I know I’m not the only one around here who gets a huge buzz from working towards my financial goals. It’s not just about what having more security means to me. It’s also the action of making a transfer or seeing a balance go up that make me feel more relaxed and in control.
Of course it’s a positive thing for everybody to keep on top of their finances and build financial security. Many of us know, though, that it can tip over into a bit of an obsession when facing other challenges.
I’m not here to bang on about healthy balances right now. Just like having a personal finance hobby doesn’t make you a “good person”, it doesn’t make you a “bad person” either. We all have our coping mechanisms and you can’t just remove them suddenly without replacing them with another strategy to cope.
In my case, I was getting into a good rhythm of investing enough each month to use up my annual £20k ISA allowance when our circumstances changed. I went down to 4 days a week, and we also started investing more in my partner’s ISA. I had also not put enough aside for my tax self assessments and have had to dip into savings to cover this. This year I’m trying to get up to date with the payments by the end of the year by allowing the government to take my additional tax owed through my payslip, meaning I have nothing extra to put aside for investments. Increasing costs of living aren’t helping either.
None of this is bad, and I know that I’m fortunate to be able to do all of this and made the decision to prioritise family time, but it has left me feeling a bit like we are slipping backwards on our Financial Independence path, particularly when the markets are down so low as well.
It’s been on my mind a lot, so I’m sharing some of the ideas that have been helping me in case they resonate with others too.
Reducing your baseline levels of stress
If you find yourself fixating on money matters as a way to cope with stress, not having the ability to calm yourself in the same way might make the feelings of stress or anxiety feel overwhelming.
I’m seeing this as a positive opportunity to find other ways to address the stress at the source. One thing I’ve learnt about anxiety recently is that it’s important to try to reduce your baseline level of stress, so that particular triggers or challenges won’t take you up to an unmanageable level.
For me, being tired, having cabin fever, not building in breaks at work or having no time to myself all raise my baseline levels of stress. So, I’m putting more focus than ever on early bedtimes, getting outside for short walks, and not neglecting my interests.
Finding other ways to save/earn/create
Another tactic, which is taking a different approach altogether, is to get creative and find ways to still work towards your financial goals by finding new ways to save, earn or create.
It may be that you’ve already optimised your budget, negotiated all your contracts and are a meal planning diva. But maybe there’s something you haven’t explored, like some new side hustle ideas or ways to both save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
Work towards other goals where you can measure success
This is also a good time to throw yourself into other goals that offer the same satisfaction as you track and measure your progress. Health and fitness goals (such as increasing your step count, creating a meditation habit) are great for this. If you’d like a ready-made habit tracker for this, you can get one here (Home In The Green shop). Or you could take on your home as a project, finally decluttering and organising (and selling your unwanted items as you go along).
Live in the present
Another option that might resonate is to reframe this period as a “holiday” from your normal habits. You haven’t travelled anywhere, but you’ve given yourself permission to do things differently in the same way that you might do on holiday.
So, instead of feeling like you need to constantly be hustling, spend time enjoying things that aren’t productive – guilt free – whether that’s watching a new tv series, getting some new e-books out of the library or spending more time in nature.
Invest in yourself
If you do have time, and do want to do something that is future-focussed, then you can pick a skill that you want to develop and work on that. Whether it’s a technical skill like website development or a “soft” skill like public speaking, by adding skills to your “talent stack” you multiply your options in the future.
I’ve been conflicted in writing this post. My partner teases me that I’ve been brainwashed by capitalism and am a typical late-stage millennial trapped in a hustle culture! I can see how that might be true, but I’m still very seduced by the freedom and options that increasing your investments and building additional income streams can bring.
The problem is, what do you do when you are forced to (or feel you need to) take a little break?
I hope these ideas offer some inspiration. They are different approaches, but I don’t think there’s any reason you can’t do a bit of all of them, or choose different approaches for different days.