Budgeting: The Harmony You’ve Been Seeking

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Can you make healthy choices when you are scared? Can you moderate with caution when you feel endangered? An impulsive purchase turns into a spiral of self sabotage that leaves you wondering how to turn the light on.

How does budgeting have anything to do with harmony? Well let’s look at a case study.

I was 25 years old. Embarking on a new journey south to New Zealand. A year in Australia and 6 months in Asia were not enough. I was not ready to go home (NY) and my heart felt drawn to New Zealand. It was an easy trip, got my visa and a job in a inconceivably short amount of time. I moved with a little over $1000, believing that it would support me before my paycheck set in. But I was so young, reckless and oh so stupid. The money was gone in 2 weeks and my pay wasn’t depositing for three days.

$11. That was all I had to my name. I was completely alone, in a brand new city, in a foreign country, thousands of miles away from home.

There was a grocery store and a cafe across the street from the hostel I was living in. With $11 I could get bread and peanut butter which would have lasted me a few days. Yeah, I probably would have developed a peanut allergy or worse never wanted peanut butter again, but at least I would be fed. OR, I could go into the cafe, get myself a latte and a slice of toast with peanut butter and instantly be fed. So as I walked across the street, my head went into the grocery store but my feet took me into the cafe.

I drank my delicious cup of coffee, slowly enjoying every single drop. Continuously putting the cup to my face in hopes that more would magically appear or the smell would produce the feelings of taste. Somewhere in the back of mind believing that if I drank it slow enough it might just last me 3 days. Something about the way I was drinking and eating must have been strange because the owner came over with an extra slice of toast and more peanut butter. I almost cried. When I finished my snack, potentially my last meal for the next 3 days I felt hollow inside. Void of all feeling, drained of context. I was completely and utterly frightened and I had chosen the worst possible choice for my survival.

Choices we make under extreme circumstances have a variety of outcomes. We easily can make the greatest decisions of our lives in high stress situations. Pressure is what turns stone into diamonds. But if ‘choice’ is fully enveloped by fear then the consequences can be detrimental.

A parent supporting a family loses their sole income. A kid just out of college learning how to navigate adult life while burdened with extraordinary student loans. The list goes on and on. Sometimes life throws you unexpected curve balls, the loss of a loved one, sickness or injury. So why tell my story. Every single second of my experience was self induced abuse. I alone put myself in harms way, I went into the rink with the lion, walked into on going traffic, stepped on the train tracks. I played with fate and no one could stop me. So why fess up? Why write a whole article about my dumb decision?

Because its relatable, is it not? How many stupid financial mistakes have you made? How many irresponsible choices have you made because you wanted to impress somebody else? Put a date on a credit card? Go out to dinner with friends without checking the menu to only find out it’s way out of your price range and you’re stuck paying for someone else’s second martini? Ever miss a non refundable plane ticket or have to take a cab instead of the bus because you didn’t plan ahead, losing $60 when you could have spent $2.75.

We all make irrational choices when it comes to money. Why? Because we don’t value harmony. We don’t value constraint. We want things right now. Fix this, solve that, eat now, drink when I feel like it, give me, don’t hold back, must have, need it. We live in a unique time. More people than ever have more access to recourses; food, clothing, shelter. And with that abundance more access to the finer things in life, faster food, more beautiful stuff, more stuff. While 3–4 generations ago our ancestors were focusing on surviving, we have a different set of problems. How to thrive and maintain our thrive-ability. Just because we CAN doesn’t mean we SHOULD.

Harmony is the cautious, tentative steps to creating a life of order over chaos. Acknowledging the care of a need, before reacting with something to fill it. A drink at the end of a long day, an expensive workout class, a coffee at 2pm, a new outfit, an apartment design. A quick snack even when you’re 30 min away from home. A piece of toast with peanut butter when your money would have been better spent on groceries.

When we choose harmony over our untamed emotional desires we actually have control (to a degree) over our environment. I would have felt way better about my week had I planned my meals ahead of time, instead every hour that passed was a reminder of my impulsive decision and an a lingering ache for stability and security.

Budgeting has brought me harmony in a way no sound bath, therapy session or clean dish has ever made me feel. Once I understood my spending habits, I was able to take control and structure my life the way I truly wanted it. No more living by the seam of my pants. I had full power to choose what was right and wrong for myself.

Money is not the source of happiness, but getting a life you choose to have over a life you feel enslaved too is ultimate harmony. You can always have more, always crave the next big thing but you will never have control unless you take accountability in your financial life, for then you are the only person responsible.

This article was inspired by the tarot card “Temperance”

AJ is a Financial Freedom Coach and the founder of Beyond The Green Coaching. https://www.beyondthegreencoaching.com/