Personal finance is generally the mind's game, and I can assure you this mind of mine has been primed. It has trained endlessly as if preparing for the personal finance Olympics. I've memorized rules, strategies, account types, theories, orders of operation, and admittedly derive huge pleasure from the act of doing so. But it seems I've entered a space where the mind is beginning to enjoy sharing responsibilities with my inner-self, and I feel as though it's inviting my inner-self to play with it in the financial arena as well. One area where I see this coming up is in the budget. The mind has had the budget on lockdown for a long time, and I am eternally grateful. This beautiful budget has allowed us to save a full 20% downpayment for a gorgeous piece of New York real estate. We won't be touching our retirement accounts or emergency savings for it either, and we feel incredibly blessed. It seems that by the end of summer, we should be in the process of moving. With the move comes a new budget to sort. We have ideas about what that will look like already, though I can't help but feel you can't entirely know the details until you've started to experience them. These milestones and life transitions come with a tremendous opportunity to invite your inner-self to the table. Certainly, the mind has its goals: pay off the mortgage early, get teacher loan forgiveness sorted, pay off the rental, and it'll certainly get its way. Achieving financial goals is one form of joy! But there is more joy to be had in redeveloping a new budget.
Of course, we'll return to our 50/30/20 Budget and start by plotting our monthly bills into the categories of "fixed" and "flexible" expenses. Then we'll move on to "goals." This will involve a bit of a dreaming conversation. We already contribute heavily to our retirement accounts and will be pensioners, but how quickly do we want to pay off this new mortgage? How much extra do we need to contribute to the mortgage from day 1 in order to meet that goal? We will have these same conversations with some of our other major goals. This is where the mind and the inner-self meet. They're co-pilots. The inner-self knows my heart, knows my joy. The mind is my chief strategist and gets to plot possible courses. They need to become in sync and for couples, both individuals need to also become in sync. I have to be honest, I'm really excited to have that particular monthly money meeting. I'm going to create a fabulous spread, and prepare to co-create the life we both want to be living. After we decide on our goals and understand how much of our income needs to go toward these things each month, we're going to automate them. This not only makes things easier in terms of items on the monthly to-do list but also energetically. We won't have to put so much energy into these goals, but rather just address them briefly at our money meeting and move on to the part of the budget that largely goes to designing our lives. There are a handful of actual bills that go into the flexible spending section of the budget, but its alternate name is "lifestyle spending." This section is theoretically 30% of your income when using the 50/30/20 Budget and has the opportunity to be your inner being's playground. What are your values? What kind of life do you want to design for yourself? Do you want to take a photography class? A sip and paint? Learn the guitar? Study ballet? Do you want a massage this month? Take in a play or concert? Do you want to stash a little money for an upcoming vacation? There are no wrong answers. Designing your life should be one of the components of a healthy budget. Your budget isn't supposed to be a restriction. It should be a place where your mind and inner-self conspire to design for you the best life possible in a manner that is sustainable now and in the future.
Honestly, there's also a bit of identity in this. Sometimes, when you are working toward a goal, and it gets to become a long slog, you can start to feel like your whole identity is wrapped up in a combination of work and the goal. Sometimes, it's a matter of staying the course for a short period of time until you can check off that goal, and switch gears. Sometimes, you may want to reevaluate prior to meeting the goal. We for one, have stayed the course, realizing we were so close to meeting our goal. I wouldn't change any of that. Though, in reflection, I can see that I was beginning to feel as though working and saving were absorbing more of my sense of self that I prefer, which I fully intend to shake. Again, it's worth asking "Who am I outside of this goal? Outside of my job? What am I doing to support myself in being that person? How is my money supporting me in developing my life in the direction of the things I value?" I have been thinking about these questions for some time and have fairly clear answers. If your answers are less clear, that's okay. Give yourself some grace. But do ask the questions. You owe it to yourself to step into who you are truly meant to be and live a life of joy in the process.