Money … to spend, to save, to make, to donate, to put in its place

Money — the M in HOME — is a commodity that affects everyone’s lives. You may have a lot, you may have a little, you may inherit some, you may work hard for it, you may invest it, you may waste it. It may make you comfortable, it may make you complacent, it may make you reckless. You may always be looking to make more, you may be happy with what you’ve got, you may spend more than you have. You might use it to travel and study, you might only have enough to rent a room and look out the window. You might use money to eat well, you might only have enough to eat occasionally. You can buy works of art, you can buy cigarettes and crystal meth. You might obsess about money, you may not give it much thought, but do know that money will play a role in your life.

That said, a lot of people at this moment are worrying and/or wondering about money because their place of business is closed, they cannot pay their bills, they have no idea what’s ahead. And while I do want to speak at some point about how to view and assess your financial situation and your handling of it, right now I will not talk about money per se but about five tips to help you get and maintain a rhythm in daily life. These suggestions are helpful at any time but can really make a difference when times are hard.

  1. Make your bed. Seriously, whether you are sleeping in a king-sized poster bed or on a park bench, make your bed once you get up (even if that only means to move your pillow to your cart). Doing so signifies that your day has begun and you have decided so. It’s very easy to get sloppy and mopey and leave the bed or the couch or the sleeping bag undone, but taking the three minutes or so to make or wrap it all up begins your day on an organized note in which you are in control.
  2. Reevaluate your schedule and adjust accordingly. I know there is a school of thought that everyone should wake up early, be productive in the morning, eat three squares a day, and turn into the sack by 10:00 p.m. If that schedule fits your day and you find it fits you, go for it. If it makes you irritable or leaves you exhausted, change it. People have slept and waked and worked at all hours since the beginning of time (see Luke 2:8-11). You the night owl can be as productive at 1:30 a.m. as your day lark neighbor is at 1:30 p.m. and both of you can be successful. You might be one of those people who feel best eating only two meals a day or you may rather work on weekends and have Wednesdays free or perhaps you dig seeing the sunrise on your morning jog. Find out what is your timing and work with it.
  3. Do not overindulge. If you are going through a tough time, you are most likely anxious, worried, angry, and worn-out, yet still need to be clearheaded enough to look for work, budget, and make other decisions. It is going to be a lot easier to do so if you are not nursing a hangover, struggling to zip up your pants, or cursing your maxed-out credit cards. While it may seem the perfect time to treat yourself — with a hot fudge sundae, a double gin and tonic, those cool new boots — it is a time to develop frugal methods. No, it may not be your first choice, but moderation is the smart choice during hard times and it will make being to indulge all that much sweeter.
  4. Give yourself a challenge. When was the last time you had a deadline or goal to meet that was not from school, work, or the government? When was the last time you tested yourself? Can you go one month without sweets? Meat? A glass of wine? Can you save $500 by the end of the year? Can you learn enough Spanish to order in a Mexican restaurant at Christmas time? Can you do 100 push-ups per day for one month? Can you tell a joke a day everyday from here until Halloween? A challenge is a great way to evaluate and improve yourself at the same time.
  5. Develop a sense of adventure for ordinary days. We often fall into routines that become ruts simply because we don’t see the magic in the mundane. Okay, your days are made up of a commute, your job, grocery shopping, dealing with friends or family (maybe kids), washing dishes, paying bills. Pretend you are a spy. Test yourself on your way to work: What is coming up at the next corner? What businesses are two blocks up? How many coffee shops do you pass? Churches? It is amazing how little we notice and how much we miss on a daily commute. At the market, what new veggie or herb can you throw in a salad? Take a peek at those jars with foreign writing on them. What is in the discount bin? Can you switch around your daily schedule at work? Take a break outside instead of in the lounge? Read a poem (or write one) while you eat lunch? What is the favorite color/movie/meal of your friend or sibling or son? Find out what they would do if they could do whatever they wanted. Pay attention when washing dishes. Feel the hot water, smell the soap, and remind yourself that you are preparing to eat good meals in the future. And while bill paying is a drag, is there any way to reduce your bills? Have you ever investigated the possibility? If they are what they are, can you find some great music — 1960s Egyptian jazz, country swing, Christian metal — to add some spice to this necessary chore?