Appreciate what you really treasure
I wield an MBA in one hand and a yoga mat in the other. My yoga informs how I run my personal finances and my personal finances make many experiences in my yoga life possible through classes, retreats, and a recently completed vinyasa teacher training program at Sonic Yoga in New York City.
As part of my yoga teacher training, I studied Pantanjali’s Ashtanga (Eight Limbs) of Classical Yoga. Two of the limbs, Niyamas (restraints or observances) and Yamas (refinements of our behavior in relationships to others), have some hefty teachings to offer on how we manage personal finance. I never knew saw this connection before my teacher training, and this revelation has given me a way to reconcile my desire to be on solid financial footing and fully-live my yoga practice of non-attachment.
Here are a few examples that have helped me and I hope they help you, too:
Get the financial house in order and keep it that way. I am continuously bowled over by the amount of financial paperwork—receipts, account statements, discount and special offer certificates, tax returns—that pile up. It kills trees and it’s not easy to organize. But organize we must and though we want to live in a paperless society, paper for now is a fact of our financial lives. Get clear on what you really need to keep a hard copy of and digitize everything you can. And if you can get digital copies of receipts and statements from the get-go, all the better.
I keep one accordion file with all of my financial papers tucked away on a bookshelf for easy access, one small envelope right beside it where I put all my receipts to reconcile against my credit card and bank statements, and one manila envelope where I keep all my receipts that will be tax deductions. It’s a simple system but it works for me.
This one has a clear link to money management. Stuff does not equal happiness. Seriously. I like my stuff, but I LOVED my stuff before my apartment building fire last September. And when almost all of my belongings were ruined by smoke, I realized them for what they really were—just stuff. We truly need very little in the way of material goods. When I was on the sidewalk with nothing but my keys (which were also worthless since my apartment was ruined), watching my building burn, I realized in no uncertain terms that my health and the people I love are all the stuff that really matters. It’s easy to say, and maybe even cliché, but I found out the hard way how much truth is in that statement. (And please get renters insurance for everything else.)
Staying on a budget is a serious act of discipline, especially in the West. The first thing I do every month is pay my savings account 20 percent. I use that for short-term savings for big purchases, vacations, and to pay down my student loan debt beyond my monthly loan payments. It’s tough to put into action, and peer pressure to spend, spend, spend is everywhere. Savings hurts in the short-term, but in the long term it’s benefits can’t be beat. When I’m lounging around in Santorini on my yoga retreat at the end of this month, I’ll be so grateful I made myself save up for the experience.
Brahmacharya – self-restraint
Keeping up with the Joneses is a losing battle. There is always a Jones out there doing better than us financially. I use these little tricks to restrain myself from straying off the savings track:
1.) When I really want something, I walk around the store with it for a while and after about 15 minutes, I look at it again and see if I really want it. Half the time I put it back on the shelf. It was the act of acquiring, not what I acquired, that really had me intrigued so my walk-around often fills that need.
2.) I try to take one day a month to not buy a thing. Recognizing that I can get by with what I’ve got helps me stay on track with my savings.
3.) When considering a big purchase, I go to the store, hold the item in my hand, and put it back. Then I spend the next few weeks researching where else I can buy the item and I track the pricing. If after a month I still really want it, I take the plunge and have usually found a better deal that I would have gotten if I bought the item when I first shopped for it.
Aparigraha – non-hoarding
Examples of things that must go: the magazines I haven’t gotten to yet even though they’ve been hanging around my apartment for months (I’m actually planning to let most of my subscriptions expire, except for Yoga Journal); the books I read five years ago and haven’t touched since; that little dress that was so cute three seasons ago that I haven’t worn since.
We have more stuff than we know what to do with, and trust we someone needs the stuff you don’t use way more than you do. Sell it on eBay or Cragistlist, take it over to the public library or Goodwill, or leave it on the corner for someone else to take and use. Let go of the clutter you don’t need to make room in your life to appreciate all that you really treasure.
Christa Avampato is a product developer, freelance writer, and vinyasa yoga instructor based in New York City. She recently founded Compass Yoga, a private, semi-private, and group yoga training business that donates 1/3 of all proceeds to charity. She also recently penned her first ebook, Hope in Progress: 27 Entrepreneurs Who Inspired Me During the Great Recession. Find her online at Christa in New York: Curating a Creative Life and on Twitter.