Pay Yourself First

It’s 6:41 am and I’m in my fleece Ghostbusters pajamas without a coffee.  (I’ll grab the coffee after I’ve worked for a while- it makes a nice reward.) I’m sitting here on my kneeling chair, facing my computer with excellent posture.  I’m here to pay myself first.  

A pumpkin blossom from our garden

Good advice: Pay Yourself First

“Pay yourself first” is common advice in the financial independence (FIRE) community.  Usually, it refers to putting money into savings, or better yet, investment accounts.  The idea is to save some of your money right when you get it- before you have the chance to see that bright shiny item that you just have to spend it on.  

Most people seem to do the opposite: pay the bills, buy the groceries, buy whatever they start to “need” during the month, and then consider saving whatever remains.  Unfortunately, it tends to turn out that, with this method, there is simply nothing left.

So, to “pay yourself first” is to make savings a priority.  It is the top priority.

I was thinking about this concept recently (while spiralizing zucchini) and it occurred to me that the same principle can, and should, be applied to time.

Today, I’m paying myself first in a different way: with time.  Instead of waiting to have time to do the things that inspire and motivate me, I’m going to do them right away, before all of the time is spent.

Just like you, no doubt, I am busy.  I am a stay-at-home mom.  I homeschool 3 great kids, two of whom have difficult-to-manage health conditions.  I am going through a divorce.

Around our house, there is always something to do.  We have an expansive garden and 14 fruit trees on our ½ acre property. 3 of the 4 of us living here have Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis– a genetic disorder that requires a special diet, which means a lot of cooking. A lot of cooking means a lot of cleaning.  It seems that I always have a long list of boring-but-important tasks to keep me busy.

Prepping some garden vegetables

While I’m harvesting vegetables, freezing tomatoes, organizing the house, and putting stuff away, I listen to podcasts.  I discovered podcasts years ago when I realized that my mundane daily tasks weren’t feeding my hungry mind.  I started with Dave Ramsey, then Suze Orman, then finally discovered the Financial Independence/ Retire Early (FIRE) podcasting crowd.  ChooseFI was an early FIRE favorite.

I noticed that if I listen to podcasts while working I don’t resent my housework.  I am happy to work as long as I am learning at the same time.  There was just one problem: these podcasts are incredibly motivating.  More and more, I felt the desire to actually do meaningful work to contribute to society.  I knew that raising super-impressive kids was a great service to the world.  But, what else could I personally do? 

A pumpkin growing right in the front yard: produce and decoration

I decided to collect all of the wonderful information that I acquire through podcasts (and life) and share it. I decided to become a blogger. 

Sounds easy enough, right? But here was the problem: I didn’t have time.  More accurately, I didn’t make time.  Each night at about 11 pm, I found myself cleaning the house, making homemade bread or yogurt, doing some last-minute processing of garden produce before it could spoil, etc. There was no time left to blog or do anything else.  I wouldn’t even read at night or watch a favorite TV show- I’d just climb into bed exhausted.

That’s exactly what happened last night, and I told myself it would be the last time.  I set an alarm for 6 am and labeled it: start blogging.  

Before sunrise, I woke up to a cold house.  The mornings are cold here in Utah right now, as the hot summer weather transitions to fall.  I have a self-imposed rule that I don’t turn on the heat and the air conditioning on the same day, so I have to buck up on these cold mornings.  Usually, I cope by staying in bed way too long, browsing Facebook or surfing the Internet.

This morning, I threw on my Ghostbusters onesie.  It’s like footie pajamas, but there are no feet on it.  I like it that way because I can still wear socks and shoes. I bought it for a Halloween costume last year at my kids’ insistence.   It’s warm and silly and fun. 

I don’t plan on waiting for my coffee every morning, but today that was the deal because I procrastinated getting out of bed and it was already nearly 6:30.  There was no time to get coffee and still get my “me time” before the kids would wake up.  Besides, I can easily multitask making coffee and answering my kids’ questions, but it’s much more difficult to write while doing that.

Tomorrow, I hope to wake up at 6 again (or maybe even a little earlier) but jump right out of bed.  I will have my coffee already waiting for me (cold brew). Every morning, I will “go to work” in my little loft office, (which overlooks both the garden and the kitchen,) and enjoy the beautiful morning silence. 

I’m still a divorcing, single, stay-at-home mom of 3.  I’m still homeschooling my kids and I still have yard and house maintenance, cooking, cleaning and shopping to do.  Those things will take up most of my time for the foreseeable future.  But today, I took on one more role in order to pay myself first:  Starting today, I am a writer.