We’ve noticed a trend in some of our communities—some people are feeling guilty about spending money now. Maybe that’s you? You’ve got money set aside for a new couch, but now with the world turned upside down, you’re not so sure you want to make that purchase after all.
This reminds me of my first long distance hike. I hiked 25 miles on the Appalachian Trail just south of Monson, Maine—it’s pretty remote. I parked in Monson and was shuttled to the starting point. I distinctly remember the car driving away and all of a sudden, I felt terrified.
“My car is 25 miles north. And now I have to walk through these remote woods and mountains to get to it.”
But I had prepared. I had the right gear—a great tent and backpack. I’d researched that section of the trail, and I had plenty of food. Why was I suddenly so afraid?
Because there was something inside me telling me that I wasn’t quite as prepared as I should be. But I squashed that little voice, found my courage, forded the first stream, hiked on, and had a great hike. But that feeling—that fear—I always remembered it. I chalked it up to my first big hike.
My Fear Was Valid
It wasn’t until years later that I really understood how well-placed that fear was. A few years later, I took a map and compass course through REI. It was six hours long and it was a hands on, in-the-woods class. At the end of it, I couldn’t believe how long I had been hiking without this knowledge. Oh. My. Word. I am now a firm believer that everyone doing this kind of remote hiking should be well trained in how to use a map and compass.
Thinking back to my nerves on that first solo hike, THAT’S where the fear came from. What would I have done if I got lost on the trail? I don’t know, and that’s terrifying when you think about it. For scale—this is where I was hiking. There’s nothing but trees out there. What was I thinking? (Trust me. I’m going somewhere with all this.)
You see, hiking is deceptive. It breeds false confidence. You follow this little path through the woods, climb over mountains, find the water, find the campsite, do all the things. And you think, “Look at me! I filtered my own water! I slept in my tent by a pretty stream! I made a fire!”
But you do all those things within the safety of the trail corridor. Step off that corridor and get turned around, and suddenly—hiking skills aren’t enough.
I was right to be afraid—my surroundings had completely changed and I didn’t completely understand them or how to navigate them. But I let the lure of the trail supersede my common sense.
Ok, So You’re Afraid to Spend Money Now
Back to that budget of yours. You had $2000 set aside for that new couch—and yeah, you saved it just like you were supposed to. And you did it while paying all your other bills and obligations. Good for you—you deserve it!
But now, you’re not so sure. The world got turned upside down. Maybe you’re lucky and your job is okay. But will it continue to be there? You’re just not sure. Or maybe you are sure, but since you didn’t see the pandemic coming, what else might be coming that you can’t see right now?
First, we can’t see everything coming. So give up that fight for certainty right now.
Right now, it’s like you’re standing in the woods—where you’ve stood before confidently—and now you’re wondering if you have the right skills after all. It seems like you’re still on the trail, but maybe you’re not. And what will you need to navigate this new world?
The Economic Surroundings Have Changed
Folks, the economic surroundings have changed. The good economy we were riding was breeding confidence…and that’s uncertain now, so it’s shaken us all a bit.
I think it’s important to point out that this uncertainty can be a useful feeling. Just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not a useful feeling.
So how will we navigate this? With our handy map and compass of course.
Navigate Your Surroundings With Your Map and Compass
Think of it like this: it’s a wild forest of uncertainty, and the budget is your map and prioritizing is your compass. Take a minute now to look at your budget and think about your priorities.
Take your new couch for example. You have the new couch money, but you’re uneasy about spending it. Step back and ask yourself:
- How am I feeling about my job situation?
- Not good? Maybe a change of direction is needed. In that case, hang onto that couch money.
- Feeling secure? Great, next question…
- Have I covered my non monthly expenses?
- No? Work on that, you’ll sleep better.
- Yes? Cool, let’s keep going.
- How’s my emergency fund looking?
Do you see the drill now? You see what we’re doing? Two more questions to ask:
- Am I budgeted out a month or two?
- No? Get there!
- Yes? Keep going.
- Am I content with how every category is funded?
- No? Change it so it lines up with your priorities!
- Yes? Alright then, you know the path forward.
Just look down the budget and think things through. Look at your map. Use your compass. You’ve got this.
What you’re doing is reprioritizing. You’re asking “Should I change course?” It’s a solid question. You are smart to be feeling this way. You’re smart to be asking.
You hear me? You’re smart.
Find Your Confidence Again
The good news is, the answers are up to you. Buy the furniture, or don’t buy the furniture. It’s your call.
My only advice is don’t worry too much, because you can’t predict the future completely. Do your best to prepare and live your life. Even if you feel lost, you’ll find your way back.