Pay yourself first. It’s advice advocated by David Bach and a long line of financial gurus. Financially, this refers to setting aside a small portion of your income to fund your financial priorities like savings, investing, and paying off debt.
But paying yourself first applies to the rest of life as well. In so many ways, we take care of everyone and everything else before attending to our own needs. This sounds noble at first but it quickly leaves us tired and stressed. Before we know it, we are mere shells of our former selves.
You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.
Consider, for instance, that the first thing many of us do when we wake up in the morning is answer emails, plan our work schedules, or get the kids ready for school. Our day starts off frantically taking care of the needs of others and usually fails to get any less hectic. What if we could pay ourselves first by reclaiming the morning for ourselves?
- How often do you find yourself providing emotional support for your best friend, your aging parents, or a relative going through time times?
- While you’re playing Iyanla Vanzant, who or what is refilling your emotional tank?
- Who’s addressing your emotional needs?
Did you know Americans are among the world’s most over-worked people? Yet, the average US worker last year used only about one half of their vacation days. We work our fingers to the bone for our employers but refuse to pay ourselves first with our proper vacation time.
I urge you to start putting yourself first. Yes, it may sound selfish. But when you pay yourself first, you’ll ultimately find yourself in a better position to help those around you.
First in Your Finances
The first check you write every month should be to yourself. Too often we fall into the trap of paying everyone else, then using the left-over scraps to fund our financial priorities. You are the most important person in your financial life. Before you do anything else with your paycheck – pay the rent, buy the groceries, or send in the utility payment – set aside an amount to fund your financial goals. Whether you put money into a retirement account, emergency fund, or your 401K plan, you must pay yourself first.
First in Your Time
Let’s face it. We place great importance on money, but time is actually our most valuable asset. Lost time can never be replaced, but our entire day is filled with giving everyone else our time and attention. Treat your time as the valuable commodity it is. Start paying yourself first by spending quality time on your goals.
Claim the first one or two hours after you wake up as your own, even if it means going to bed earlier. Imagine what you could accomplish in the first tranquil hours of the morning before the craziness of life comes crashing in? Finish the book you’ve always dreamed of writing. Start that side-hustle or work on the new business you’re always talking about. Use your time for you first.
First in Your Emotional Energy
Celebrate all the emotional energy and support you give to your friends and loved ones. That’s the great part of being a human being. But don’t be so worried about attending to everyone else’s needs that you forget your own. Make sure your emotional gas tank is full as well.
Find something that rejuvenates your spirit. It could be prayer, reading the Bible, yoga, exercising, engaging in your favorite hobby, or spending quality time with your kids or spouse. Whatever it is that recharges your emotional battery, pay yourself first by scheduling time for it, and then stick to the schedule as if your life depends on it.
First in Your Vacations
We all need time off. Vacation time, even if it is just spent at home with the family, sharpens your mental focus, making you more prepared to do your job. Vacations are also essential for your health. According to a Framingham Heart Study, for instance, women who took more vacations were less likely to have heart attacks than those who took fewer vacations. Most of us put forth an incredible amount of effort on our jobs. It’s time to pay ourselves first by taking the vacation time that we have rightly earned and deserve.
On an airplane, the flight attendants always remind you that in case of an emergency, when the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, you’re to first place the oxygen mask on yourself before helping anyone else. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. True, it may sound selfish, but when you pay yourself first, whether it be with your time, money, or emotional energy, you’re able to give the rest of the world your very best.
BMWK, how do you pay yourself first?