Important Priorities

Okay, I know. “Important priorities” is redundant. Priorities denote importance. So what is important to you? Ask yourself what your priorities are. Do we think about that very often, or is running around putting out fires the basis of our lives? Is doing as little as possible and being comfortable the basis of our lives to where that is the only priority we have?

Here’s an exercise: Keep track of what you do for a day or a week or a month. It can be a rough accounting. At the end of the day or week, think about what you did and for approximately how long. It might be something like this:

This week, I slept 58 hours, I worked at my job (including getting ready, and traveling to and from the job) 53 hours, I relaxed (or had fun or did nothing-much: aimless television, aimless reading of newspapers, magazines, novels, aimless internet, aimless conversations and socializing, being with friends instead of with family, etc.) for 36 hours, I ate (including preparation and clean-up) for 16 hours, I shopped for two hours, and I’m not sure what I did for the remaining three hours.

If this were your accounting, what would anyone think are your priorities? Sleep is good and making money is important. Eating is necessary. Can’t fault you for that. Then again, do you sleep to live or live to sleep? How late did you sleep in on Saturday and Sunday? 58 hours equates to more than 8 hours per night. Do you do the minimum necessary to get a paycheck or are you always getting better and becoming of more worth to your present and future employers? When it comes to discretionary time, it looks like you don’t care much about accomplishing anything. Your priorities are to be comfortable and relax. That’s about it.

If we don’t set priorities, we have them anyway. Life can show us our priorities or we can show life our priorities.

Someone who has purposeful priorities and takes control of her life instead of letting life drift in the wind might have an accounting something like this:

This week, I slept for 55 hours, I worked at my job (including getting ready, and traveling to and from the job) for 53 hours. Included in this time I spent seven hours improving myself and showing my supervisor that I am doing more than is expected so that I can be promoted and paid more. I relaxed (relaxing reading, television, internet, socializing) for 12 hours. Most of this was pleasant time and fun with my spouse and with my children rather than in isolation and irritation if anyone bothered me. I ate (including preparation and clean-up) for 17 hours. The whole family helped prepare the meals and clean up afterwards, and we talked during meals about school, goals, dreams, accomplishments, and so forth. I shopped for two hours. I spent 10 hours in introspection, spiritual pursuits, general self improvement, becoming expert at skills and talents that interest me, helping to improve the human condition as much as I can, improving our community, and so forth. I spent 10 hours directly with my spouse and with the children, other than having fun and talking to them at dinner, helping with homework, helping them prepare for life, cleaning the house and yard together, etc. I spent six hours in physical exercise. I spent three hours making sure my papers, receipts, finances, books, memories, and so forth are organized.

Did you know you could do so much in a week if you just had and acted on priorities?

If someone were to look at this second accounting, what would they think of your priorities? It looks like you’re trying to improve yourself so that you are always employable and so that you can make good money. You spend time getting to know yourself, improving yourself generally, keeping yourself healthy, and in helping others. Family is obviously important to you, and you certainly understand how important it is to train and help your children and stay in tune with your spouse. Organization so that you can get more out of life is a priority for you.

In this second accounting, even though there was relaxing and having fun, doing nothing or wasting time or being comfortable at the expense of getting better were not seen as priorities.

Priorities help us get the most from our lives. We can accomplish more. We can get further. We can even relax, socialize, and have more fun with priorities. I’ll say it again. Life can show us our priorities or we can show life our priorities.

This week, let’s think about our priorities. Are they a tool we use to get where we should be, or are they something we pay no attention to? Let’s make sure we are going somewhere and that we are using priorities to get there.

Budgeting Your Finances By Priorities

If you value living debt free, but have too much month at the end of your money, a budget is a great way to live, and prosper, on what you earn. Out of control finances is a powerful source of stress. But getting your finances under control brings peace of mind.

Let’s build a budget based upon priorities. What is most important to you? Fun or Future?

If you aren’t living at home with Mom (or don’t want to end up going back there), then your home is probably your first priority. And, the utilities are part of that priority, unless you want to use candles for light and a wood fire for cooking!

Next might be your expenses related to employment. Why is this a priority? If you don’t keep your job, then your budget will be easy: nothing divided by priorities still leaves nothing! What does it cost to go to work? Gas and tolls to get to work and return home are work expenses. Clothing and care of clothing are also work expenses. A secondary expense for employment includes car payment and maintenance.

