This past Friday, I finished a book entitled Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (selected by my new company’s book club)! It was a fast & incredibly relevant read. (P.S. If you’ve been to my corner of the internet a few times, you’ll start to recognize that books serve as a major source of inspiration for my posts). Today I’m bringing a breakdown of Essentialism, overall life, and how this all correlates to money & personal finance.
More and more the rapidity of life, technology and pursuit of success seems to overwhelm individuals. I can attest to this…from shaping my resume & refining my GPA in high school and college, to graduating and feeling like I am constantly huffing and puffing to keep in stride with life. After leaving several years of life at the educational institute level, it suddenly seems like you are back to square one. Regardless of how equipped you may be with the knowledge you acquired in school/university, nothing can quite prepare you for the spontaneity of the real world. Not to mention, the years fly by rapidly in an exponential fashion. The days are not prepackaged in tidy quarters/semesters where you can look forward to the consistent refresh & recharge experienced during winter, spring and summer break.
But we press on, and we learn what works best for us. The Essentialism book allows you to evaluate what truly matters to you independently, versus the needs & wants of others. One of the main themes of the book is: how can you contribute your best efforts and passions if you are spreading yourself in a million different ways? Despite the underlying tones of needing and wanting to have it all, how can you create an intentional life that allows you to flourish?
Here is a great line from the book that encompasses its message:
“Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter” (McKeown pg 4).
Then I got to thinking of Essentialism in terms of personal finance…
How many times have we said “yes” to an event, or an activity despite what parameters we set for our budget?
How often have we stressed about our next student loan payment because we were too busy spending all of our money in fear that we would miss out?
How consistently have we spread ourselves too thin attempting to accomplish every financial goal as fast as we possibly could that we neglected a particular expense that caught us off guard?
How many occurrences have we given into the temptation of “another round,” a splurge purchase, a treat yo’ self moment, that we suddenly turned a blind eye to long term savings goals?
When we are not essential with our money, we have competing interests forcing us in every which way. This could quite honestly relate to positive, or negative habits in relation to your finances. When we refer back to the Inverted U-Curve of Personal Finance we discover that thinking too little about personal finance can develop habits that drain your wallet. While thinking too much about personal finance can lead you to missing what life is wanting you to experience right now. Finding your optimal point of how much to think about personal finance allows you to practice Essentialism with your money.
If you say yes to every brunch-concert-weekend getaway-bar night-impulse buy-latest technology gadget-fancy clothes…where is the room in your budget to contribute to those student loan payments, future retirement savings, or goals to travel to where you want to go (and not just the passing fancies of someone else)? When you say “yes” to every request you may lose sight of what you value, what you would like to do, where you want to go, who you truly want to spend time with. Your contributions to your savings goals become less and less.
Then there is the other angle, where we may have too many savings-tax-expense-budgeting-investing goals in which we are expending a vast amount of effort & energy just trying to do it all. A small lump sum there, a deposit here, a couple dollars there, and they all should amount to something right? Yet when we are exhausting our mental capacity, and seem to be reaching the verge of argument over money matters with friends, family, significant others – our contributions to each competing goal can become trivial. Slip ups and mistakes may emerge due to your mental capacity stretching thin. Oversights to unforeseen expenses may emerge and knock your pristine budget that you felt was absolutely gridlocked.
To combat these negative aspects of financial matters, I recognized that we can practice the fine tuning of money & Essentialism. When we hone in on what we value, what matters to us, who we want to spend our time with – we can start saying no to things that take away from our financial goals. We can then enhance our motivation to contribute to our savings without conflicting and competing interests. Our energy is not displaced, but flourishing. We find the perfect balance between optimizing our personal finances, and discovering the ability to make our best contributions to what we value in terms of saving, donations, investing, etc. When you determine what is essential to you in life, you will discover ways to align your personal finances with a new found ease.
How can we practice Essentialism with our personal finances? Can you relate to money & Essentialism? Let’s discuss below!