Budgeting for Beauty

Most of us are familiar with financial budgeting. We calculate our total income and allocate it to pay bills, buy food, and cover our basic needs. Then we decide how much to spend on entertainment or luxury and how much to save for emergencies.

There are varying degrees of income that allow for or limit your choices. With increased money comes expanded options and freedom to choose more of them. And if you overspend one month, the debt has to be paid the next, lest it accumulate beyond your means.

We can make the same budgeting plans for our energy.

Living with a chronic illness, each day I wake up with a certain amount of limited energy in my bank. It's as if I've lost my high-paying job and am now on a fixed income that gets cut year after year. When I go beyond my daily allowance, I pay for it out of the next day's balance, often with physical pain. So this is what my budgeting process looks like to avoid the consequences of debt.

  1. Basic Needs - taking a shower, getting dressed, preparing food
  2. Health Maintenance: physical therapy at home, doctor's appointments, prescription refills, massage therapy, acupuncture
  3. Household duties: feeding the dog, doing laundry or dishes, watering plants
  4. Volunteering: going to meetings, visiting, and organizing
  5. Hobbies, Relationships, and Everything Else!

This may sound like a typical routine, and it is for a lot of people, but the challenge I face is that once I take care of the first two items, I've used about 75% of my available energy, which forces me to make some tough decisions about how I want to spend the rest.

I've learned (the hard way!) that I can't do them all without going into energy debt. Then which task needs me the most? Maybe the dishes can wait another day so I can have lunch with a friend. Maybe I need to reschedule that lunch so I can wash socks and underwear since there are no clean pairs in my drawer. Or maybe I'll put off sending emails for my volunteer post and sit down at my computer to write instead. And I sometimes consider saving my energy if there is an expensive activity coming up that I really want to do (like trail riding in the mountains).

These are the negotiations I hold each day. If I start comparing my energy supply to those around me, it's easy to get frustrated and resentful. To combat this temptation, I focus instead on the blessing of intentional choice.

Each day I am grateful for the energy I have, and when it comes time to spend my last bit of strength, I can make meaningful, worthy decisions by asking myself one question.

Will this add beauty to my life?

This has led me to cultivate some amazing friendships, creations, and connections. It has also opened my eyes to the beauty that is possible, even with my small bank balance.

How do you budget your time and energy? What takes priority in your life? Can you find space to add beauty to your schedule?

A couple of doorways from this week:
  • I saw a video of an owl who had caught his wings in a tangle of knotted twine. Three men in construction vests worked gently and tenderly to set him free.

  • While shopping at the mall I witnessed the beauty of love in the faces of people as I passed by - a father hugging his two young sons on his lap while they rested; a couple embracing as they parted outside a store entrance; and a woman greeting a boy with a smiling laugh as if she were a teacher or neighbor who was glad to see him.


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