Know who’s awesome? Albus Dumbledore. Clearly. For many reasons. But this observation of his is one of my favorite quotations, something I think about a lot:
“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
This could be applied to a lot of things, but since this is a personal finance blog, let’s go right ahead and apply it to personal finance.
Choosing to be financially conscious is a relatively new thing for me. And this week I decided that it’s time for a reevaluation of this still-evolving aspect of my life. Specifically, I want to ask myself: what is the impact—on myself as well as on others—of my ongoing choice to be more financially conscious?
First, let’s think about the immediate effects of me tracking my spending, trying to be mindful about money, and writing a blog that is mostly* about personal finance:
- I feel more empowered and less anxious about my finances.
- I spend less money.
- I have TONS of fun writing stuff and reading other blogs and connecting with people.
- I am out $7.07 per month for Arvixe fees.
- My friends who I know in real life have to put up with listening to me talk about money all the time.
- My blog posts may impact other people in some way, hopefully positively.
So far, so good. Most of these immediate effects are either decidedly positive (me feeling empowered, people potentially enjoying reading my blog) or mildly negative (though honestly I’m happy to pay Arvixe $7.07 each month to keep my domain name). Some of my friends are even interested in talking about money too, so that often works out well. (Apologies, friends who are less interested!)
But what about the bigger, longer-term effects of my ongoing choice to be financially conscious? Two main ones come to mind:
- I will pay back my loans more quickly.
- I will save more money, which means I will end up with more money—and/or more time, depending on how you look at it—in the long run.
Ok, let’s tackle these separately.
First, I do feel certain that the faster I pay back my loans, the better I will feel about myself and my situation. So that’s positive, and straightforward.
But the question of what I am going to DO with all this extra money and/or time in the long run is where things get tricky, and where additional choices will need to be made. And this is a critical issue, as the things that I could choose to do with a large chunk of extra money/time vary greatly. I could, for example,
- give all the extra money to charity.
- attempt world domination.
- buy ALL the Beanie Babies.
As we can see from this list, extra money and time are powerful tools that can potentially be used for Good…or for Not-Good (…or for Weird).
So my question to myself today is: how can I increase the Good? This is, I think, a question that a lot of us think about. How can we use our time and resources to increase the sum total of Good in the world? How do we do this? What does it look like?
There are lots of possibilities for Good, I think:
~ I could use my extra time and/or money to take better care of myself so that I can try to be a kinder person, a more responsible citizen, and a better friend—which all will result in my living a fuller life. And to me that counts as Good.
~ I could use my extra time and/or money to attempt to create something that has a positive impact on others. I know that other blogs have created Good in the world by providing inspiration, information, and encouragement. Blonde on a Budget and Budgets are Sexy are prime examples, but there are many, many other kind, intelligent, and good-hearted people producing thoughtful and inspirational writing every day—in blogs, and also in books and poems and editorials and magazine articles.
~ I could give as much of my extra money as possible to charity a la Peter Singer.
~ I could create a whole new charity a la Joshua Becker.
~ I could do something fun and random and challenging and creative that I’ve always wanted to do. Like try to write a really awesome short story and get it published in the New Yorker. (My favorite short story writer, the amazing Alice Munro, didn’t start publishing stories until she was in her late 30s, and she won a NOBEL PRIZE while in her 80s.) In my book, making art counts as Good.
This question is on my mind in part because of a post from last week by Budgets Are Sexy that asked: Why? Why are we working to save money, to get out of debt, to [insert financial goal]? What is the point? How do we hope to spend our time after we reach that goal? Our Next Life also posted a great article recently on planning for the future that includes questions like, “how will you give back? what will you want to have accomplished, looking back on your life at age 80 or 90?”
I still don’t have any definite answers. I don’t know how best to increase the possibility for Good this week, let alone how to increase it someday when I’ve paid off my loans and have more time and money to allocate.
But I’m thinking about it. And I’d love to hear what you think too.
And for now, I’ll leave you with Nicholas Kristof’s holiday gift-giving guide for 2015, which in my opinion doubles as an excellent list of possible ways to increase the sum total of Good in the world.
What do you think?
How can we use our time and money to increase the Good,
both in the future when we’ve reached our financial goals,
and also right now, today?