By Michelle Singletary
If you want a better financial life, it often starts with taking a look at the way you are living.
Just think about it. When would you even have time to do a budget or come up with a plan to pay down your debts when you’re wired in all kinds of ways to your job?
Technology has made us so readily accessible to our places of employment that it sucks time from our private lives. Time you need to fix your finances or clean your home or visit with friends. Or just take a nap.
We are so hyped from being technologically connected 24/7 that before we know it, we’ve lost track of time. I’ve become so Twitter-obsessed that I lose track of the tasks I plan to do. One tweet takes me to another that takes me to dozens of articles, mostly about personal finance.
But I’ve found a book that challenged me to examine my life so that I can make the most of the time I have. We all have the same number of hours in a day. So ask yourself if you are using them wisely. My finances might be in order, but I need to cut something out so I can get more sleep. You may be concerned about your money, but are you doing what it takes to stop being so frazzled about it?
If you answered no, you’ll find some help in the Color of Money Book Club pick for this month, “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode” (Nelson Books, $22.99) by Crystal Paine.
Paine, who runs the popular website MoneySavingMom.com, writes: “While I was trying to help people with their money and budget problems, I realized I couldn’t address their financial struggles until I first helped these women deal with deeper issues, such as a lack of purpose, a loss of perspective, and a sense of hopelessness.”
Here are some questions Paine says you should ask yourself:
Do you struggle with having so many things you want to do but not the motivation to get them done?
Do you put unrealistic expectations on yourself to have and do it all?
Do you have trouble figuring out the right priorities, especially as they relate to your finances?
“You don’t have to stay perpetually overwhelmed and exhausted, barely existing in survival mode, anymore,” she says. “You can start living with direction and passion.”
The direction Paine promises is delivered in nine strategies to bring order and purpose into your life. Here are a few:
Create a personal priorities list. Not to fear, this isn’t another thing to add to your to-do list. It’s a way to organize what’s important so you have a plan going forward. We are all so tired and unable to tackle the things that really matter to us because we try to do it all.
Create a daily routine that builds your schedule around your priorities. “Living with purpose means wisely choosing and committing to a few of the best things for the season of life you’re in,” Paine writes. This tip alone deserves a big “amen.” If you have a lot of child care expenses right now, then this may not be the season when you can eat out a lot or take expensive vacations. That’s how you make a budget work. Pick and choose the things you can afford based on the season you’re in.
Be SMART, an acronym meaning set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound goals that have an end date. You might be inclined to roll your eyes. Don’t, because goal-setting works. “If you don’t know where you’re aiming, you’re going to lack direction and purpose,” Paine says.
Be intentional with your money. Part of being intentional is developing a budget and living not within your means but below your means.
I chose this book because I know people have the desire to become better money managers but they don’t have the energy because they’re overwhelmed. Paine helps clear the clutter.
“You can’t change your financial situation unless you also change the way you’re doing something,” she writes.
Michelle Singletary: email@example.com.
Washington Post Writers Group
Chat with the author
If you want financial peace, follow Crystal Paine’s strategies to clear your life of things that get in the way of achieving that goal. Michelle Singeltary will host a live online discussion with Paine about “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode” at 9 a.m. Pacific on March 27 at washingtonpost.com/discussions. Every month, Singletary randomly selects a few readers to receive copies of the featured book donated by the publisher. To enter, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and address.