On Track to A Better Future Because I Put #MeFirst
Growing up, we’re taught to be selfless, to care for others, to be generous, that sharing is caring. True as all that might be, I’ve come to realise that it’s also important to ask ourselves: what am I doing today to take better care of myself and my needs?
Is it truly wrong to put myself first? I say, absolutely not. Putting myself above all else and ensuring my needs are met first ensures that I’m self-sufficient and in a good place to subsequently help others. After all, no one can pour from an empty cup, so it makes sense to ensure my own cup is full, before trying to fill anyone else’s.
Putting others first
Like most people, I used to focus a lot on making others happy. I remember putting aside my work to help a friend spring clean her entire house and reluctantly cancelling my weekend plans to be a bridesmaid to a cousin I barely kept in touch with, not because I truly wanted to be there for them, but because I didn’t know how to say ‘no’.
In fact, I found it hard to say ‘no’ when it came to spending money too. Back then, when my friends and I dined out, we typically took turns to pick up the tab, which led to instances where some people would end up paying more than their fair share.
Certain social situations also make me feel obliged to spend, sometimes more that I know I should – I’m sure everyone’s felt this at some point. For example, when my friend broke up with her boyfriend, my other friends and I took her out for a nice meal and organised a craft night. We all had fun and it cheered up our newly single friend, but after that night, I had to tighten my belt for the rest of the month and struggled to get by till my next pay check.
But how sustainable is it?
Before learning how to put myself first, my lifestyle was draining me financially, physically and emotionally.
I worked a nine-to-six job and didn’t have time to cook, so I ate out and ordered takeaways often. I stayed out late on Fridays and Saturdays and usually slept in on Sundays to “recover”. In the midst of all that, I never found the time or energy to exercise.
As the designated ‘mum’ of my friend group, I was also always the one to listen to my friend’s problems and dish out advice even when I was exhausted myself emotionally and mentally. At the same time, I didn’t feel like I had anyone to do the same for me.
As you can imagine, this lifestyle took a toll on me. I felt tired all the time but still prioritised being present for my friends over making sure my home was clean or that I was eating well or getting enough rest. When Mondays came around, I often found myself struggling to wake up for work and fell sick often due to sleep deprivation. I also developed a dread for receiving my credit card bills as I was chalking up high expenditures, falling into the habit of only paying the minimum sum due each month.
#MeFirst, from here on out
Things finally took a turn the day I ended up in the hospital after having a severe allergic reaction to painkillers that I was taking for my recurring headaches. I realised then that my health was suffering, as were my finances, so I committed to taking better care of me, first. Some changes were in order.
For a start, I’ve learnt to draw boundaries and how to say ‘no’ when I don’t really want or have the capacity to do something for someone else, to protect my financial and overall well-being better.
I overhauled my diet, cutting down on takeaway meals and learning how to cook healthy dishes at home. On top of eating healthier, I picked up kickboxing which has become a new favourite hobby of mine. It’s exhilarating, empowering and the bonus is it’s enabled me to get fitter. I also started running to help build up my stamina for kickboxing sessions and it’s doing me a world of good.
In terms of my financial self-care, cutting down on the takeouts, grocery deliveries, eating out and nights out with friends have certainly helped to improve my financial situation by a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I still get to enjoy girls’ nights with my friends, but instead of always dining out, we’ve started to make pot-luck dinners our main way of gathering instead. We’ve also entered a pact to spend lesser on our gatherings and made a list of free (or almost free) things to do around town. To date, we’ve gone hiking and picnicked at parks which cost us almost nothing and we’ve still managed to have loads of fun!
To help keep track of my personal spends, I now have a trusty expense tracking app on my phone. I’ve also started following financial bloggers to pick up tips on how to save and invest better for my future. If you didn’t already know, there’s a world of financial knowledge available on YouTube and it’s definitely improving my financial literacy – for free!
As for paying off my accumulated credit card debt, this is something I’m still working on, but I find that I’ve making good headway in having more cash on-hand to pay more than just the minimum sum due each month. It’ll be another three months till I’ll be able to pay off my debts fully.
Once that’s done, I’m determined to put #MeFirst by allocating a sizable portion of my salary for savings and building up an emergency fund of at least 6 months’ worth of expenses. Next, I’ll be looking into taking up savings and retirement plans, to secure my future financial health too.
Creating a sustainable and secure financial future for myself
Today, I’m happy to share that eating healthier, exercising and taking charge of my finances has made a world of difference to how I feel overall. This has led me to realise that being there for yourself is just as, if not even more important than being there for others. It is absolutely acceptable to put yourself first and have your best interests at heart.
Yes, you may find it difficult to start the habit of practising #MeFirst initially, but it helps to keep in mind that small actions can add up over the years which can have a big impact on future finances. So why wouldn’t you want to start today?
If you need help to get started, speak to Income’s advisors who can help you put this into practice and help you reach your financial goals.
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.