I’ve been thinking a bit about money in the lead-up to the shared parental leave that Gregg and I will be taking next year when our baby arrives. Since we’ve got a mortgage to pay and I’ll have good, but not outstanding, maternity pay, I’ve been trying to work out how much money we’ll have to live off and how much we’ll have post-bills for general spending.
And it’s raised some questions and thoughts for me about money and living with less that I wanted to share with you.
This look at finances has made me realise how much financial freedom I enjoy. I’m so deeply grateful that, until now, I’ve pretty much been able to buy everything that I desire. Don’t get my wrong, I don’t buy designer clothes or eat out all the time – I buy most my clothes in charity shops and eat at home. But I’ve been able to travel far and wide, I can afford to buy myself the essentials I need and there have been few invitations I’ve had to turn down due to finances. Sure, I’ve worked hard professionally and committed myself to studying and working at the same time which has allowed me to progress. I’ve earned the money.
But I also started out in a fortunate position of having parents who encouraged me academically and who supported me financially and so in this moment of reflection, I am deeply grateful for all that I have.
In looking at our money for next year, I’ve come to the realisation of just how financially independent my husband and I have been from each other. We each put money into an account to pay our bills and have a savings fund we both contribute heavily to but after that I have around £600 of my own each month to do what I we want with. When our new little person arrives, I’m starting to see how entwined our lives will become financially. This realisation brings fear, with the knowledge that I will no longer be an ‘I’ choosing to be a ‘we’ but part of a family unit that relies on each other.
We’ll be a ‘we’.
A team. For better or worse, richer or poorer.
Suddenly the fear I had in buying a house together and the trepidation I had in getting married seems like a minor detail. This is big stuff.
Anxiety in different clothes
Someone I’m coaching at the moment was talking about his career and said “of course, this concern I have is just anxiety dressed in different clothes”. I found something so deeply beautiful and truthful about his assessment of his situation. It’s true for me.
I know that consideration about money is needed so we don’t overstretch and have to live off beans on toast for 6 months…but the preoccupation I’m feeling about finances is, to a certain extent, anxiety about the future. The great unknown of welcoming this new being into the world wrapped up and disguised as anxiety about finances.
And I need to be in the moment, to focus on this little person kicking up a storm inside me as I write this post, and trust that everything will be alright. All that is truly important, after all, is this present moment. All that is truly true, after all, is this present moment.
I know that, despite not living a lavish life, I will need to curb my spending when the baby arrives. And I think to do this and not feel like I’m living a miserly existence, I need to cultivate a greater appreciation of what I do buy. When I go to a coffee shop to work on my blog or, in the future, to meet other mums and dads, I want to truly savour my cup of coffee, not just gulp it down. When I buy a face wash, I want to take pleasure in how it smells and feels on my skin. When I get myself a slice of cake, I want to pay attention to the texture, the taste, the experience.
I know that this true presence of an experience is being mindfulness and that, when I practice mindfulness, it’s like I see things that little bit clearer and I appreciate things that little bit more.
It’s been so helpful to reflect on my musings about finances. Taking a step back, I can see that I’m part-wrapped in anxiety, part curious about how I can live a mindful life to enjoy what I do consume so much more. I know I need to let go of my anxieties and embrace the experience of this moment. And so that’s what I’m going to do.