New year, new me.
This “new me” doesn’t come with any groundbreaking resolution or a detox of any kind. Instead, I’m simply looking at this year–and hopefully this life–as an opportunity to manifest a little less stress.
No, I didn’t stumble upon a magic wand. Nor did Santa leave behind a promise for a stress-free year. I know that this year will come with challenges and difficulties. There will be hardship and stress.
But what I also hope is that there will be a little less of the added stress that I’ve put on myself in the past.
Saying No to No-Spends
I admire the legions of people who set out to do no-spend challenges to start kick off the year.
I also admit that I am not that person this year, though I’ve been her plenty of times before.
There Are Needs
At first, it was because I realized we had diapers to buy. There was absolutely no way that we were making it to the end of the month without that purchase, no matter how inclined HP is to “hold it” rather than to use his penguin potty.
Diapers are just the beginning really. There’s tissue and TP, groceries and gifts. There are just too many necessary purchases that we make on a monthly basis for me to try to push them off until February. Then, I thought maybe I could simply finagle what it means to do a no-spend. You know, tack on an asterisk and leave a bunch of teeny print at the bottom for people to read really fast a la ED commercials during football games.
Then something else happened.
There Are Problems
Last month, we traveled to New Orleans (10/10 – I must go back!), and HP’s stroller was damaged something awful on the return flight. To make a long complicated story of which everyone already knows the ending (Spoiler: the airline just laughs and laughs and laughs into their piles of money), I didn’t like how I was acting or reacting. Every time I interacted with someone from the airline, I felt this panic. It was supposed to be the start of a no-spend month. Or a frugal month. Or some kind of month where I was good with money. I couldn’t just buy a new stroller!
Even though this was an umbrella stroller.
And it was affordable.
And available in stock at Target.
I had principles to stick to and money to save!
But I realized that there were enough stressful situations that I had absolutely no control over last year, that there’s no need for me to create additional stress in my life.
My conversation moved from contact form to phone call to email. If I printed out the email exchange, it would look like a Möbius strip–back and forth for all of infinity, or at least the last two weeks. I didn’t actually need to continue the conversation, though. I could step away. In fact, I would actually be time and money ahead to just exit the conversation and move on with my day.
So I did.
Stop Manufacturing Stress
Whenever I was little and upset, my dad would always look at me and say, “Everybody makes their own stress sometimes.” It was infuriating. It was almost as if the fact that my friend’s friend friend didn’t invite me to her birthday party in 5th grade (or 6th?) didn’t actually matter in the grand scheme of life.
That isn’t to say that my dad doesn’t believe in systemic issues. (He does!) That’s also not to say that he wasn’t supportive of me. (I got a lot of Dairy Queen runs out of all of my adolescent drama!)
But his larger point was that life is stressful enough without creating more problems for yourself, especially in places where they don’t have to exist.
I do variations of this all the time.
Over winter break, I spent a good chunk of time decluttering. Of course, I also tried to consult Charity Navigator and do other research for various organizations that I could and would donate to. I found myself wondering if a three-star organization was deserving of our donation pile, and then I pulled myself back.
It might not be the world’s greatest place to send my clothes, but they made a request. There’s a need or a want. And that’s probably good enough.
And yet, good enough never feels like “enough” when it comes to money decisions.
A week ago or so, I found a fantastic flight sale to return to New Orleans, but then I hesitated. I wondered if there was a way that I could optimize the cost more ($49. $49. That is practically the same price as a sandwich at the airport!). In my hemming and hawing, of course, I lost the deal. So when I stumbled across a direct flight to Montreal that was cheaper than I had ever seen, I didn’t even hesitate.
We put away a few hundred dollars each month in short-term savings. It’s gone untouched for as long as I can remember. Isn’t it time that I used it?
Of course it is. It isn’t retirement savings. It isn’t even long-term savings. It’s money we set aside the with intention to spend.
And yet, I get so busy manufacturing all of this stress and guilt over some weird self-imposed obligation to optimize every part of my spending, that I hesitate.
And create more stress after the fact.
I know that perfect is the enemy of progress. I know that done is better than perfect. Still, as a recovering perfectionist, it’s hard to let go of those things.
That’s exactly why it’s worth doing. I don’t want to live under artificially constructed stress. It’s a waste of my energy and it smacks of ignorance, not only for people with real money problems but also for times in the past or the future when we face financial issues. I also don’t want to pass that stress along to anyone else. (Remember when my husband vowed to not eat rather than buy lunch?) That’s the opposite of the life I want for my family.
What I Do Resolve to Do
- Save more.
- Give more.
- Spend with less guilt.
- Continue to find ways to make my life easier and happier.
It’s not a glamorous list. There aren’t any sexy numbers. I have no idea how to turn them into graphs come year end. But I do know that if I can master any of these resolutions, there’s going to be a new me doing even better with money this time next year.
So Tell Me…Do you ever fall into this trap of creating stress where there doesn’t have to be? What are your goals or plans for the year?