  The 20% Warren recommends using to fund your goals is split between paying for our past and financing our future.  Oftentimes, the budget will tell a story of disconnection with the now.  Where there is credit card debt, student loans, auto loans, or collection notices, there is evidence of a past self that was living in discord with the now.  At one point, we weren't operating in the now with our money.  We were borrowing from our future selves (the selves we are right now), and spending money we didn't actually have.  Every moment and every dollar we spend paying for our past is taking valuable energy away from our experience of right now.  As each moment becomes our new "now," we desire more and more to have full custody of our current time and energy in all of it varying forms.  As we make these payments month after month, we must realize that our debts are cyclically trapping us in our connection to the past.  

So, what can we do in the now?  Surely we must fulfill our obligation.  Avoiding it would only lower our vibration on the emotional scale.  We must remember that every dollar we pay to the principal balance of a debt obligation is a dollar energetically that we no longer have tying us to the past and keeping us from the now.  Can we find a way to take pleasure in each dollar of principal we decrease?  and if that is the case, can larger payments to the principal increase the level of satisfaction.  Besides, each payment now is a moment devoted to the now in that it is a full recognition of our need to divorce attention to a past which we cannot do anything about.  A desire to live fully in the present moment can inspire us to fully devote ourselves to the elimination of debt and a resolve to never go back.  

The other end of this Goals category involves saving for our future.  The obvious question that surfaces is why we would save for a future time if the present moment is the most important one and the one that deserves our attention.  The answer to this has to do with another interesting aspect of our egoic human nature.  When we're not busy focusing on past events, we spend a great deal of our energy worrying about a future that hasn't happened yet.  An over "obsession" with the future isn't a particularly great thing, as it draws us further out of the present moment. So, doesn't it make the most sense to focus our attention on what we can actually do in the now?  We can derive pleasure from knowing that our abundance is greater than our need.  From the overflow of our abundance, we can set money to the side in ways that allow it to grow as well.  By wisely setting the overflow aside in retirement accounts and other investments, we can allow it to multiply, freeing us to create the lives we're meant to live.  Lives that are full of passion and joy.  This is all that which we can create from putting the very best of our energy into the now and pouring ourselves into doing that which we are able to do rather than focusing our attention on worry about future outcomes or shame about past missteps.  

When I look at my budget, I feel joy because it represents that we are doing all that we can do right now.  We are one by one eliminating the residue of a past we cannot change, and taking joy in the knowing that each of those dollars is one that we'll never have to pay on those obligations again.  We have such great abundance in our lives that we have an overflow.  From that we can both set money aside, and also give.  While at this moment, our percentages are pretty far removed from the 50/30/20 framework that I so much enjoy, we're certainly under those critical 50% Fixed Expense and 30% Lifestyle designations, which is a beautiful place to be.  

Have you done a comparison of your budget categories to the 50/30/20 Budget suggested by Elizabeth Warren?  Are you under the critical 50/30 marks?  How much of your money is paying for the past?  How much is financing the future? And finally, are you happy with where it stands?

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