I spent a significant part of the last year in a battle with myself over whether to stay at a comfortable office job in which the benefits were virtually impossible to beat, or leave for the pursuit of something more fulfilling.
What began as a feeling of unease steadily grew into a gnawing worry that staying put would mean feeling stuck forever. When I woke up one day wishing I was sick so I wouldn’t have to sit for another eight hours in my cubicle, I knew that change was no longer a choice – it was a necessity.
Never being one to take a decision with such massive financial implications lightly, I created a plan for myself, working to reach specific savings goals before the date I intended to give my notice. But while I still had an additional cushion to create before leaving became something I could stomach, the funds that I had diligently saved in the years prior afforded me something I hadn’t labeled before that moment: the freedom to choose.
Saving money might be framed as something everyone should do as a responsible member of society, but that reasoning would never inspire me to change my behavior today. I would guess I’m not alone in that.
However, thinking of my savings as a freedom fund – a freedom I am now exercising in my first week as a full-time, self-employed freelance writer – is something I can latch on to and continue to work to build.
If you’re struggling to find the purpose in quieting your desire for instant gratification and saving for the future, think about these things:
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Saving lessens the debilitating effects of money stress.
It’s an understatement to say that I stress about money. The amount of anxiety I tend to get over spending money is something most of my friends and family members are well aware of. So saving money is a way to ease my fear that something will happen that I wouldn’t be able to shoulder financially.
You don’t always know what you need to save for, but something will inevitably arise – that’s how life works. Having funds set aside for all of life’s unforeseen stumbling blocks cuts money stress off before it can wreak havoc on your mind and body.
Saving opens up your options.
Think about this: the vast majority of financial decision you make either opens or closes doors to you in the future.
If I had accumulated a large amount of consumer debt from my lean college years, leaving my previous position probably wouldn’t have been an option.
If I would have spent every dollar I made in the three years prior to reaching my breaking point, I wouldn’t have had the ability to pay my bills in the interim while I find new clients and freelance opportunities.
Saving might have limited the amount of things I purchased over the years, but it offered me the option to choose my path going forward.
Saving makes you feel more in control.
I certainly can’t afford everything, but having money set aside allows me to lessen the number of times I say, “ I can’t afford that,” when presented with opportunities I want to take.
It’s all about having the option to be intentionally mindful with spending. Instead of not even having the ability to pay for something, I now can say, “I’m choosing to not spend my money that way.”
That simple shift in thinking between, “I can’t afford that,” and “I choose to not spend my money that way,” feels extremely powerful.
Saving allows your tomorrow to look even better than today.
No one ever wants to believe that this life is as good as it gets. It’s not about being discontent with where things currently stand, it’s knowing that the possibilities are endless and you are in control of putting a plan in place to reach them.
Saving is a powerful exercise in confidence and belief – you have the confidence to believe that you can create the life you really desire and the belief in your ability to diligently save to get there.
My path from this point forward is foggy at best, but I know the savings I built before reaching this point will help pave the path along the way. Without that, I could still be sitting in the 3.5 walls of my cubicle, wishing for another sick day to get me through.
The reality is, I saved my way towards the freedom to choose.
What are you saving for?