On the Subject of Sleep and Money

One simple question to help prioritize your budget.

Written by Dave Crombleholme  |  on


Part 1: Sleep

When I was younger, and in what I shall only refer to as a wide-eyed and adventurous stage of my life—I worked hard on sleeping less. I prided myself on it. Surely if I sleep less, I can do more with today’s 24 hours, right? And way back then that was mostly true to a point.

Six hours a night? No problem. Just give me one day a week where I can have eight.

As I get older, I’ve fought a losing battle with six hours. I’ve realized that I was less productive in the 18 hours I was forcing myself to stay awake. I mean, let’s face it—sitting exhausted on the couch waiting to go to bed isn’t really being that productive.

(At this point I would love to be able to say that this age-related requirement for more unconsciousness has been compensated for by an increase in age-related wisdom. Alas, it has not been a fair trade-off in that sense.)  

I’ve stopped fighting how many hours I need—it is what it is. Instead, I’ve started working on something that I can influence: the quality of those sleeping hours. Is it better to change to a harder mattress, or memory foam, or is it the pillow? Am I too hot? Too cold?  

I’m asking  myself constantly, “What’s going to help me sleep better tonight?”*

Part 2: Money

In our YNAB workshops, we’re often asked where it’s best to budget money.

“This month I have a little extra money that needs a job.  Should I pay down debt with it? Should I boost my emergency fund category this month? What about car repairs? Should I use it to budget future month’s expenses?”

Maybe you’ve already faced one or more decisions like this. And just like there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question “How much sleep do I need?“, there is no single right answer to the question of where to budget. 

Simply ask yourself: 

“What’s going to help me sleep better tonight?

  • Will you sleep better tonight with the cool pillow of knowing you’ve paid off your first debt?
  • Will you sleep better tonight with a comfy blanket provided by an emergency fund?
  • Will you sleep better tonight with your fleecy-lined pajamas, wrapped up in the knowledge that no matter what, next month’s bills are funded?

We’ve all got different pay cycles, job security, and we all find comfort in different things. So ask yourself that question, and let your gut reaction guide you. Don’t overthink it or rationalize it, or agonize over it. Budget the money and let it sit there overnight. See how you feel.

Tomorrow is a new day and, we can always change our mind.

Especially after a good night’s sleep.

* This is why the YNAB Christmas gift of ‘the best pillow I’ve ever had’ has been put to such good use!

Your Next Step

Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?