Let’s see what we have so far:

1. Mortgage or rent
2. Utilities (electric, gas, water, etc.)
3. Gasoline and tolls
4. Vocational clothing and care expenses
5. Auto payment and maintenance

Next we need to protect these investments with insurance. Protecting the investment of your health (so you can work) means health insurance. Protect the investment in your home with home or renter’s insurance. And, protect your investment in your automobile with car insurance.

6. Insurances (health, home and auto)

Food. Budget for eating at home and at work.

7. Food

By now you may be starting to realize that failing to manage your money has put you into debt, and you can’t spend just whatever you want whenever you want and still have money for necessary expenses. It is an adult reality of life that we have to live within our means. (That means “if you ain’t got it, don’t spend it”.) Otherwise we end up in the sticky pit of debt, debt and more debt.

It is time to plan to invest in your future. This includes life insurance and savings. Putting money in a savings account is a way to pay yourself and prepare for future emergencies. If you value being self-sufficient, then you will prepare for your future. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

8. Life insurance

9. Savings

Now, here is the problem. Most people put their entertainment and personal interests ahead of essentials. We haven’t even discussed those in this budget, because we are budgeting by priorities.

Is there anything left over after going through this budget? If so, enjoy! If not, then if you want to play, you will have to find ways to cut back on the essentials. Financial management requires that we live in a home that we can afford. If your mortgage or rent is too high for your income, you probably need to take a heavy dose of reality and downsize.

Are you paying too much for utilities? Manage your use of electricity. Turn electrical devices off when you aren’t using them. Shop for a better electricity rate. Change the settings for air conditioning and heat. Get your utilities within your budget.

Your car payment is a possible variable. If your payment is too high, then consider trading cars. You can trade down and get a lesser payment. Do you need the vehicle you drive, or are you driving your car or truck for show and prestige? Get your values straight and drive a car you can afford that will get you where you need to go until you increase your income and can afford a luxury auto.

One other thing: children. If you have children and can’t feed them and pay school expenses because your house and car are for show, ask yourself if you really love your kids, or yourself, more. Get honest about what your real priorities are, and think about whether you need to change your priorities.

How Smart Shopping Leads To Better Health, Even On Budget

Smart shopping starts with a grocery list. By shopping with a grocery list, you not only realize cost benefits, but you save time, make healthier food choices and become more conscious about the things that are important in your life. We’ve all experienced going into the grocery store to pick up that one thing, then leaving the store with a trunk load of items, many of which we could have done without. Well this can easily be avoided by shopping with a list.

First, when you make your grocery list you should do so after having taken inventory of what is needed around your home. Other things to take into consideration are your budget, what you deem to be a priority and future planning. With all these things in mind you can set out to create your grocery list. Now that you have your list you can decide where to do your shopping. This should primarily be based on competitive pricing, which is why another good practice is to scan the local newspapers and sign up for newsletters and alerts with the local grocers or food manufacturers for coupons and sales.

Next, after you’ve made your list, gathered your coupons, and decided where to shop its time to do the actual shopping. When it comes to grocery shopping smart planning is key. However, it can at times be challenging because not only are you attempting to realize cost savings, but you also want to make healthy food choices and herein lies the challenge. This is where smart planning, difficult decision-making, budget and grocery lists all come into play simultaneously.

For instance, say you’re looking to purchase ketchup. You see that the store brand ketchup is on sale for an unbeatable price at your local grocer. However, you also know that it’s over-ridden with high fructose corn syrup and other nutrient dense ingredients that you prefer to do without. Meanwhile, the organic ketchup is also on sale at the health food store, but cost a dollar more. What do you do? You’re on a tight budget, but at the same time you’re determined to change your eating habits for the better and ketchup is on your grocery list. Well, it comes down to what’s more important, money or your health. In the end, you realize that you can’t buy good health and without it you cease to be so you purchase the organic ketchup and feel good about your decision. After all, you didn’t stray from your list and you still realized a cost savings, which was actually two-fold. You saved money on the retail price and a future trip to the doctor or on prescription drugs needed to treat a health problem which was the result of a poor diet.

Smart shopping is not just about grocery list and coupons, but it’s about making healthy choices and careful meal planning that in the end save you more than just money. Smart shopping is essentially about making you a priority.