How Would You Ideally Do Money?

Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash.

Yesterday, we had a request to discuss “how you would ideally do money.” So… let’s do it!

I think this is a great question and I also think it is very hard to answer. I’ve always believed that people are doing the best they can with the resources they have — and if you draw that theory out a bit, it lends itself to the idea that we’re already doing the best we can with our money.

I know that isn’t necessarily true, in the sense that nobody would have said that my year of racking up credit card debt in Los Angeles was “the best thing I could have done with my money,” but that was also a major transition year for me, and I wouldn’t have been able to successfully start a new career or do any of the other things I did that year (including making the decision to leave Los Angeles because it was too expensive… wait, I see a trend here) if I had gone down the more financially prudent path of “taking any job I could get” and “not spending beyond my means.”

I did the financially prudent thing in Minneapolis, the year after I graduated from college. I thought I had an internship, the internship got canceled, and I began working as a telemarketer while tracking every penny so I wouldn’t spend more than I earned. I did exactly what I was supposed to do: got the first job I could get, and eventually traded up to a receptionist position at an insurance office so I could earn two more dollars every hour.

But that was kind of a wasted year, in terms of larger life goals. I spent less than I earned, but I didn’t go anywhere or build anything. No friendships, no professional connections, no growth; nothing except going to work, coming straight home, tracking every penny, and deciding to go to grad school.

So that’s what I mean when I say this question is hard to answer. A lot of us might say that we wish we could save more, for example, but unless we’re imagining an ideal future in which we also earn more (which is totally legit, if that’s how you want to address the question) we have to figure out what we’re going to cut back on in order to save.

Or we could focus more on the micro-level. I know I’m not maximizing my credit card rewards, for example. I don’t keep track of my Discover card’s 5 percent cashback rotating categories, and I haven’t gotten the Chase Sapphire Reserve even though I know I’d be eligible and could earn more travel points than I’m currently earning. I tell myself that credit card rewards hacking isn’t a priority for me right now, even though I track pretty much everything else in my life and could very easily add another sheet to my master spreadsheet.

I also often tell myself that I want to be more generous with my money. I give money to arts orgs, crowdfunding projects, and charities, but I feel like I could be giving more… and then when I ask myself what I’m willing to cut back on to make this happen, I don’t have a good answer.

And I don’t think I have a good answer for this question, either. So I’m turning it over to you, because I’m very interested in reading yours.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.