Updated on 03.08.11

Tying Up Loose Ends

Trent Hamm

It’s much easier to keep your spending and personal finances in control if you’ve done what you can to get your personal life under control. The fewer loose ends and anxieties given to you from your personal life, the less stress you find yourself under and the easier it is to both keep your eye on the ball and enjoy the life you have.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on journals for my three children. In each of them, I’m writing to them as though they were eighteen years old, offering every piece of advice I can think of, while also relating their family histories to them as well as a few general reflections on them when they’re young.

I originally started this project out of a desire for my children to have some real memento of me if I were not around as they enter adulthood. I know many people who yearned to know of parents who passed away too early, and I wanted to do what I could to leave my children some way of remembering me.

What I didn’t anticipate is that the project has actually been incredibly personally fulfilling. I simply feel better about my own life with every page I write, every piece of advice I share, every family story I tell.

In the evenings, instead of watching television or something like that, I just turn on a light, pick up a pen, and work on one of the journals. Not only do I feel better about my children’s future, I feel better about me.

This experience has just reinforced in my own mind what I consider to be the biggest lesson I’ve learned about myself since my financial bottom.

The more settled and under control various aspects of your life are, the easier it is to control other aspects of your life.

When I was at my financial low point, my professional, personal, financial, social, and spiritual lives were all in a shambles. There were loose ends and uncomfortable situations spread throughout all of them.

As I moved on from there, I found that as I exerted more control over one area and got it into shape, those changes went hand in hand with changes in other areas. Good choices in all aspects of my life became easier, and on the whole they resulted in a much better life for myself.

What does this mean for you? It means that something as simple as tying up a few loose ends in other areas of your life can make a difference with your finances by reducing stress.

The question is, what areas can you exert more control over? Here are a few ideas.

Personal Get back in touch with people you’ve lost touch with. Start a journal to record your thoughts. Tell people in your life how much you care for them.

Professional Focus on your key job requirements, not on other things. Take your vacation time – and enjoy it.

Social Disengage from some commitments that just feel like “too much.” Set aside time to talk to the core people in your life – your spouse, your closest friends, your children, your parents.

Physical Start a schedule of regular walking, just to get your juices flowing and improve your health. Start eating healthier foods and drinking water instead of other things.

Financial Stop visiting places where you tend to spend money needlessly. Create a budget. Create a debt repayment plan.

Once you start to get a grip on one aspect of your life, it begins to feel much easier to get a grip on other aspects of your life.

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  1. Stephan F- says:

    The journal idea is really neat. I just did a little bit of work on my childs scrapbook and it is nice to see what has happened but looking to the future is a really good idea. There is so much to say and I doubt I’ll remember to tell her at the time she needs it. This seems like a good way to not forget.

  2. No 8 am post today and a pretty decent 2 pm post…hope this pattern continues.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I like this approach. I find the more I keep connected socially and exercise, the better I feel and the less likely I am to want things. Besides, being financially secure frees up energy to focus on friends and family and doing well at my job.

  4. valleycat1 says:

    I’m with Trent & #3/Elizabeth. I’ve seen graphic depictions of this as a wheel, which you want to keep balanced to some degree, although for most of us some categories take a larger piece of the pie depending on where we are in life’s journey. The important take away for me is not to totally neglect any one area.

    Right now for me, weight loss & getting our debts completely paid off are going hand-in-hand.

  5. Gal @ Equally Happy says:

    I started keeping a personal journal a few years ago when I was going through a very rough time in my life. I look back through some of those early entries now and they bring me back to those times. However, I don’t view that as a bad thing. These entries allow me to relive those moments but with all the knowledge that I’ve accumulated since.

    I think your kids will get a rare chance to get to know you as you were when they were kids.

