Happy Leap Day!
As I was reading up on the meaning of Leap Years, I was struck by the parallels between the practice of adding an extra day to our calendar every 4 years and the practice of regularly and routinely adjusting our own processes to meet our stated goals.
So, why do we add an extra day to February every 4 years? In essence, it’s to keep our seasons on track and account for the fact that it actually takes the earth closer to 365.25 days to complete a full orbit around the sun, as opposed to a round 365 days as our calendar systems suggest. Which alone doesn’t seem like a big deal. But, if you consider what would happen if we didn’t make this adjustment, then it takes on a more serious meaning. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, without February 29th showing up on our calendars once every 4 years our calendar would be off by 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds more each year (https://www.almanac.com/content/when-next-leap-year). And then, after 100 years, our seasons would begin to shift significantly, with normally colder months like February and March feeling like summer months (in the Northern Hemisphere) (https://www.almanac.com/content/when-next-leap-year).
What’s all this have to do with finances and goal setting? Ask yourself this question: what would happen if you didn’t routinely adjust your trajectory guiding you along the path to achieving your goals? Goals aren’t accomplished because we set them. They’re accomplished because we put systems in place and build habits that guide us, step-by-step, towards those goals. But if along the way we veer off course ever so slightly, perhaps without even noticing, and do nothing to course correct, where do we end up? Not on track to reach our goals. We land somewhere else. Somewhere we may not want to be.
The little things may not seem to matter in the moment, or you may not even notice them. You might forget to (or avoid) budget this week and think “well, it’s just this one week, it’s no big deal”. Or you might buy a few more coffees than normal, or splurge on Girl Scout Cookies (we have a hard time resisting those in our house), and before you know it, you’re $75 over your budget that WAS well-crafted at the beginning of the month. Now what? Where will that extra $75 come from? Finding your way back onto the trail once you’ve wandered off isn’t always easy. It’s certainly not impossible, but if you’re not paying attention to landmarks and milestones, you will get lost.
Set those landmarks and milestones for your financial journey. Doing so might look like budgeting every Thursday night at 8:00 PM (after the kids are in bed) at your kitchen table with a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Thursday night at 8:00 PM is your landmark … when you hit that landmark you head to the kitchen table with your drink or snack of choice and spend a few minutes on your weekly budget, making sure all your transactions have been tracked and that you’re on course for the week and the month. Milestones might be paying off one of your debts. Milestones let us know the landmarks are pointing us in the right direction and we’ve stayed the course.
The next time you think it doesn’t matter if you buy that extra coffee, pair of shoes, or splurge on something for the kiddos, think again. Small things matter … and over the course of time they become big things.