For those that don’t know me in real life, I’m incredibly Type A. I love making plans, lists, and goals. Anything “grey zone” stresses me out. I like to have a goal of where I’m headed & a plan to get me there. I attribute how far I’ve come to setting goals and seeing them through. Even if I wanted to stop planning I wouldn’t know how; it’s just not how I’m wired. I can recognize though that life (unfortunately or fortunately?) is unpredictable. You make the best plans, and life just laughs. This leads into an area I’m not skilled: accepting when plans need to change. This is particularly hard for me when it comes to financial goals.
Accepting when plans need to change (grumble, grumble grumble)
In a recent post , I mentioned that I’m FINALLY not a casual dietitian anymore! I got a position with guaranteed hours, benefits, and pension. It took me two years to get here, and I’m sooo excited to have stable paychecks.
The plan was to continue budgeting similarly to how I did as a casual (Creating a budget that ACTUALLY works), except now I would always know how much money would be coming in. It felt like a dream! However, I didn’t heavily consider the impact my pension and health benefit deductions would have on my take home pay….
News flash: It’s a lot!! Double digit % deductions big.
I ran the numbers many, many times. I wanted to continue putting the same $1150 on debt monthly that I have been.
That was the plan damn it!
I’ve been making such amazing progress on my finances, I can’t fail now! It sounds dramatic to say that I was in mental agony, but it’s not a stretch.
I felt like I was going to go back to being a financial failure; that cutting myself slack on the debt payments was a slippery slope to financial ruin. Clearly if I couldn’t maintain this goal I was going to be in debt for the rest of my life.
However, I couldn’t make the numbers work. One of my favorite things about math is that it doesn’t lie; the numbers work or they don’t. No grey zone. I dislike when I can’t make the math do what I want it to do though.
My budget was too tight to add in pension payments without removing something else. Strong consideration was given to what else I could cut out, because backing off on debt payments felt irresponsible.
I could get a second job and work weekends? I value relaxing and having time for my social relationships though. It’s funny how much “having a life” matters to me (yes- that was sarcasm).
Maybe I’ll stop heading to the mountains? Cut my fun budget? However, those are the things I live for. I so strongly believe in enjoying your life while paying off debt. Some financial experts advocate for dropping everything and living on an extreme budget until your debt free, but I believe you never know how much time you have and you’d better enjoy each year (while financially progressing still, of course).
Nothing is impossible. If I desperately wanted to keep my debt payments the same I could move somewhere cheaper, eat different food, get rid of my dog (just kidding), etc. The possibilities are endless, but none are things I’m currently willing to do. None align with my values.
So what is my option?
Accepting when plans need to change.
I thought a lot about WHY I started on this financial journey. Yes, getting out of debt is incredibly important to me. I hate owing money, and hate feeling like it limits my options in life. I’ve also attached some personal shame to carrying debt.
Getting out of debt wasn’t my overarching goal though; financial stability is. I want to be able to enjoy my years without needing to worry about money, and I want to retire early with no financial concerns. Becoming debt free is an incredibly important milestone on that path, but it’s only ONE of the stones. Pension and retirement savings are equally big. Getting out of debt is something I will accomplish on my way to my goal, but it isn’t the finish line.
With this job, in 10 years I will be WAY closer to my overall goal of financial stability than I would be as a casual (not to mention all the lifestyle perks stable hours and vacation time offer).
My debt payments each month will be less. But between my revised debt payments and pension contributions I’m actually putting MORE aside for my future. I’m getting there faster.
A wise friend suggested when I’m hesitant about whether a change is okay to ask myself “Does this get me closer to the life I’m trying to create?”.
My plan had to change, but it morphed into something even more positive.