I’ve always envied people who go with the flow. They seem so free and so uninhibited by well, everything.
I’m not one of those people. I’m a crazy, anxious, Type-A woman who obsesses over arbitrary deadlines and whether I left the stove on. I like to think my craziness is part of my charm, but it definitely makes it difficult to relax.
“Relaxed” is not a word that often comes out of my mouth. 😉
As I’ve progressed on my journey to FIRE, I’ve realized how important it is to stay calm. Calmness, tranquility, and happiness all play a role in our ability to save money and pay off debt. Whether it’s avoiding the temptation to unload your stocks after a market downturn, or selling all of your possessions to be a forest-hermit after getting an unexpected bill, it’s crucial to keep a level head to avoid mistakes.
I still have so very, very much to learn in this department. Just this morning I had a meltdown when I realized I forgot to defrost ground beef for dinner. Oops!
How staying calm saves money
Here are a few ways I’ve discovered remaining calm saves money—and how I’m trying to build more tranquility into my own routine.
No binge eating or shopping
If you’ve glanced at our What A Frugal Weekend posts, you’ll probably notice that I love to bake. Not only do I love to bake, but I also love to eat. When I’m stressed out, I feel the need to eat non-stop. Salty chips, chocolate bars, and homemade cake monstrosities are my worst sins.
I also feel the need to buy things. I’m not sure where this came from, but it’s a knee-jerk reflex. Any time I feel sad, I find myself perusing the search pages of Amazon for a new dress or piece of jewelry. Not good!
If I manage to stay calm, I have no desire to buy random crap on Amazon or extra unnecessary goodies.
Improve your health
Stress can cause or exacerbate many medical conditions. Hell, it’s a medical condition in and of itself. While I’m not saying that eliminating stress will cure you of every ailment in the world, stress elimination can improve your health.
A calm life is a life with (hopefully) fewer doctor’s appointments, medications, and painful conditions. All of these things cost money, in addition to making us feel miserable. Gross.
Better cognitive function
It’s no secret that my brain switches off when I’m stressed out. Simple tasks like spelling correctly and wearing my shirt right-side-out are difficult.
When I’m stressed I’m more apt to forget important things like appointments, meal prep, or cleaning. Forgetting all of these things costs me money, in addition to making me feel like I’ve gone insane.
How I (try) to stay calm
The big, fat keyword here is TRY. I’m not a perfect person by a long shot, and that means it’s a daily struggle to stay calm. Life gets so damn busy nowadays that it’s important to step outside of my self-imposed obligations and remember to breathe.
Here’s how I’m trying to avoid stress in my daily routine.
I will be the first to admit that I hate exercise, breathing heavily, or moving of any variety. I would meld my body into the couch if it were physically possible. I know everyone talks about how great they feel after exercise. Doctors repeatedly tout the benefits of exercise for mental and physical health—so yeah, I already knew I should be exercising.
The issue that I, and many other people, run into is that I don’t want to exercise. In the past I was great about it, but I fell off the wagon and discovered Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia instead.
Skipping my exercise made me feel like crap.
I used to wake up early to exercise, but for various reasons that became more difficult. Nowadays I build exercise into my evening routine. I’ll slip into my workout clothes a little after dinner and run on my elliptical for 30 minutes. After that, I follow free YouTube videos for strength-building exercises.
Exercise has been a great outlet. I’m able to work out any pent-up irritation from the day, stretch my sore legs (oh, cubicles), and tucker myself out before bed. The result is less stress, better sleep, and better-fitting jeans!
It sucks to exercise, but I’ve had to create the time to do it. It’s always been there; I just had to find the best time for myself.
I had a little sneak-peek into meditation when I tried yoga with a Groupon. I despised the actual practice of yoga (too painful for m’knees), but I loved the meditation that came with it.
I dumped the yoga and started meditating.
Since my mind is a blur of cat videos, past embarrassing moments, and snippets of annoying Top 40 songs, it’s hard to gain focus. Meditation was extremely challenging for me. I’d do well for maybe two seconds and then mull over what to wear to work tomorrow.
I now prefer to do guided meditation. Instead of leading myself through a meditation, I listen to another person, who usually guides me through a relaxing visualization exercise. I’m able to focus a lot more and get more out of it.
I know there are paid meditation programs out there, but I prefer to use YouTube. There are plenty of free guided meditation videos for you to access without spending money.
If you’re curious, here’s a compilation of my favorite guided meditations on YouTube. I listen to these during my lunch break, before work, or while dinner is simmering on the stove. All it takes is ten minutes. 🙂
I’ll also fully admit that I’m a selfish person. There are always times when I do the bare minimum, think only of myself, and avoid responsibility at all costs. I read a great guest post by The Happy Philosopher about how focusing too much on ourselves can make us feel unhappy.
This really resonated with me. I realized the problem was I was too focused on how to get what I wanted, how I looked, etc. It was exhausting. No wonder I was always stressed out.
I started doing a mental exercise every day to express gratitude. It sounds like a hippie-sounding kind of exercise, but it’s a great way to focus on all things positive and good in your life. And there are positive things, even if it feels like the world is ending. I set a reminder on my phone and list three things I’m grateful for today. Sometimes it’s as simple as “I have clothes to wear,” but that’s good enough.
Practicing gratitude helps me focus beyond just myself and emphasize the positive things in life.
The bottom line
Being calm is a great way to save money. It’s also a wonderful way to feel happier and fulfilled on the road to debt freedom. It’s really a win-win, y’know? It’s a challenge to build these calming exercised into my day, but when I put in the effort, I reap the rewards.
We want to know: What are your favorite calming routines?