Here we are, back again on this topic of self-care. It is a recurring theme in this space, and appropriately so. The concept of self-care is a crucial tool for people of color, women, poor communities, and the LGBTQ movement as they work to dismantle the systems working tirelessly to keep them down. It was created with the following question in mind: “If I don’t take care of myself, who will?” Self-care and FIRE (financial independence, early retirement) are similar in a way. Both require taking into one’s hands the situations presented to them and navigating around a system that would otherwise keep us on the hamster wheel called life. So what does financial self-care look like?
For starters, self-care does not mean self-soothe.
Like everything else, self-care as of late has become a commercialized term. Self-care is marketed to young generations as buying products to ‘take care of themselves’. Yes, some products can help with self-care. I wrote a list when I turned thirty of my own products. But more often that not, the products fall short. That’s because self-care does not mean self-soothe.
Self-care isn’t buying things to make yourself feel better about your situation. Throwing money at something won’t make it go away. If anything, spending money on ‘self-care products’ could be hurting you in the long run, at least financially. It will make you feel better for a short while. Perhaps enough to deal with the situation, sure. But self-care products will never take away the cause of the problem. One day, you wake up back at square one.
Self-Care is Doing the Hard Bits
I could have said something else instead of ‘Bits’ but I didn’t. You know what I mean. Most often, it is really about doing the hardest things in life. Here are a few examples.
- Showing up one more day, when you just want to give up.
- Working that extra shift to save enough money to buy your financial freedom.
- Not eating that slice of cake in order to be a healthier person.
- Waking up at 5:30am in the morning so you can hit the gym before work.
- Staying up late at night getting the household chores done because you spent your day-time hours with the kids.
- Resisting to keep up with the Joneses because you know it hurts you financially.
- Standing up to your boss, colleague or partner who is taking advantage of you.
- Quitting a job that is not aligned with your values.
Self-care is about showing up for yourself. That means doing the hard things in order to better your life. It’s taking care of yourself at the core, ensuring the future you want for yourself, TODAY. Usually, that means resisting buying all the self-care products. Ironic, isn’t it?
If I am going to be brutally honest, financial self-care not about rewarding yourself for your hard work with a shopping spree. It’s not about treating yourself to dinner after a long day. Skipping your workout because work was exhausting is not taking care of yourself. Scrolling for hours or watching mind-numbing TV isn’t the way to fix a mentally tiring day. All of this is self-soothing, not self-caring.
Self-care is pushing through the hard work and continuing on. Because the goal is to get through the hard stuff in order to reach your destination. Erase the “I deserve it” mentality. What we all deserve is a reality check. Self-care as its sold today only sets you back.
Contrary to deprivation, TRUE financial self-care is fueling your life energy into whatever gets you to financial freedom. Some people attack this belief with accusations of deprivation. If you asked me, deprivation could be viewed the other way. By buying into consumerist culture, you are depriving yourself of true freedom from the grind.
Here are a few examples of financial self-care:
- Budgeting every dollar that you earn.
- Investing your money instead of spending it.
- Cutting out certain relationships with people concerned about the Joneses.
- Saying no to societal norms and expectations.
- Having tough conversations with friends and family about what it means to spend money.
- Dissociating from the idea that ‘more expensive’ means ‘better’.
Look out for yourself.
Corporations want you to spend your hard-earned dollars on products. And there’s no better time to convince you of doing so than when you are most exhausted, fatigued, stressed, and burnt out. That’s why companies hang onto the term, promising to fix all your problems if you just buy this ONE item. They manipulate the term’s original intention. ’Take care of yourself’ they say, pretending to care about the real you. But just remember, Who will this really help in the long run? Wouldn’t paying for self-care services and products keep you working day in and day out? Doesn’t that keep you away from time off, time with family, and time to take a break?
Let’s not get it twisted. As the founders of the term self-care thought to themselves, “Who will take care of us if not ourselves?” They couldn’t rely on systems that worked to keep them in their place. Financial self-care is about financial freedom. That’s all it is.