I want to work less and to write more. That’s at the heart of Counting Zeros. But that sounds so much simpler than it actually is. Because I want other things too. Things that don’t fit in with the relative poverty and financial insecurity that I’ve always believed a writer’s life demands.
A huge part of me is worried that Counting Zeros is a really bad idea — that by facing my financial fears I’ll only discover how well-founded they are. But since that’s the part of me I’ve listened to for most of my life, the part of me that works too hard for a pay check that isn’t the funding the life I want, I’ve decided that I need to grab these fears and examine them calmly; because there’s a chance they just aren’t true.
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Facing up to my financial fuckwittery …
If sorting out my finances were as simple as learning to spend less than I earn, then I wouldn’t be embarking on this year-long experiment. But if by the end of this year I end up achieving this, then that’ll be a result.
Just not a result worth a year of my life.
Counting Zeros has been designed to achieve something more than this, something deeper.
Not only do I intend to change the way I manage my money, I also want to figure out ways to spend less without feeling deprived, and I need to tackle deeply held insecurities about having enough money to survive. In order to achieve these things, I need to re-wire my relationship with money. And I think I need to do that so that I stop sabotaging the one life I have to live. (I don’t know. There’s a chance I’d be better off continuing to be too busy to spend time on anything as annoying and depressing and occasionally distressing as money, but I just can’t see that this is going to work out in the long-run.)
I’m not sure what re-wiring my relationship with money means in terms of my habits and attitudes, never mind the actual numbers involved. But over the course of 2012, that’s what I’m going to find out.
The whole point of Counting Zeros is to stick with an experiment (this blog, the cards and the rules) I’ve designed for myself … to see where it will take me.
Sure, I’ve considered what my specific financial goals should be, but the more I detailed these, the more bored and demotivated I became. If I was the kind of person who got excited by personal finance I wouldn’t be the financial fuckwit that I am.
Budgets, interest rates, pensions, tax deductions — these things drain my life force. But as a single person who needs to work for a living, I’m aware that this is an unhelpful attitude if I want a more balanced and happier life. So I’m giving myself a year to get into the personal finance thing, on my terms, in my own way.
If it’s possible to make this a life-affirming rather than a soul-destroying exercise … if I can become financially savvy without becoming a penny-pinching, money-grabbing, cash-obsessed bore, then 2012 is the year I’m going to learn how.
That said, it seems useful to lay out a few specific financial milestones I hope to reach along the way … even if mostly what I want is to be surprised and delighted by developments I cannot predict at the outset.
By March: No unsecured debt (i.e., aside from my mortgage, no money owed on credit cards, etc.)
By June: 3 months of living within my means (i.e. no new debt to replace the old debt!)
By September: Living within 80% of my means.
By the end of the year: Having a financial plan to live for a year without paid employment. (Even though I’ve already said my plan isn’t to quit my job, knowing that I could survive, for a while, without it, is the sort of peace of mind that money really can buy.)
For more on the difference between process and outcome-oriented goals, visit my other blog, Panic Station.