green year is winding down, and in this last portion of it, I have turned my attention toward the last green-related item I wanted to work with this year: money.
Money has always been a bit of a bugbear for me. When I was a teenager I rejected my comfortable middle-class upbringing and decided I was "anti-materialistic," i.e., anti-money.
I got over that quite some time ago, but the truth is that I've never been good with money. It tends to slip through my fingers alarmingly quickly, and my overall financial life has been very much feast or famine, and utterly chaotic.
So I've been working with a book called The Energy of Money, by Maria Nemeth, which approaches money from a spiritual viewpoint and guides you through a series of exercises to help you become conscious of and heal your relationship with money.
I'm still stuck on Chapter One, in which you are supposed to write your money autobiography. She provides a whole long list of thought-provoking questions to help the process. I shouldn't say I'm stuck, really, because even though I'm moving through this process very slowly, I AM doing it. It's eye-opening to say the least, and so I'm taking the time to really process what I'm writing.
One thing I've realized lately is that as I've been with money, so I've also been with time: confused about where it all goes. Which, of course, brings to mind that saying, Time is money. I never really understood what that meant, primarily because both time and money were such abstract concepts to me that I couldn't really comprehend either of them on a practical level.
But I get it now; it means that money comes to you for time spent earning it. Duh. Conventional wisdom might see this as a one-to-one correspondence: If I work so many hours, I will get so much pay. If I have a "bad" job, the pay will be low and if I have a "good" job the pay will be high. But frankly, I think it sucks either way, and I believe it can be different. In fact, I know it can. There's a sort of momentum that can be created around money that brings a greater and greater return with fewer and fewer hours. I've seen it in people I've written about for my Taos News column, Innovators & Entrepreneurs, and I also just know it intuitively.
Recently I was browsing at one of my favorite websites, mythinglinks.org, and I came across a very interesting page about money. The author of the site, Kathleen Jenks, laments that in terms of earning a living, "it's been unsettling to face the
fact that I've lived most of this lifetime feeling like a racehorse hitched
to a plow."
Reading this really bummed me out, because I can relate. I also recently interviewed a woman for my column whose work life as a freelance writer and a teacher parallels mine. But she just started an online business (her website is journalsandnotepads.com), and she talked about how different this is from freelancing, where you're selling your TIME.
That conversation got me thinking about starting my own online business, but that's a story for another day. The significance for this discussion is that it was yet another pointer to my need to focus on my relationships with time and money. I began to think that perhaps a budget would not be such a bad thing after all. And while I've always been okay with schedules, I haven't been disciplined enough about them when I'm working at home on "my own" time. So I decided that thinking of a schedule as a sort of time-budget might be a better idea - to trick myself into sticking to it, essentially. I've decided that the planner I get for 2012 will have the hours of the day in it so that instead of just making a list of what needs to be done each day, I can actually schedule all of it.
I also signed up at Mint.com. I had read several very good reviews of it, and then came across another one recently that finally convinced me to check it out. And I have to say, I LOVE it. I honestly cannot overstate how much this tool is helping me at last to really grasp my money situation and how to manage it. It's like when you look at what appears to be the chaotic blur of a stereogram and then finally see the image, and go, "Oh wow, yeah," and your eyes relax. For the first time in my life, I have made a balanced budget that is realistically based on what I actually have coming in, and I can see exactly where all of my money is going.
This is both relaxing and and freeing, which is ironic, considering how long I resisted budgeting because I felt it would be so stifling.
It's an interesting side benefit that budgeting my money is helping me budget my time as well. I'm currently writing an ebook for a client who pays me an hourly rate. It's up to me how many hours a week I put in. What I've been able to do is put into my Mint.com budget the amount of money I need to make monthly working on the ebook, and then figure out exactly how many hours a week I need to put in to make that happen. Cake!
All of this has resulted in an incredible feeling of awakening and empowerment in these areas of my life. I realize now that I've always let money and time just kind of happen to me, but I'm increasingly feeling like I'm in the driver's seat. Money and time are tools, and while there will of course be unexpected things that happen and certain limits beyond my power to change, overall it's possible to exercise control over how I receive and use them, and in doing so, the mysterious result is abundance.