Is It Time to Invest in Yourself for a Change?
Retirement. College. An emergency fund. Home repairs. Check, check, check, and check. If you've been saving faithfully each month for some or all of these things, you might feel as though you're on a never-ending financial treadmill. There's no question it takes discipline, perseverance, and sacrifice to maintain a robust savings effort year, after year all while meeting your current financial obligations.
But with such focus, it's possible to get into a rut--a rut of always saving for the future with nothing left for today. If so, it might be time to take a step back and focus on the present. If you can't remember the last time you felt rejuvenated, energized, or inspired in your day-to-day life, consider investing in a new asset: yourself. In fact, focusing on yourself from time to time might just give you the extra motivation you need to stick with your long-term savings plan. Think of it as seeing the trees instead of the forest for a change.
Imagine you find yourself with a small windfall, maybe $500 to $2,500 from a tax refund, work bonus, reimbursement from a health or dependent care flexible spending account, or a cut in discretionary expenses. Here are some ideas on how to spend it--on yourself.
Focus on your health and well-being
Are you feeling a bit sluggish or stressed out? Having trouble sleeping? Watching the pounds creep on little by little each year? Make an effort to focus on your health and well-being. Staying active is critical to maintaining good physical and mental health. Regular exercise can help control your weight, prevent disease, improve your mood, give you more energy, help you sleep better, and generally make it easier for you to tackle all the things--financial and otherwise--on your plate each day.
To get on the health track, you could join a gym; work with a personal trainer or nutritionist; sign up for a yoga, weight, or spinning class; or buy some home exercise equipment and workout gear and start training for trips around the block or a 5K. Sore muscles? Chronic backache? Neck pain from working at a computer all day? Maybe it's time to see a physical therapist and invest in a new ergonomic office chair.
What about your diet? Do you frequently eat on the run? Rely too much on processed foods? Maybe it's time to invest in some new kitchen equipment, cookbooks, or even a cooking class so you can try new recipes and discover dishes you enjoy.
Along with better physical health, could you benefit from some inner peace and quiet? Consider creating a meditation spot inside or outside your home where you could go to relax, read, or reflect on your day--a bench under a favorite tree, a new chair next to the fireplace, or a small desk tucked away in a corner.
Expand your horizons--literally and figuratively
Do you feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, living the same day over and over? Doing something outside your normal routine can shake out the cobwebs and give you fresh inspiration. Take a weekend trip to a new destination, enroll in an adult continuing-education class, or get involved in a new project or hobby and see how much fun a new creative outlet can be.
Think about sweat equity, too. You might tackle a home improvement project or help out on a local volunteer effort.
Still wearing clothes from your 20s? Have an old laptop or phone with outdated technology? Still wearing a 10-year-old pair of glasses? Maybe it's time to update to something newer.
When you have many financial obligations and family commitments, it's easy to put yourself last. But occasionally, it's important to do something for yourself. In addition to the immediate benefits, investing in your health and interests might pay off in the future in the form of lower health-care costs, a wider social network of friends, and a potential way to earn some extra money in retirement.