But if you're like me, you think about money too often. I'll find myself in the physically in the presence of my friends or loved ones, but mentally in the presence of this month's budget and wondering if going out for a meal with these fine people is a good idea or not. This is colossally dumb. When I decide to do something, I should have enough common decency and common sense to give it my attention. Money ought not occupy my conscience that much. A big benefit of financial independence is that you don't have to worry about your financial situation all the time. Thinking about money sucks, especially if it's a distraction from the good stuff in your life.
I don't mean to say that we should never think about our finances. Let's say our financial journey is a cross country car ride from Chicago to Los Angeles. On one end of the spectrum, we have Johnny Consumer, who is driving to Miami for some reason while asleep at the wheel, careening into orange cones. On the other end, we have Miser Mary who, instead of taking in the beauty of Historic Route 66, is staring at her Scan Gauge, marveling at the incredible gas mileage she's getting and, in her own way, in danger of a crash.
As always, the question is: how do we find the right balance?
Strategies to spare our minds from financial obsession:
- Set a time to work on finances. Setting a daily or weekly schedule is usually a good idea as it provides a goal (e.g. - I will finish cleaning the living room in the these 30 minutes). But in this case, the benefit is really that when I have a stray thought about the monthly budget or our investments, I can remind myself that I already have an hour set aside for that this weekend, and I can defer the activity until then.
- Focus on the task at hand. Since I'm weird, I actually get some pleasure from looking at investments, net worth spreadsheets, and the like. And when I have something unpleasant to do (like work), I'm tempted to instead look at my 401k. I'll go so far at to persuade myself that maybe my retirement savings are even more important than the work project I had scheduled for this hour. My strategy here is to fight the temptation, and focus on whatever the task or person that is in front of me. In its own way, that should also help the bottom line as it fights procrastination and improves my work performance.
- Exercise. For whatever reason, after a workout I've noticed that my mind is oddly clear and I'm not worrying about money, work, or anything else. That's reason enough to turn off the television and work up a sweat.
- Don't sweat the small stuff. My wife is quick to remind me that while it's important not to waste all your discretionary spending on restaurants and bars, it's also important to remember the big picture. Our big picture is that we're moving towards our goal of financial independence and that things are looking pretty good. No need to worry about the minutia.
What tactic or philosophy have you found helpful when it comes to thinking about money? Please share a comment, as this is an area for improvement in my life.
*The photo above was taken by boetter at Flickr Creative Commons.