What makes you happy?

Smiley face image
KJ: What makes you tick, what makes you happy, what gives you joy? Quite a loaded question I know! Well, let’s take a step back a little from the purely philosophical and look at it from the perspective of personal finance. Finding the things that make you happy can spell financial success for you and your family.

AJ: So often personal finances and any discussion of money can feel overwhelming, but there’s so much happiness in life that money is really just a means to an end and keeping that perspective changes the conversation completely.

So, which of the following make you happy?

What about paying your bills on time. Does that give you warm fuzzies?
Um, absolutely. Being ABLE to pay our bills on time is something I’m endlessly thankful for. Being able to leverage credit card perks to our benefit relies entirely on our ability to pay the bills on time each month in full, so this is a huge source of comfort.

Being in control of your finances.
Sure, this one is a bit of an accomplishment, and I don’t think there’s anyone who feels they are in TOTAL control of their finances. Why else would it be called an emergency fund? You never know when that emergency will come up be it medical, home, job interruption, etc. Find the specific method that helps you stay up on your expenses: good old pen and paper (AJ’s preference is the Moleskine Classic Notebook since you can store receipts in the back, plus it’s a good carrying size), Mint.com, Quicken, Yodlee!, or whatever other app suits your fancy.

Being in control also means that you’re having conversations, you have plans in place and you’re in agreement on how money is earned and spent. Control in our house looks like KJ managing investments and AJ managing variable expenses.

Having no debt.
If it gives you personal satisfaction to pay off debt, then start paying off your smallest debt first. You’ll see the quick progress you’ve been able to make, and then it can give you just that motivation you need to keep paying the same amount until the next card (or debt) is paid off. And so on and so forth. Keep the course, and don’t get frustrated along the way. It’s a process, and it’s something that your future self (and family) will surely thank you for!

Building up your savings? Retirement, emergency, or just because.
Doesn’t it feel great to watch those account balances increase month-over-month? Sure…there are market forces that can cause a temporary pause (or pullback), but watching it quarter over quarter and year over year can be a great way to see the kind of progress that you are making. And, for me, it really motivates me to try and do MORE.

Getting to work early.
Maybe getting to work on time (or early) will help you invest in yourself and earn that next promotion. At the very least it shows your employer that you’re invested in what you’re doing and in your role within the company. Creating a point of differentiation between yourself and your peers is instrumental in helping your boss see your potential.

Getting a pat on the back for a job well done.
Find out what it is that got you that pat on the back. Was it being timely (or early), securing a large client, passing a certification, your communiation skills among your team members (or cross-team)? Whatever it was, repeat to assure you’re doing what you need to at work!

Watching your kid graduate (kindergarten, high school, college).
Sometimes this is a financial commitment, and other times it’s just a matter of the time you spend with your kids to help them learn and teach them.

Giving back in a meaningful way.
For us, the earning money piece is a small piece in what brings us financial happiness. Being able to share what we’ve been blessed enough to earn is very closely tied to our overall happiness and giving back in ways that improve our community ultimately benefits us all.

So, what makes you happy?
If you can reflect on what has brought you enjoyment over the years, then plan your next month around how to make that a priority to replicate that. Help yourself and your family align around the things you all agree are important and fulfilling as a source for discussing finances which is much more fun than talking about cutting costs to stay within budget!

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