It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than it is to think your way into a new way of acting. Millard Fuller (1935-2009)
This idea pretty much sums up the whole point of Counting 000’s and so with that in mind I’ve made the less obvious choice for this week’s task.
My assignment was to decide the how, when and where of ‘managing my finances’. Or put more plainly — should I sit down with my finances monthly? weekly? ad hoc? What exactly do I need to do on a regular basis to stay on top of things. And am I going to actually do it?!
What worried me is this:
I don’t like it when every week looks the same. I prefer the way my life spills out differently each day. For example, I have and take advantage of 3 very different routes to and from the office. Actually 4, if we count the fact that I sometimes work from home.
Then again, like everyone, I need a certain amount of routine. My ‘writing days’ are Wednesday and Sunday and I go to some length not to swap these out for different days of the week.
So in getting the balance right in trying to create a habitual slot for financial chores, I was looking for a way to do it that wouldn’t feel oppressively rigid — something that wouldn’t get in the way of how I like my schedule to be … a bit unplanned, flexible enough to handle what my job throws at me everyday, what my friends and family are up to on the evenings and weekends, never mind what’s otherwise going on with my state of mind and energy levels.
But let’s not get too complex about it, mostly I was choosing between a weekly or a monthly sit-down.
Since I’d assumed that I need a solid chunk of time and space to attend to finances, monthly has been my preferred choice in the past.
Except that I never did it.
It was a preferred mode of non-effectivessness.
One of the variables I’ve mentioned above (work, family, me) would always seem to get in the way and I’d shift doing my monthly finances to a 2nd rate priority. I could always do them later.
There was another problem with monthly. Einstein once said that he didn’t have room in his head to store up names and faces. Well, I don’t have room for numbers. And so monthly means starting all over again to work out what it was that I had started but not finished the last time ’round. I could never remember what my numeric scratchings meant.
And so up until about 5 minutes ago the plan was that I’d do my finances weekly.
But now I’ve changed my mind.
The weekly method is just as prone to what got in the way of the monthly approach.
More radical change is required. And so I’m committing to managing my finances EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Here’s a list of all the things I might do when I sit down to sort out my finances:
- Update my Counting 000’s weekly spend tracker
- Check the balances of my bank accounts and credit card statements (like, hey, WHY is Crunch Gym still cropping up on my AMEX when I’ve gone to real effort to get that membership cancelled?)
- Pay a bill
- Work out a budget
- Do a balance sheet (of my assets and liabilities … in my case, basically working out what my flat is worth minus the balance of my mortage)
- Submit my expenses
- Work out what questions I have about my pension and who I might talk to about them
Most of these tasks take somewhere in the region of an hour. Some a lot less. A few, a good deal more.
One of the things writers are encouraged to do is quit while they’re ahead — to stop writing mid-sentence, mid-scene, mid-paragraph so that when they sit down the next day there’s still some momentum to what they were working on rather than the pressure of a fresh start on a new chapter.
So that’s how I’m going to approach managing my finances. I am going to give them 15 minutes EVERY SINGLE DAY. That’s not enough time to get much done, but it’s plenty of time each week (an hour and 45 minutes).
I will no longer be able to tell myself that I DON’T HAVE ALMOST TWO HOURS to do my finances. Because, really, who doesn’t have 15 minutes a day to do something they’ve promised themselves to do?