In recent months, I’ve done a lot of things that I felt obligated to do. I wouldn’t say that I regret these things. For example, I attended several weddings, including destination weddings. I was glad to do so in order to support my friends and make my partner happy. However, it got me thinking a lot about the things that I had to reduce or give up in order to make time, energy, and space for those. And it got me thinking about how to apply financial budgeting knowledge to budgeting these slightly more amorphous things
A Nod To The Inspiration for This Post
The concept I’m talking about isn’t new. If you’re familiar with Spoon Theory, from medicine, then this won’t be new to you. The idea of that is loosely that when you have a chronic illness, you start the day out with a certain number of spoons. Each thing that takes your energy takes your spoons. When you’ve got new spoons left, you physically and/or mentally can’t continue until you’ve rested.
Also, I’ve been reading a lot of Sarah Knit’s books recently. In her expletive-laced work, she talks a lot about setting boundaries. She suggests setting up a F*ck Budget. You can only give your time, energy, etc. to so many things. Therefore, you need to determine what deserves them, allot them to those things, and set boundaries to not let other stuff encroach upon that. So, this isn’t a new theory. It’s just something I’m personally thinking a lot about right now.
A Budget Is Based On What You Realistically Have To Give
When you create your budget for the month, you have to start by looking at what you actually have to spend. I confess, this has always been hard for me. I have a shifting freelance income, so it’s never a set amount. Therefore, I’ve often started my budget with a list of everything I need to pay for (rent, utilities, minimum credit card payments, food, etc.) Then, I’ve tried to come up with income sources for the month to cover all of those things and a little bit extra.
While I’ve managed to make this work, because I’m resourceful about earning money, it’s clearly not the right way to budget. It easily falls apart. The better way is to say, “I have x amount of money. When that money is gone, I don’t have any more. Therefore, I need to figure out where it goes. And I can’t spend any more than that.”
Budgeting Time, Energy and Space
It’s very much the same way with time and energy and space. (By the way, I’m personally mostly talking about my mental space and emotional capacity. However, physical space and clutter can be an issue as well.) So, I tend to make a list of all of the things I feel like I “have” to do and to come up with some kind of plan to do them all. Much like the aforementioned reverse budgeting problem, this doesn’t work. I don’t have time to do it all. I really don’t have energy to do it all.
So, I’m taking a new approach. I’m looking very realistically at how much time, energy, and space I really do have. I’m accounting realistically for my need for sleep, downtime, reading time, errands time, puppy play time, meal prep and eating time and all of the other things that account for a day in a life. What time, energy, and space I have after that, I can use. Then it’s a matter of prioritizing where I want that “budget” to go. I’m working on it.
Does this make sense to you? Any thoughts? I’d love to develop this conversation further.
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Kathryn Vercillo is a professional writer with more than a decade of experience writing about healthy living and personal finance. She lives in San Francisco, where she has learned to maximize frugal living tips in order to thrive as a freelancer in one of the nation’s most expensive cities. When she’s not writing, she’s exploring the city on foot with her rescue dog. Learn more about her at www.kathrynvercillo.com. Kathryn also writes about saving money with coupons over at GroceryCouponGuide.com .