I finally got around to setting up my vegetable garden last weekend and it got me thinking about a blog post I’ve been struggling to articulate.
See, almost every consultation call I’ve held has started with some version of the following question:
“How do I know if I’m doing the right thing with my money?”
This might not be what you want to hear but there is a lot of gray area. What’s right for one person may be totally wrong for someone else.
And where there’s gray area, there’s no such thing as perfection.
And yet we spend so much time trying to be perfect: choosing what we eat, how we pay for stuff, how we raise our children (and pets. AKA children.), how we wash the bathtub, how to slice a mango…
I did a lot of research on gardening. I did more research on gardening than actual gardening. And it didn’t make me any better of a gardener. I still didn’t feel like I was gardening in the “right” way.
But, see, gardening is a very enlightening experience. (At least that’s what my aunt tells me.) So let me explain how my attempt at gardening taught me to overcome perfectionism and just start! And now you can use that lesson to manage your money the “right” way for you.
Note: Every time I say “garden,” think “financial plan.”
Setting up and planning the garden is a lot of work.
Holy moley. Last year I built a garden bed. I bought 20-something bags of dirt. I. Purchased. Dirt. And it was heavy. And messy. I bought bricks to build a garden bed. I measured. I built. I grew seeds and I bought plants. I invested in tools. I leveled soil. I touched worms. The point?
Once everything was all set up, it was just about maintaining. It was hard work setting the foundation. But once it was set, it was all maintenance.
The same goes with your money. It might be a mess to go through, but one massive clean-up should hold you over for a while.
You have to monitor the garden.
Your garden and/or financial plan should always be maintained. Once you get into the habit of budgeting and tracking your spending and balancing out an overage with an underage, it’s kind of like a garden, just chillin’ (literally) through the winter.
I like to review my financial plan every 6 months and switch it up a bit if I need to. I don’t like stale. Stale is boring. Stale means I let the garden fall off my radar and there’s a violent uprising of weeds. (Hint: Weeds are uncontrolled spending.)
Sometimes weeds are pretty but they'll choke your other plants. And if you don’t stay on top of your weeding responsibilities, they’ll overrun your garden. And by weeding, I mean balancing. And by garden – I mean budget. So easy on the shoe shopping!
Procrastination happens but it's just an irrational fear.
I’ve been putting off my garden for quite a few weeks. Every time I considered setting it up, I remembered what hard work it was last year or that my crops might die and decided against it. But now that it’s June (and the garden bed was filled with non-photogenic weeds that would look awful on Instagram), I spent the past weekend cleaning it up. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t that hard. It only took me 2 hours to pull up all the weeds, lay down a fresh layer of soil and plant 12 veggies.
Strategic trial and error is okay.
When I was choosing my veggies, I considered what worked out for me last year and what didn’t. Last year, I didn’t realize how much space zucchini and squash needed, but I quickly learned I made a mistake after they strangled my hedges and engulfed my driveway. However, my eggplants, cucumbers, and tomatoes did really well so I definitely wanted to stick with those. I also added peppers, a white eggplant (WTF) and strawberries. The strawberries will likely fail since it’s June already but, like I said, switch it up. Keep it fresh. No stale garden menu.
With your budget, even if your financial plan is working out wonderfully, switch it up a bit. Can you lower your grocery budget? Can you add to your vacation fund? Did you complete a financial goal and have some money without an assigned role in your budget? Do you hate your spending tracker app and want to switch to a new one?
If the changes don’t work out, at least you tried! And if what you’ve been doing isn’t working out, good thing you’re not doing that anymore! The key here is that every experience becomes knowledge. And this is the knowledge you need to successfully manage your finances.
Expect the unexpected.
Blights happen. Crazy weather happens. Dogs hop over your 1-foot fence and pee on the broccoli. Rolling with the punches is good. Having a back-up plan is better. (Think emergency savings, not supermarket produce.)
I really don’t know much about gardening. I don’t have much experience with it either. I like outdoorsy activities and making stuff with my hands. And store-bought tomatoes can't come close to home-grown! So I thought I’d give it a shot.
Fiscally, I tried my hand at gardening to save money on produce, but the benefit has yet to outweigh the cost. But it seemed like the responsible thing to try out before buying 16 acres of farmland. (Turns out I’m not buying any farmland.)
None of us “need” to garden. A few hundred years ago we would have. And our lives would have depended on it. Now, in a world of modern finance and supermarkets, our lives depend on managing our money.
And we just have to manage our money well enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to keep you safe and sound, happy and healthy, healthy and wealthy!
So the next time you catch yourself procrastinating on getting your finances in order, remember that a 5’2 lady who grew up in an apartment in Queens, NY, has only held white-collar jobs since the age of 16, and has no manual labor experience grew a boatload of eggplants last year. And they were delicious!
You can manage your money, pay off your debt, save for big purchases and live your ideal life in your “right” way. It’s just as simple as gardening!