Pay Yourself First Or Go Bankrupt
So, if you don’t pay yourself first, you may find yourself consciously or unconsciously saying, “the cost is too high, the reward is too low”

You can and should pay yourself so that you keep the most important person in your business, social, or personal hierarchy the happiest! If you don’t, you’re likely going to have an internal struggle on your self-worth, commitment, achievements, and health that will cause the inner you to strike or the outer you to lock yourself out of your own goals.


Whether it’s e-mail, snail-mail, or the space inside our heads, our virtual in-box gets bombarded with requests and to dos daily. That can come from friends, family, teachers, co-workers, customers, and even strangers. Managing the in-box has never been more challenging. The need for reward or value-recognition is a must. In this case however, you will play multiple roles in making sure it happens.



Sociologist George Homans had a “social exchange theory”, predicated on B.F. Skinner’s human behavioral psychology theories. A focus of Homans’ foundation was that an exchange of material or non-material goods as a reward mechanism between two or more individuals provides a key element for the enablement of social engagement behaviour. I am suggesting that the individuals can be the same person when it comes to the notion of the social exchange theory because we will make the same conscious or unconscious decisions about the costs and rewards on our own actions, even in self transactions. So, if you don’t pay yourself first, you may find yourself consciously or unconsciously saying, “the cost is too high, the reward is too low” and therefore your behaviour will be modified to fit the situation you may have been able to avoid in the first place.


Paying yourself first has long been a financial best practice for many business owners from a pay-day perspective. It’s a basic idea that ensures you compensate yourself before you pay the bills so that you have something to show for the work you’ve completed. It always sounds easier than it is sometimes, but there is merit in the practice.



Now, while money is a necessity that will help buy you subsistence, it’s not the only necessity. Paying yourself first can also come in the form of time. A day can be typically carved out into thirds, made up of 8 hours each. One third is usually spent sleeping. Another third is typically spent working (or at school). That leaves anywhere between 6-8 hours (depending on the pandemic aided blended work/school day) that is made up of related and unrelated transitions and transactions. A transition is moving from one activity to another. A transaction is an exchange or touchpoint you may have with someone, something, or even yourself. You can transition while having transactions. For example, getting from school or work to home where you do homework, send a few work e-mails, prep lunches for the next day, pay bills, get gas for the car, clean the bathroom, call your dad, fix the faucet, send a tweet, drop off the kids at dance, and so on until it is bedtime.


If there was a time when we want to pay ourselves, we typically think of that last third of the day. The challenge is that during that third, transitions and transactions can be more fluid, unpredictable, and not always consistent from day to day.



Thinking back to Homans theory and if the cost is too high and the reward too low, it’s possible that you will eventually shut-down, break-down, or go bankrupt if you don’t find a way to pay yourself from a social and mental health perspective. Maybe it’s in the morning before work, at lunch, in-between dance drop-off and lunch-making, after piano lessons, before supper, or close to bedtime. There’s no rule on when you pay yourself, but deciding that you will do it, helps it actually happen.


Paying yourself first helps avoid emotional bankruptcy while lowering your costs and increasing your rewards.  


This is an opinion article by Guido Piraino of  The Monthly Social Podcast. It may also be heard on The Path Radio Mix Online. You can read other opinion articles on the blog page.


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