It’s high time I took a serious, thorough look at my budget.
I did this last back in ’08, and it had wonderful effects. I realized that I was spending way too much money on a prevalent urban activity – ordering in. How easy would it be to make reheat-able meals, if I cooked on Sunday nights? Very easy, it turned out. That thinking also revolutionized my workday lunchtime, thereby saving almost 50.00 dollars a week on meals from local delis, Chipotle, and Chop’t, to name a few former beneficiaries of my lunchtime largesse.
And, the best payoff…I got control over quality and ingredients. In the intervening years, I have gone almost completely organic, and am almost completely free of pre-packaged foods. I keep it simple, though. As a dear friend will teasingly ask me, “What bean recipe are you making tonight?”‘
But, I am in a new situation, for over a year now, having moved from Brooklyn into Manhattan. And, one desire behind that move was to simplify my life (shorter commute and renting, so I could be available for whatever came next…which, as it turned out, fairly quickly, was Alan. sigh).
My last financial inventory revealed many opportunities that made good sense and made me feel good in their implementation. It also revealed some hidden assumptions (hard to believe, but in the first pass, I didn’t even look at my eating habits!). Yet, doing a new one, this time around, raises some of the same old fears – my own ignorance about money; fear of scarcity; fear of constriction.
In some ways, I am writing this entry to help me recall all the good that came out of the last financial inventory. The same could happen through the one I am beginning this month.
I am also writing this to remind myself that fear is a powerful force. It can keep me stuck, or at least seriously slow me down. But as Jeff Golliher says in his wonderful book Moving Through Fear: Cultivating the Seven Spiritual Instincts, “the fear that rules our lives makes us a danger to ourselves.” He’s not talking about the very useful fear of the truly very dangerous. But rather, the fear that speaks to us daily, clamoring to be heard above the other voices. My voices say:
- “There won’t be enough”
- “You don’t understand this stuff”
- “You won’t like what you find”
If I give these voices enough power, I will procrastinate, live in denial, not do this at all, and then not learn anything new. On the other hand, if I take a more balanced look, and take heart from my intentions, much more can happen. And, it’s also good to listen to others. As my spiritual director said to me, this is also about stewardship of my resources. And, as I heard another friend once remark, money (it’s earning and exchange) can be thought of as energy (and perhaps, I would add, as spirit)
In my statement about this blog, written at its inception 7 months ago, I quoted from The Holy Longing, by Ronald Rolheiser:
“Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with…desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality.”
And, why not apply this to money? To my budget review? After all, money acts in our stead. It goes toward things, or people, or causes that speak about who we are, what we care about, as well as our hopes for ourselves and the world.
Perhaps, when done with the highest intentions, spending and saving can be considered an embodiment of love, and, the planning around it be considered a spiritual discipline.
Now, I don’t expect that this intention will get me into heaven, or help me reach nirvana. Money – getting and spending, the planning and the denial around it – can be very tricky. As my dear departed Grandmother K would say, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
My intention is to do, as some of us might say, a searching and fearless inventory. That is the next right action. And, we’ll see where that gets me.
One column of the spreadsheet at a time.