Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. For my readers who are unfamiliar with the Jewish calendar, we follow a Luni-Solar Calendar – a mixture of the lunar and solar cycles, which you can read more about here if you’d like.
Each month, we celebrate the new moon with special prayers and festive meals (home-made pizza in our house). Many women refrain from doing laundry and sewing (yay!) and many school kids come home early (boo, I mean, YAY!).
During the 3 or 4 days when the phases of the moon transition from waning crescent to new moon to waxing crescent, the moon illuminates the night sky for a very short time, if at all.
Which makes it a great time to go Star Gazing. And that’s exactly what our family did last Thursday night, explorers in a trip organized by our new friend Mya.
Step one was to get out of the city. So we, and several others families from our neighborhood, travelled south by bus to the Negev desert behind Mitzpe Ramon. Step two was to get a knowledgeable guide to lead us on our galactic journey. We were blessed to have Ira Machefsky, the Starman of Mitzpe Ramon, as our funny and fearless leader.
Ira taught us how the sky works – the stars rise in the east and set in the west just like the sun, stars change color as they age, and meteor showers follow predictable patterns. We identified constellations of the zodiac like Gemini, Leo, Libra and Scorpio and we were lucky to see a few shooting stars.
Star Facts – Did you know that the constellations of Libra and Scorpio are connected to each other? The stars representing the two scales of Libra are the same two stars of the scorpion’s claws. The southern scale of Libra is called Zuben Elgenubi and the northern scale is called Zubenelschemali. We love those sing-song names. And we’re trying desperately not to forget them (which is why I’m writing them for you all here).
Ira pointed out the North Star plus which star will be the North Star in 12,000 years from now. (Huh? Uh huh!) And we saw the planets Mars, Saturn and Jupiter with our naked eyes. And then, the Starman set up his portable observatory.
Through Ira’s powerful telescopes we were able to see the planets up close(er). We observed the tainted red planet of Mars, Jupiter plus three of her 4 moons and the ringed planet Saturn. It was a beautiful, awe inspiring evening and we all learned lots of new facts and figures about stars, suns, moons and planets.
Now I’m going to be honest with you. For a family our size this was not an inexpensive trip. Especially coming on the heels of the Passover holiday.
But it was a wonderful opportunity to witness the beauty and magnificence of G-d’s creation and to give ourselves and our children a hands-on learning experience. It was an opportunity we did not want to miss.
Which brings me to the importance of creating financial margin.
Financial margin is kind of like the space you leave on the sides of your Word document: the margins keep the document looking neat and orderly, making it easier and more comfortable to read. But if you need a little extra space to add in a word or two or to make some handwritten notes, the margin is there for you.
Financial margin is like that too: it helps keep your financial plan orderly and easy to follow and it gives you some wiggle room if the need or the desire arises. Here are a few examples from my own life that underscore the importance of financial margin: the time my two-year old broke my prescription sun glasses; the time my son flew over the handle bars of his bike and cracked his two front teeth; the time I flew half way across the world on a moment’s notice to see my mom for the last time; the time my husband booked us in for a Star Gazing Adventure.
Life always happens.
And it feels so much better to have a buffer.
Here are 5 steps I recommend for creating some financial margin in your life to prepare for a rainy day, a meteor shower or the great unknown:
1. Pay Yourself First. Age old, sage financial advice recommend by financial planners and money gurus across the board. And it goes like this: Whenever you bring in money, no matter how much or how little, set aside a fixed percentage in savings and investments. First. Before you pay your mortgage, before you shop for food, before you pay your credit card bills. Set aside a portion of your money and live off the rest. If things are tight and you’re just starting out you might be able to swing only 1% of your income. That’s OK. For starters. The goal is to develop the savings habit and strengthen your savings muscles. Soon you will know how good it feels to have financial margin and you will want to increase your cushion. Just do it.
2. Save Your Change. At the end of every day, collect all the coins from your pockets, your purse and the cup holder in your car. Save them in a piggy bank, a sacred container or some other safe place. Clink, clink, ka-chink. Enjoy the process of creating your surplus.
3. Sell Stuff. Most of us have unused, unloved stuff hanging around our homes that can be turned into cash. While it does take time and effort to collect, organize and advertise a sale, the results can be well worth it. Recently, one of my clients sold his gun collection on Craigslist. The sale brought in a handsome sum of cash that was put towards summer camp for his children.
4. Pay off your credit card debt and get out of overdraft. Every year, folks pay thousands of dollars in interest charges to banks and credit card companies. Filling those holes and plugging those leaks will create a substantial financial surplus that can be directed to savings and investments.
5. Track your spending. Write down every money transaction – everything you spend whether by cash, check, credit card, or automatic online payment. Use a sheet of lined paper or a beautifully decorated notebook. Whatever it takes to get you cozy and intimate with your numbers and help you get clarity on where your money’s going. The simple task of tracking highlights your spending patterns and teaches you tons about your money behavior – what’s working and what’s not, what’s in alignment with your values, where you’re falling short and what needs to change. And once you really know where your money’s going you have the ability to make different choices.
About a year ago I did some pre-retirement planning with a 60-something childless couple. They live pretty simply. Yet after tracking their spending for two months, the wife was surprised by size of her clothing allowance. “It was a real wake up call,” she told me, “to discover how much I’m spending on clothes and that my spending is not in alignment with my values.” She decided to reduce her spending on clothes so that they could leave a larger legacy to certain charities and non-profit organizations after their passing.
How about you? How have you successfully created financial margin in your life? I’d love you to share your tips with us on the blog. Or maybe you’re getting stuck and could benefit from some extra support? Send me an email at debbie (at) debbiesassen.com to book a free 20-minute call so we can chat and see what’s going on.
And if you’re ready to explore something new about money, sign up here for my free 5-day Money Chats e-course.
In other news…..
It’s official! After more than a year of supervised 1-on-1 training, I received my Certification as a Financial Recovery Counselor. And I’m here to support you and hold your hand as you heal your relationship with money and design a balanced, nourishing life you love!
Sending you dearest blessings on your money journey,