Better Your Life, Better Your Wallet

  • Money goals can get us going, but figuring out how to balance our time, energy and aspirations will let us live balanced, happier, and more productive lives
  • Your time is valuable, so track your off-work hours and create non-financial goals
  • Re-prioritize when necessary to keep your life (and money) going in the right direction

Creating personal goals and using your time efficiently can put your financial outlook into perspective as well as improve it.

Billing rates, salaries, student loans. Whether you’re just starting out or close to your target salary, a lawyer’s life can seem overly focused on earning and spending.

So what happens if you feel that your relationship with your financial status has fallen into an unhealthy pattern? You may be thinking too much about your budget, or not enough. Maybe you’re too focused on the increased salary of moving up a class year to become a mid-level or senior associate, how to move past that associate general counsel title, or perhaps you suspect that your billables will fall short of expectations (yours or your employer’s).

No matter how you have been navigating your financial needs, you’ve probably noticed that your approach to money matches your weaknesses—and strengths—in other areas of your life. If your money mindset feels upsetting or unproductive, chances are high you’re ready for a change in your financial and personal headspace.

Are there really proven methods to saving your financial perspective, and your sanity? And if so, are they easy, flexible, and quick enough to squeeze into your busy day? Luckily, the answer to all of those questions is yes.

Change 1: Switch Up the Way You Think About Time

You might know that time is money (and your accounting for every minute of your workday reflects that), but how much are you charging for your personal hours? Outside of the office, a lawyer should have a good sense of their non-work hours , keeping track to make sure each hour is being “charged” sufficiently, whether that price is monetary or something else.

Take a look at your commuting time. With the right money mindset, you should be asking yourself: If every hour is worth a price, what is worth doing during this chunk of time?

Some of us will choose to use the commuting time for straightforward business purposes, and that’s pretty simple math. But others may choose career development: brushing up on legal news with a selection of podcasts, articles, or current events. And of course, you still have the option of spending your morning and evening downtime relaxing, listening to music, reading recreationally, or catching up with friends.

Take another look at your downtime habits and price them accordingly to fill up your commute, evenings, and weekends with activities that you feel are worth the cost of your time.

Change 2: Develop Goals for Your Money and For Yourself

Budgets? Financial goals? You’re used to hearing about those (and can continue to work on them here with our help). But if you want to keep your money mindset healthy, now’s the time to sit down and think about all of your goals – from financial to personal.

Non-financial goals can be as flexible and unique as you’d like them to be. You may want to devote some time to traveling, or you’d like to fix up your home. You might want to start seriously looking for a romantic partner, or becoming a better friend or family member.

Once you have a list of your personal goals alongside your financial aspirations, you can get down to the nitty-gritty of developing a work-life balance that will satisfy both categories. If you’d like to travel to Europe next year, you can start making a plan for short-term savings, and also give yourself time to research your trip and decide what parts you can save on and where you might like to splurge.  If you’re hoping to spend more time with your family, you can assess both your billable hours goal alongside your playable hours goals and decide where and how to cut back to meet both goals.

When your personal goals are being weighed and met alongside your financial goals, you’ll move away from the all-or-nothing mindset of money stress, get a better sense of where to spend and where to cut back, and move towards a more balanced and satisfying vision for the upcoming years.

Change 3: Prioritize, Re-Prioritize, and Relax

After implementing Changes 1 and 2, there are two more points to keep in mind: Budget for the unexpected and remember what’s most important to you. That way, a costly emergency won’t throw you off entirely—you’ll still have time and money to stick to the primary priorities, and minimize the rest temporarily.

Your personal, financial, and hourly goals may be on a handy list, but nothing can stop you from switching up that list as you see fit. Rather than view your goals as commitments, you’re better off viewing them as hopeful milestones, and that means you can add new ones, drop old ones, or move an important one down a few ranks as you see fit. You’re in control.

Whenever necessary, prioritize key goals and move others down for another day (or month, or year). By reviewing and re-prioritizing, you can keep track of what really matters to you in the here and now, and still leave yourself extra time and money for the unexpected moments in life.

What's Next

Take a look at your round-trip commuting time and how you use it. Think of two minor changes you can implement to make it more productive, more entertaining, more relaxing, or more of whatever you want it to be.