When I took MagnifyMoney’s Time Personality Quiz, my results got a little sassy with me. “Even your mom probably tells you to live a little,” they said snidely. (Okay, they didn’t say anything snidely but I couldn’t help but imply the tone.)
But the thing is, those results are accurate. I’m extremely future-focused when it comes to both time and money. That means I delay gratification today so I can save more for tomorrow – to the point where I’ve admittedly missed out on worthwhile opportunities because I wanted to invest my money instead of spend it.
“A balance of focus on the future with a dash of living life to the fullest in the present will help keep your mind and bank account well balanced,” advised my results from the Time Personality Quiz. I think they’re right – and that I could be doing a little better with that whole balance thing.
Are You Future Focused?
You might be too future-focused yourself if you’ve ever been afraid or stressed about spending money, even when you had the cash in the bank. Your focus on future goals may leave you neglecting your present wellbeing if you haven’t taken a trip for fun in years, or bought something new for yourself, or invested in different experiences.
You may also be too future-focused if you can relate to one of my worst habits, and one I’m trying hard to break this year. I hate to say it, but more than a handful of times I’ve caught myself wishing away the present because I wanted to hurry up and achieve a future goal.
Because financial independence is a big goal, I tend to periodically catch myself thinking, in just 10 more years I’ll get to do X, Y, and Z [that I’m putting off now] because I’ll be financially independent!
It’s easy to get caught up in all your big future plans and miss out on enjoying the present as it happens when you’re too future-focused.
It’s Not All Bad News!
This is not to say being mindful of the future is a bad thing. It’s important to think about your future stability and security, and to have a plan for how you’ll achieve your big, long-term goals.
But the goal should be, as my Time Personality Quiz results reminded me, finding a balance between enjoying and appreciating the present while saving and investing for the future.
My resolution for 2015 was to allow myself to live more in the present in order to find more balance. Here are the action steps I’m taking to help me achieve this and develop a better mindset about time and my financial goals.
The quickest way for me to stop stressing about financial goals and what I can do right this minute to achieve them: practice gratitude. Nothing grounds me in the present faster than taking a moment to ask myself, what good things happened last week? What can you appreciate about your finances and your situation today?
This helps me change my thought process and patterns. Before, I thought about financial independence and what I can do to get there even faster.
I’d start thinking of ways I could save more money, earn more money – and then I’d cut back on something small that I could have enjoyed in the present (like attending an event) or I’d spend the next week working as many hours as I could to earn more money.
Now, I think about financial independence and I appreciate that it will realistically take me at least 10 more years to achieve it. Then I go grab a notebook and write down all the good things that happened last week, all the things I’m happy about today, and everything that I’m looking forward to doing in the next week.
This helps me stay grounded and focused on what’s happening now. I’ve done what I can to get myself set up for my big financial goal, and the only factor missing now is consistent action over time. Instead of wishing away that time, I’m practicing gratitude and not taking any day for granted.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Budget
My budget is a helpful tool when it comes to reining in my future-focused mindset. It allows me to track my spending, both on necessary expenses and discretionary purchases.
At the end of the month, I can see exactly where my money went. I know how much I saved, how much I had to pay for bills, and how much I spent on wants.
This enables me to do two important things:
- Understand exactly how much money is usually available for spending on fun stuff, so I can allocate some money for present spending without feeling guilty or stressed
- Celebrate the amount I put into savings and investments
Balancing the present with the future doesn’t mean I can’t get excited about the progress I make on a regular basis, and a budget helps highlight that for me. I can allow myself to feel happy about those future goals I’m working toward – but I can also see that I do have a set amount of cash I can put toward enjoying life today, too.
Prioritize Wants and Needs
Thanks to practicing gratitude and appreciating what I do have, I find that I want less stuff on a day to day basis. This makes it really easy to forego a lot of little things – and allows me to prioritize wants and needs according to what I truly value.
I prioritize travel, books, and new experiences. When I want to enjoy one of these things, I do not allow myself to feel guilty about it. This ties into keeping a budget: because I track my finances carefully, I know I have a set amount to spend on things simply because I want to.
This makes it easier to allow myself to make purchases that, before, I would have agonized over. I save for wants that I value and prioritize above all others, and then spend on those things in the present – without feeling guilty about it.
I also do this intentionally. I still avoid impulsive purchases so I’m not stuck with things I don’t need (or even want!) and a whole lot of buyer’s remorse.
Have a Plan
It’s hard to stop worrying and focusing on the future when you have no clue what the heck it looks like. Sure, no one has a crystal ball and there’s no telling what any one of our tomorrows could bring.
But you can create a plan that you want to follow and enjoy. This helps give some structure to your time – and once you set up your plan and automate your action steps, that means you can worry less about the future and enjoy today more.
My plan is, as I mentioned, to reach financial independence. Once I achieve this milestone, I want to live abroad and travel frequently.
After crunching the numbers, I know I need to invest at least $2,000 per month for the next 10 years to reach financial independence. As long as I’m doing this, I’ll achieve my goal. I can then automate my investment contributions – and use the rest of my time to focus on making my present just as great as I’m working to make my future.
I’m finding more balance with living in the present moment while still taking care of my financial future by practicing gratitude, keeping a budget, prioritizing my wants and needs, and creating a plan I can automate. You can take these steps to focus on that balance between your present wants and your future needs, too.
Discover how your time-perspective impacts your relationship with money!