Four Things To Budget

Valerie Dela Cruz
4 min readMay 24, 2020

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A List That Does Not Include Money Nor Time

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

The concept of a budget is something usually associated with money. And understandably so, because most of us are money limited. It is also common knowledge that time is limited and therefore we should budget our time. But there are more things that we do not usually see as limited resources. Hence, they do not make it to our “budget” planning to have a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. Here are four of other things that we should have a budget for.

1. Have a “decision budget”

Do you spend a lot of time daily thinking about what colour of shirt to wear? Or perhaps what tea flavour to drink or which among the 10 ways you want your eggs cooked?

We are constantly faced with different choices and most of us do not realise that we only have limited brain power to make optimal decisions daily. The brain is like a muscle. When it gets tired, it becomes less effective and makes less optimal choices.

As we go through life, there are decisions that are life-changing, habit-forming, and some that would not matter. For instance, do you want to buy a property? Do you want to move countries? Which school would you want your toddlers to attend? What parenting style do you want to adapt? How to get that next promotion? How to strengthen relationships and make interactions more meaningful?

These are examples of decisions that are life-changing and therefore require careful consideration, time, and most of all, your brain capacity. Maybe you would want to sort out the pros and cons. Maybe you would want to talk to your parents, partner, boss, colleagues, or friends. The bottom-line is that we need to allocate capacity to think about these choices and we would not be able to choose effectively if we already spent most of our capacity on which filter to use on an Instagram post.

This is not to say that we should not be doing small choices at all. It means to prioritise decisions knowing your capacity to decide optimally is limited, therefore allocate this capacity to what matters most.

2. Have a “shout budget”

Most of us do not consider the impact of shouting too much. By shouting, I do not mean literally speaking in a loud voice all the time. I use “shouting” to refer to expressing anger in a non-constructive way. Yes, passive aggression counts.

Shouting has diminishing returns. A classic example is when parents shout at their children for just about anything. In this case, the children learn to expect shouting as the norm and learn to gloss over it. When the parent wants the message to really count, he or she would need to shout louder. It also applies to partners and any other social relation. A common example is the blame game. Maybe your partner forgot to sort the dishes or do the laundry or shop for groceries. Does this merit a “shout” or a frustrated comment? This is worth reconsidering as shouting too much has two lose-lose effects. First, this is a form of ineffective communication, which means you do not get your message across. Second is that ineffective communication leads to increased frustration for both parties. Frustration induces poor decisions, so permanent frustration almost guarantees a low quality relationship.

An alternative is to make it a habit to state your concerns constructively, use communication tools such as open questions to understand the situation instead of pointing fingers.

3. Have a calorie budget

This one is slightly different from the first two. In modern society, we have access to more calories than we should eat on average. Generally, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men. Note that the distribution is not equal as there are parts of the world that are starving, but overall, caloric supply globally exceeds daily average demand and food security has never been better.

What this means is that if we do not budget our intake of calories, we are almost certain to be surprised at the weight gained over the years. I am not advocating counting to the last calorie every day (recall “decision budget”), but I would recommend that at the very least, know “how much” your next cake “costs” in terms of calories and how much you consume on average. From that knowledge, make a conscious decision on the kinds of food to take and know the possible outcomes of your choice. For example, a friend of mine has chosen to eat pineapple whenever he wants. Pineapple has a fairly low calorie cost and he loves pineapples. Notice how this is a one-off decision and not a daily choice he has to make, i.e it has minimum impact on “decision budget”, that makes room for more in the calorie budget.

4. Have a touch budget

Touch reduces stress, improves immune system, and calms certain body functions such as heart rate and blood pressure.

Being touch-starved, also known as touch deprivation occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from others. This does not apply only to sensual touch. It also consists of secure holding and hugging. Symptoms of being touch-starved include anxiety, difficulty sleeping, tendency to avoid secure attachments and a risk of developing body image issues. In the extreme case, as it was found in Romanian orphanages in the 1980s, hundreds of babies and toddlers died or went insane because they were not touched. Those who did not die still suffer mental problems in adulthood.

In a sense, touch is like food. We need a minimum amount to be healthy and happy. For many who are in isolation, it might be harder but we can still counter the risk. Be sure to check in, make a phone or video call with your loved ones and friends. In other words, keep a budget. Stay in touch.

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Valerie Dela Cruz

Mathematics, books, and writing