As a family caregiver, there are many bills that you must pay: utilities, credit cards, rent, groceries, healthcare, etc. These bills, and the fact that they are so high, are probably the only reasons why you are still at that job that you hate so much…you just really can’t afford to quit right now. So, you’re stuck in this cycle of working every hour of the day just to be able to pay your bills…and maybe you end up being able to pay just some of your bills. Can you see that this is just not working? While it’s understandable for a person to take care of their responsibilities, i.e., pay their bills, is it understandable for them to work and pay everyone else except themselves? Why not pay yourself…a matter of fact, why not pay yourself first?
What Does it Mean to “Pay Yourself First”?
In the same way that you are clear that you must pay others because they provide you with necessities like food, clothing and shelter, you must become clear that another necessity is for you to have money in your possession that you can use to improve your quality of life. This is how you will escape the cycle you are presently in.
Examples of this include:
- Money you have saved for emergencies. Having this emergency fund decreases anxiety and worry when hard times come, because at least you have a “little something” to bridge the gap at this time.
- Money that you use for charity. Maybe you donate at your local church or you give to homeless people in your city. This can help you to feel good about yourself knowing that you are helping others. Feeling good about yourself and about life helps to counteract stress and negativity.
- Money saved for investments. This does not have to be billions of dollars. Start small. Decide your area of investment, e.g., stocks, starting a small business, etc. You use any profit you make to reinvest and build up your income coming in from your investment. As your investment grows, you can then decide to take on a bigger investment. Wherever you are in life now can be improved upon if you have the money to invest in that improvement. For example, you may want to invest in yourself by taking classes to learn a new skill or go back to school to get a higher degree; you see this personal development as a route via which you can get a better paying job or start a side hustle, both of which will bring in extra cash. Extra cash means better groceries, better housing, better healthcare, etc…better quality of life.
So, paying yourself first means that you take money out of your current income and put it aside. This money must be used to increase your quality of life (short term or long term). The idea is for you to ensure that this money is paid to you before you pay anyone else, as you run the risk of paying everyone else and putting yourself on the back burner. And let’s be real, as family caregivers we put ourselves last by default…it’s time for a change!
How To Pay Yourself First
The best way to ensure that money is actually set aside for your improvement is to have separate bank accounts for the following:
- Emergency Savings
- Other, e.g., education fund.
Each time you get paid, ensure that a specified amount is automatically transferred to the relevant accounts. By doing this, you remove the temptation to spend this money otherwise (you know if we have the money in hand, we will find something to spend it on and have a justification for that spending).
Ensure that you only withdraw from these accounts for their specified purpose.
Can You Pay Yourself First?
You might be thinking: “Yeah, this sounds great…improving my quality of life and all…but this is not realistic…not with my life.” I get it. I mean we are family caregivers, where will we find the time to go back to school, to learn about investing or start a small business? We are already overwhelmed with the whole caregiving thing, so how can things change for us? And where on earth and in the entire universe will we find extra money to go towards our well-being (the thought of taking care of yourself feels weird, right?).
Well, first you must know where you are financially and then this can tell you how much money you can put towards improving your life. Start by tracking your money. Tracking will reveal:
- what you spend your money on,
- what is unnecessary spending (things you can cut back on), and
- just how much debt you are in and how much of your lifestyle is financed by debt.
N.B. If your loved one receives any form of income, e.g., government assistance, ensure that their spending is tracked as well, so that you can see if this money is being used in the best way possible.
So, from you tracking your money, you will realize how much money you have to go towards savings, investments, etc., and you can start sending these amounts to their respective bank accounts.
You may also realize that you do not have enough funds to save based on the type of investment you wish to pursue. E.g., you may only have $50 to put away, but based on the fact that you wanted to start buying stocks in your favorite company in order to receive dividend payments, you need $100. Thus, you are short $50. This means you will have to find a way to increase your income.
- Examples of how you can generate additional income can be found here.
- Another beneficial resource can be found here, this deals with the importance of financial planning for family caregivers.
Like with everything else, improving your finances and therefore your quality of life will take time. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for most of us. But having a plan and working that plan will produce results.
The Importance of Paying Yourself First
Many family caregivers are financially burdened and therefore we have to take the time to stop and look at our finances. We work so hard at our jobs/businesses and therefore, we must be benefiting from our hard work. I encourage you, that despite life being overwhelming, please make the time to do the things that will help your quality of life improve.
By paying yourself first, you ensure that you put money aside to assist you in your different times of need. It will not happen overnight, but if you stick to your plan, you will see small improvements that will eventually lead to big improvements.
We wish you and your family all the best!