Pay Yourself First – part 1

Darling, good advice has to be filtered through all sorts of sieves: beauty, faith, time of day, culture and personality, hence there are few universal edicts. If you are Tigger or Growl-tiger type of person, 99% of your “Is it OK if I…” questions should be answered with “NO.” If you are Pooh, Piglet or Eeyore, then your “Is it OK if I…” questions should be answered with “yes.”

Tosha Silver helps you get right with your soul, but does she tell you NOT to use facial scrubs in the dark of the moon? Nope. We love Martha and her hostessing, but does she tell you that satin slippers with maribou feathers are not ok for work? Not a whit.

However ‘Pay yourself first’ is a mantra that works for all people at all times. It is from finance, meaning: when you get your paycheck put money in your savings before you pay off monthly bills, but you should follow it in every part of your life.

The most basic example is to use the time in which you are most awake, active and thinking clearly to do the tasks that make you happy and use your personal down-time to do things which bore you.

One friend sort of melts in the middle of the day so she arranged to exercise over her lunch hour. She works out in a kind of a haze and uses her awake time for fun and meaningful activities such as knitting hats for her dogs. Pre-covid, another friend had a desk job and used her peak time (10-11am) to do her own writing; she got all her work done so no one ever noticed that she wrote two books on company time

You need to implement this even for simple tasks. For example, if you are going through your clothes to decide which ones to give away, don’t do this at a peak mental-activity time.

If you are a night person, sort clothes when you first wake up. Don’t do your morning routine: no face washing, no teeth brushing, no coffee. Pretend you are still asleep, start from one end of your closet and touch every item – keep or toss? Your awake brain would think of reasons to keep it (“I’ll just get it hemmed” or “I will dye it”) but your asleep brain can’t deal with such complexities and says “yes” or “no.” If you are a morning person, do your sorting before bedtime.

‘Pay yourself first’ works for all people at all times because it does not mean ‘be selfish’ – it means think of all the component parts of your life. For example, my charming self and all the people I know (as I take care to only be friends with lovely people) continued to pay full-wages to the people who cleaned our houses when the pandemic started, although the cleaners did not work for several months as we didn’t want outsiders in our homes. We took our example from Fiddler on the Roof:


Alms for the poor, alms for the poor…


Here, Nokhem, one kopek.


One kopek? Last week you gave me two kopeks.


I had a bad week.


So, if you had a bad week, why should I suffer?

Now this might seem like it belongs in an essay about charity, not ‘pay yourself first’ but taking care of yourself does not mean spending all your money on yourself or getting everything you want. It means taking care of ALL your needs and every person has a need to be kind.

See and talk to the people who are important to you and DESERVE your time and attention at your peak times (ahem, not the people who want or think they deserve it).