This is a guest post from blogger Amy Davis from Slay Your Budget. She is a former therapist, stay-at-home mom of 4 and die-hard University of Pittsburgh Panthers fan. She made financial freedom a priority after their third daughter who required a 53 day NICU stay, 14 surgeries to date, and of course, large medical bills. Hope you enjoy her personal story and her values about her worth in terms of time.
In my former work life, I was a therapist treating children and teens with various mental health challenges. After an evaluation with the psychologist deemed these kids in need of treatment, they were paired with a therapist like myself, to formulate a treatment plan and commence therapy.
In order to write up a treatment plan, I had to collaborate with the parent(s) to understand the areas of concern and decide how we were going to treat those issues together. Inevitably, when asking a parent what issues they were in treatment to address, they would say something like, “my child doesn’t listen to me.” Or, “he/she talks back to me all the time.” Or, “he/she throws temper tantrums when he/she is angry.” You get the picture.
Stick with me, I swear this will tie into personal finance!
Now, I can’t come in and just say okay we’re going to fix all of that and have everyone take my word on it (even though I’m very trustworthy 🙂 ).
A health care company is paying money for this service. They want to see some evidence that what you’re doing with that child for 3-4 hours per week is actually having some effect on their behaviors.
My supervisor wants to be able to see exactly what I’m doing and if it’s the right direction to head. So how do I show that the child is starting to listen or not talking back as much or not throwing temper tantrums as often?
I have to measure it!
In order to measure it, I first have to define the behavior with a measurable definition.
In psychology, we call this an operational definition.
It’s fancy terminology that means someone else could pick up that treatment plan and understand exactly what behaviors we’re measuring. This is important because things like temper tantrums mean something different to different people.
For example, for my kid, it’s throwing herself on the floor and crying. For other parents, it means their kid screams and hits. Capisce?
So, instead of the treatment plan saying, “the child will listen,” it would say, “the child will respond with the requested action on the first prompt (defining “listening”) 4 out of 10 occurrences (defining how we measure it).”
Then mom can track how many times the child responds on the first prompt.
If the child hits the goal of 4 out of 10, then we can say there’s improvement and increase the goal closer to 10 out of 10 occurrences. All of this is a long way of saying we can’t measure something if the very definition isn’t measurable.
So, when it comes to personal finance, and specifically, our wants, we have to measurably define them.
It’s easy to say, I want that. I want that a lot. I want that so much. I really, really, really, really, want that.
But what does any of that mean?
I can’t measure a lot, or so much, or really, really, really, really. Those are vague descriptors with thresholds that vary from person to person.
Instead, when I see something that I think I want, I ask myself, “is it worth my time?”
And here’s what I mean by that.
My job working with those kids and their families was not a glamorous one. Sometimes, most times, it wasn’t even a comfortable job.
It was nothing like an outpatient, office setting with the comfy chaise lounge for clients as portrayed on television.
This was in the trenches, working one-on-one in their home or school environment. These clients succeeded best working through their difficulties in the moment, in the environment where they’re most comfortable…but it wasn’t where I was most comfortable.
The vast majority of my clients also lived in poverty and some of them in downright squalor within impoverished neighborhoods.
I sometimes had teenage clients that were much larger than me and quite frankly, I was afraid of them. They had a tendency towards violence and here I was pushing them to think and act in ways which they were resistant to.
It was emotionally rewarding work when there were breakthroughs, but also very draining and very often, not work I particularly enjoyed.
I also wasn’t very well compensated, as most social services individuals are not. So, given all of that, when I ask if something is worth my time, I have to really stop and think:
is that $100 pair of heels worth five hours of in-the-trenches, avoiding-the-filth, fearing-for-my-safety, work?
It is much easier to put something back on the shelf when it’s framed that way.
Even if you love your job, you’re still trading your time away from other things you love in order to purchase said “wants.”
Is a new $4.000 HD TV really worth trading say, 100 hours of your time away from your spouse, your children, your fur babies, your favorite vacation spot, or whatever else you may truly love?
And if you don’t have the cash to pay for that item and put it on credit?
Well, it could be even more than 100 hours then.
Hmm, food for thought.
But I’m a stay-at-home mom now, so I’m not trading my time anymore, right? I can practically hear all of my regular readers who know my backstory mumbling this under their breath.
Well, that’s true, I’m not trading my time anymore. Now I’m trading my husband’s time when I spend money—and that makes me even more reluctant to spend.
I know his feelings about his job and I know where he’d like to spend his time—and where I’d like him to spend his time.
So, whenever I want for something frivolous, I now think to myself, am I willing to trade X number of hours of my husband’s time away from our family just so I can have this item?
I kinda like the guy, you know?!
So, more often than not, that answer is no.
You’re retired and don’t trade your time, you say? Well, is that item worth trading away future earnings on reinvested dividends rather than cashing them out?
Is it worth the interest you’ll lose by taking an IRA withdrawal?
Whatever your situation, find a way to measure what a purchase is costing, outside of the dollar amount, and then evaluate its worth to you. A designer handbag may be worth what the retailer is asking because of quality and brand recognition. But is the price tag worth what you will be giving up?
How about you? Do you have a way to measure your wants and determine worth before making a purchase? I would love to hear if it makes a difference in your finances!