Can You Afford The Words You Use On A Daily Basis?

I can’t remember my 2010 New Year’s Resolution for one very good reason, I didn’t make one.  Quite honestly, I’ve NEVER made one. There’s something intimidating about drawing up a 365-day contract with myself, as I know very well how difficult I can be.

However, there’s a first for everything and 2011 will find me with pen in hand outlining a budget for the New Year. But this is a very different kind of budget. It’s a word budget. Yes, I’ve finally drafted up a verbal expense account because for too long, I’ve exhausted myself with profitless conversations and remarks that could have been saved or spent more wisely.

Budgeting words is my plan of just how much verbal and emotional energy I choose to spend on any conversation, situation, or person.  It’s the way I’ll hold myself accountable for creating and maintaining a healthy life balance, thereby making sanity affordable!

I’ve already started – and it’s been an eye opener!

The other day I was a contestant on the infamous holiday game show called, “That Parking Space is Mine!” (Players get your blinkers ready.) I strategically waited for this parking space. I circled around the shopping center looking for people coming out of stores with car keys in hand. I listened for the chorus of beeping car alarms alerting me to possible departures. I inaudibly mouthed to shoppers putting loads of packages in their trunks, “Are you leaving now?” Yes, I earned the right to finally park here, and yet this parking space thief looked directly at me and swerved into my spot. When he gets out of his car, I have plenty to say to him. Or do I?

Truth is neither he nor this situation fit within my emotional spending plan for the day; I didn’t have an extra hundred or so words to lose on this foolishness, although I seriously think I could have summed my frustration up with just ONE word!

And honestly, there are people I have to save up to talk to. You too probably have a list of co-workers, family members, church members, neighbors, friends and clients with whom the simplest dialogue can be so taxing!

Another example, a dear friend was completely rattled after a ten-minute too-long conversation with a not-so-pleasant person from her past. After hanging up the phone, her child asked for help with his homework. She totally lit into him! Yelled at him about how he should listen more in class and ask better questions. Any other day, this “help with homework transaction” would have cleared easily. What she spent on one phone call left her overdrawn for the rest of the evening.

So, I decided to let the parking lot incident go.  Good choice too because I already have a few words for an out-of-control pre-teen who is slamming her fist and cursing at her grandmother for not buying her a pair of shoes! On this, I’m ready to spend some words wisely and quite possibly get “change” back.

I had to ask myself some difficult questions when making this budget; perhaps, the questions were not as complex as the answers though.  Can I afford to say this? Can I afford not to? If I withdraw these words, what will my new available balance be, and will there be enough to cover pending transactions?

As in life, few budgets are the same, and only you know when you’re truly balanced.  I have friends who can say a mouthful and remain true to themselves and love you in the process. I’d go bankrupt if I tried to do the same!

Resolution: In 2011, I will work hard and not to go into word debt. I will delegate the necessary funds to stay sane and balanced. I will choose who and what I spend on.  I will think before spending and weigh the cost because sometimes irreversible fees apply.

So how do you decide if a conversation is worth having? Are there specific instances when adding your 2 cents left you overdrawn? And how do you plan to use your energy more wisely in 2011?

Sarena James, 36, is a wife and mother of three who enjoys theater and writing. She and her husband created a website,, devoted to conversations about special needs children and their families. They reside in Charleston, SC, where they revel in history and relax beachside. Originally from Aurora, CO, Sarena is a graduate of Paine College in Augusta, Ga.