Way before I fell in love with music, I fell in love with words. It started off with the amazing children’s stories of Enid Blyton, E.B. White, and Madelaine L’Engle, and then as I got older, it grew to include the great poets: Shakespeare, E.E. Cummings, Pablo Neruda.
UGHHH… even the english translations of Neruda are sexy.
“Invade me with your hot mouth; interrogate me
with your night-eyes, if you want— only let me
steer like a ship through your name; let me rest there.”
But you don’t see a ton of people getting turned on by financial language. There’s something about ‘amortization’ that just doesn’t get your cockles enflamed. Maybe it’s the idea that there’s no romance in finance, that it’s a cold and passionless field.
But I couldn’t disagree more…
Efficiency: the sexiest ‘eff’ word I know
These days we’re all about glorifying extravagance. MORE!! That’s what’s sexy. Bigger. Better.
But that’s all smoke and mirrors.
When you get down to it, there’s nothing sexier than efficiency. The ability to take a little, and make a lot out of it (or to take a lot, and make even more out of it). Now that’s waayyyy more impressive than blowing a ton on some kind of extravaganza.
There are all sorts of efficiencies that I could dive into… tax efficiency, investment efficiency… but I’d rather talk about it in its simplest form.
Simple is sexy
4 years ago I was making a weekly pay cheque for most of the year, with gigs in-between. Basically, I was pulling in quite a bit more money than I make in an average month now. And yet, at the end of the month I didn’t really have much to show for it. I was living pay cheque to pay cheque,
I make less now, but I do so much more with it. Somehow I’m still living well (although I did make some cuts), but at the end of the month instead of stress, I have money left over to save. SAVE, I TELL YOU! I promise you it’s as nice as it sounds.
How did it happen? It’s not rocket science, in fact it’s pretty damn simple.
I started becoming really deliberate about how I spent every dollar. Instead of ignoring the very thought of money because of the stress it brought on… I dove in, got chummy with my spending, made myself a little budget, and really gave a lot of thought to where I wanted my money to be going.
In short, I upped my efficiency game.
It’s not the size of the income, it’s how you use it…
I don’t make a lot, but I want to do a lot.
That means I don’t have the luxury of letting my precious nickels disappear into the ether. That nickel is 5 cents worth of possibility, and I want 10 cents worth of results from it.
You see, I’m a freelancer making a pretty variable income, so I can’t waste a lot of time thinking in hypotheticals. I can’t base my budget on what I ‘might bring in’. I’ve learned that the best place for my energy to go is into the facts in front of me.
That’s what drives my personal finance philosophy. Control what you can control. Be awesome at the things right in front of you.
And so, after a good many hours complaining about how I didn’t have enough to do what I wanted, I realized what needed to happen: I had to stop worrying about what I didn’t have, and figure out how to use what I did have.
I needed to build a way of dealing with my money that could efficiently turn whatever dollars I got into the life I was trying to build.
Building the system
That sounds all well and good… just build a system! But I promise it’s less complicated than it might sound.
For me, it was about focus. I needed to sit down and really try to figure out what I wanted.
And I found that in my case, it wasn’t about specific goals, really. It was about the ‘values’ I wanted to build into my life.
You see, before that moment I was trying to do way too much, a lot of which I didn’t really care about. And so I was wasting my time, I was wasting my energy, and I was wasting my money. All in the pursuit of ‘everything’.
Not very efficient.
Having a few values (stability, relationships, growth) at the centre of it all, changed the way that I focused my resources. I had something to focus ON, and not only something, but things that didn’t have a direct cost associated with them. I can spend as much as I have, even if that’s only a little, and always get results.
After setting your sights on the want… the rest is a rinse/repeat situation:
- Cut out the Waste: Where’s the money going right now? Track that spending, and find out where it’s slipping through the cracks.
- Concentrate: Resources do the most good when they’ve got specific jobs (I think of values, but if that’s too general for you, pick some goals). What do you want your money to be doing?
- Apply Dollar to Job: Whenever a dollar comes in… it goes towards one of the jobs you outlined above. (It’s the YNAB special!!)
And all of a sudden, my little dollars that just weren’t enough before, are now doing more than I could have thought possible.
This is why people nerd out about budgets, and spreadsheets, and all those other apps and such things because they’re tools that allow them to squeeze every bit of life out of every dollar.
Now, that’s my kind of sexy
For those of us without a, how shall I say it… “big endowment”, we can’t afford to just lie there. We have to get active!
You don’t need a lot of money to start doing big things, but you do need to become efficient.
Making your life efficient doesn’t make it boring. It means that you’re no longer wasting your resources on the crap you don’t even want. It means that you’re making deliberate instead of default decisions. It means that you’re building something as fast as you possibly can (even if that’s not very fast).
Don’t pretend that doesn’t turn you on.