Pay Yourself First.

We have all heard this before, right? I remember reading it first in Rich Dad Poor Dad, and I always thought to myself “wow, what a great concept!” Well as I get older (34 now) and have had time to get both my financial life in order as well as the rest of my life, I realize it’s a lot more powerful than the simplistic statement it sounds like. Having grown up as a procrastinator (I was the kid who did their homework in the class before the one it was due) this has been a long, slow change for me but also a very good one.

Personally, I’ve taken the FIRE approach that includes my health as well. What good is buying yourself time if it’s at your own expense? I’m sure many people have heard the phrase “at least you’ve got your health” at one time or another. That’s because at the end of the day, that’s what’s most important in life, your health! We talk about money here in /r/fi more than anything but it’s just our vehicle to enjoy more of our health, later in life. In fact, I think I’m going to start referring to it as my Whealth* (make sure to pronounce the H).

So get to the point – to me, paying yourself first extends far beyond putting $5500 into my IRA by April, or maxing out my 401k. Those are the more simple parts of the concept that don’t take any thought or action once you set them up. What I’m talking about with paying yourself first is a lifestyle that can be applied in many parts of our lives. Some personal examples:

  • I put my kids to bed at 8pm every night. While they brush their teeth, I brush mine. By brushing my teeth at 8pm, I get a couple of benefits. I am no longer interested in eating again for the rest of the night because then I’d have to brush my teeth & floss again, which I don’t really enjoy doing in the first place. Also, my bedtime routine is a lot more pleasant knowing I can walk upstairs and just fall into bed with no additional work, all because I paid myself first. I avoid the excess calories of an evening snack, the cost of them, the time wasted, and the negative impact on my bedtime routine (it wakes me up for some reason).
  • Making lunch the night before/after dinner. Getting up early sucks, and waiting until I’m about to walk out the door to make lunch for myself is a recipe for whealth disaster. When I inevitably go to work without lunch, I’m taking the double hit of unhealthy food that costs so much more than the leftovers or PB&J I was going to make. Not to mention the fact that I have to drive 7 miles each way to a place to buy non gas-station food wasting more time over lunch than if I had just made it for myself in the morning.
  • Getting gas on the way home from work. This one is more of a sanity cost where often I’ll pass up gas because “I can make it until tomorrow and I don’t feel like doing it now” that ends up with me getting gas in colder, often shitty weather conditions the next morning AND potentially making me late for work. This one also ties in with my “don’t be a victim” mentality.*
  • Working out at 5am. Man, this one sucks. I hate waking up early but I can say a couple of positives about doing this. There is no way for you to “run out of time” to workout when you take this approach. There is the super health benefit of getting that workout done, there is the mental boost of starting out your day having completed such a task, and you get some quality “me” time to focus on yourself. The alternative usually looks like “Today was a rough day… I’m pretty tired. I’ll just make sure I hit it tomorrow instead.” And then life happens and you miss 2x, 3x, etc. Pay yourself first. At the end of the day, what else are you doing with your time? For myself and I’m sure many others, it involves playing video games or watching tv mindlessly. By investing in myself early, the only things I miss out on are the things that I find myself not missing. I never regret not playing video games 3 weeks ago, but I have often regret not working out or eating healthier sooner. Set yourself up for success and pay yourself first.

I could go on and on, but the gist of it is: when you pay yourself first, you make your future self happy. A little pain now truly pays dividends and for me and has improved my general well-being as well as my approach to life. After reaching this point, the financial side of preparing for FIRE becomes a no-brainer. Build your whealth!

* I wrote this before making the blog… hence the blog name 🙂

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