This is mostly about time management, but it also applies to personal finance. Every week, I create a To Do list in my notebook. It includes my usual weekly tasks (because I like crossing things off lists, not because I worry I’ll forget to buy groceries), the TV shows I plan to watch, events I plan to attend, as well as the things I need/want to do. I never mark off all the things on the list, though, because I make other things a priority.
Choosing Between Priorities
This weekend, for example, I wanted to do several things:
- Go for a hike with my best friend
- Paint my powder room
- Make curtains
- Paint a box for the bathroom
- Work on a writing project.
Obviously, I had to narrow that list down, because there was simply no way to do it all and still have time with my husband.
So, I figured out which was most important to me.
I’d already agreed to the hike, and it was her birthday, so that was easy. Plus I got exercise, which I needed. Working out was also on the list!
The writing project was next on my list because I’ve given myself a personal deadline for it.
After taking care of some other household chairs, the other three things on the list didn’t happen. They’ll move to next week’s list.
Tips for Setting Priorities
If you’re deciding on priorities for your budget or your time, it’s all about calculating the relative importance.
My best friend is more important than my curtains. My writing project is also more important than my curtains, but less important than my best friend. If I had a paying deadline, the writing project might take the top spot.
If you’re budgeting, your rent/mortgage and other bills are priorities, whereas the vacation savings can wait.
If you’re choosing between purchases, or budgeting your spending money, decide which is more important to you. Do you need to buy the shoes more or can those wait so you can add to your vacation savings? Should you go out to eat or would it better to eat at home so you don’t have to put the movie tickets on the credit card?
Here are five questions to ask yourself before taking an action:
- Is this a want or a need?
- Is this related to an obligation?
- Is this related to a personal or financial goal?
- Can I do afford this without stretching my budget?
- Is the benefit greater than the cost?
For the hiking trip, the excursion was a want. The exercise was a need. It was an obligation, because I’d already agreed to go. It wasn’t related to a goal. It was free, so no cost. Definitely had a lot of benefits!
The Benefits of Setting Priorities
Obviously, we all want to do more than we have time for, and most of us want to do more with our money than we reasonably can. So, it comes to making choices. Priorities help make those choices easier. Most people, including me, have goals in the backs of their minds. By consciously prioritizing those goals and writing them down, you can more easily prioritize the other choices you have to make instead of taking an action and then realizing later that it was a mistake.