Manage Yourself / Manage Your Money

You Can’t Really Manage Money (or Anything Else) Until You Can Manage Yourself

Brave Saver On October 9, 2019 • By Elyssa Kirkham

“I need to cut back on everything,” I repeated under my breath.

It was mid-2017, and this phrase was becoming something of a litany for me.  I felt intensely overwhelmed and behind in every area of life — work, parenting, friends, marriage, household management.

Almost daily I muttered those words to myself, or declared them loudly to my husband. I did so with the conviction that I’d identified the core of my problem: I was doing and buying too much.

 “I’ll cut back on everything, I just need things to work.” It became almost a prayer to the productivity gods. It was my bargaining chip, my willingness to sacrifice many things to get what I was desperate for: a functional life.

Does Hard Work Really Solve All Problems?

If I cut back, I reasoned, I could free up time, money and mental space to tackle the ever-towering pile of tasks that always lay ahead.

In the crosshairs of my slash-and-burn approach was anything I didn’t view as a core responsibility, a necessity of life — whether it was how I spent time or money. I:

Canceled all of our entertainment subscriptions, determined not to waste any more time or money on mindless TV.

Stopped accepting invitations to hang out with friends, arrange a playdate, or see family on the weekend. I couldn’t afford to socialize when I was so far behind.

Didn’t make time to workout, to journal, to really even get enough sleep. There was simply too much to do.

One by one, I disallowed myself any form of idleness or self-indulgence — and then I waited. Waited for the clouds to part, the stress to lift, the ever-moving finish line of being caught up to arrive.

Facing The Deep Costs Of Cutting Back And Overwork

Instead, stress continued to pile up until I collapsed under its weight. It was like I had been running a marathon — while refusing to pace myself, to grab a drink of water, to adjust my approach if I hit a hill.

Of course I wore myself out. Of course I hit a wall of “No” from my body and my mind. It was a self-preservation measure I couldn’t push past (though I tried my damnedest).

The well of motivation, the panic that had fueled my frantic efforts to catch up, had run dry. I couldn’t seem to make myself care enough to work on, well, anything in a meaningful way.

I’d been too convinced of my approach to be flexible. Too rushed to feel I could afford to slow down and get my bearings.  Yet that’s exactly what I needed to do, and what the wall of “No” forced me to do.

As I ground to a halt, all the things that had been blurred by my hurried pace came into focus. I saw this overwork for what it was: my last-ditch effort at covering up my messiness and toxic shame.

Figure Out Self-Management, and you can figure out the rest

I was fixated on outward issues, like a budget, a schedule, a search for the perfect productivity hack. And I know I’m not alone in this. It’s easy to get stuck searching for an answer outside of yourself.

To become convinced that “Everything will get better if I can just….” Just follow the plan. Stick to a schedule. Just spend every second and dollar efficiently.

The truth is we’re not always equipped with the right skills, mental space, or will power for our financial efforts to be effective.

Sometimes the problem isn’t your money — it’s us. And we need to work on managing our ourselves, our behaviors, and our mental health before our finances can improve.


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