  6. Michele says:

    Trent- I REALLY liked this post. What a great idea. We often forget that we might not make it to our child’s high school graduation, or wedding, or the birth of their first child. I wish my Dad had done this type of a journal for my sons- they were so young when he died. I’ve tried to fill in the blanks, and they have a child’s memory of their grandpa, but this is such a brilliant idea!
    I think I’m going to start this for my ‘someday’ grandchildren ….my sons are grown, and one is married, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to see my grandchildren. I’d like them to know me and how much I love them- even if I’m not there :)

  7. Jennifer says:

    Terrific idea and great post! Do more stuff like this and overall focus on frugality vs. offering actual financial advice.

  8. deRuiter says:

    It’s fascinating to write about one’s past. Also fun to have sibblings write about the same things and to see how they viewed the identical events which you did, and how differently they viewed them! Another loose end which would be easy to improve is the grammar in this post. Stop ending sentences with prepositions like, “…what areas can you exert more control over?” Correct would be, “…over what areas can you exert more control?”

  9. Interested Reader says:

    deRuiter – stop it! Seriously this is so freaking annoying. It’s already been discussed in the previous thread about ending sentences with a preposistions. It’s okay! And, especially in this case, it sounds a lot more natural and less stilted – and a natural, conversational tone is how he wants the blog to sound.

  10. Sam says:

    Well written article!
    I should do this – I have no idea where to start. My son is ten & after a cardiac scare 3yrs ago I started having talks with him about various subjects and also explaining why I do things the way I do (the lessons I’ve learned).
    I should do a book like this…. I’m just not sure how to structure it or section it out. Do you have chapters? Liek one chapter on home care, one on spousal relationships, one on education, gardening, etc?? Don’t know if that makes a lick sense.

    One thing I have done, is I made my son recipe cards of all his favorite things. On each card I put the source of the recipe – like Great Grandma, my Dad or me, etc. So far it’s about 15 or so cards – just the top favorites. When we make up a recipe together I try to do a card with in a week or two for him (like beef & onion curried rice). This last weekend I got him a recipe box @ the Thrift store for the cards to go in. The other nice part about the cards is he tends to stay out of my recipe books if he wants to practice his cooking…

    When I was in High school I remember my Dad sitting my Grandma down (she was in her mid 80’s by then) and trying to get her to remember all the recipes. Since she hadn’t been cooking for 10 or 15 years (due to age, arthritis & her duplex being too small for get togethers) she remembered hardly anything & she had never written them down. So in addition to thoughts, wisdom & philosophies there might be other things to record that can transcend time & the grave. Like my own Dad’s tune noodle recipe… thankfully he taught us in jr high how to cook and that was on of the recipes he made up in college. Every time I make that I think of him. I can’t stand tuna but the smell of that casserole in the kitchen….

  11. Interested Reader says:

    @Sam – they make books that have guided questions. My cousin & his wife (who has three kids) gave their parents and grandmothers one of these books for Christmas.

    My grandmother was thrilled because she’s been trying to write down stories and isn’t sure where to start. From what it looked like it’s one question per page and probably not enough room to write a story on 1 page. However, I think it’s encouraged to write on extra pages. It had all kinds of questions about daily life as well as major events.

  12. Melissa says:

    As to gaining control over various aspects of your life, I would add to the Social aspect people who take too much time and energy. Good friends should add to your total energy and understand your other time commitments. Friends who bring drama into my life are not welcome. Now how do I avoid/deal with coworkers who bring drama into my life?

  13. Lou says:

    Love this post. Good ideas, well balanced and well fleshed out. I like the tone, the relationship of frugality to the rest of life and the suggestions. Nicely done.

    @ deRuiter – As Churchill said “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”

  14. valleycat1 says:

    #12 Melissa – there’s all kinds of info on the interwebs & at the library on dealing with problematic coworkers. What you do depends a lot on your personality, position at the company, the position of those who ‘bring drama’, and what types of issues you’re having. One all-purpose rule I’ve found helpful is that if you don’t buy into the drama & maintain your cool, sometimes the other person will either calm down, or look elsewhere for their adrenaline fix.

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