Several years ago, I rediscovered knitting, a skill my grandmother had tried to teach me in my preteen years. In the past 8 or 9 years, I’ve enjoyed making countless scarves, hats, pairs of socks, and handbags. I’ve even knitted the obligatory unfinished sweater (Surely every knitter has one of those!) I get a real sense of satisfaction in knitting something I can wear or to give to a loved one. While I’m hardly an expert knitter, I’ve learned some lessons from knitting that are easily applied to money management. Here are 5 ways knitting is like managing your money.
It’s not complicated, but can be used to do amazingly complex things.
Knitting is basically knitting and purlling. Purling is basically knitting backwards. The steps are the same. What makes knitting patterns complex is how you pattern your knitting and purling, when and whether you add or subtract stitches, whether you change yarns or the size of your needles, how you join it together, and whether everything stays in its original order. The more variations you add, the harder it is to keep track of what you are doing, but you are still just knitting and purling.
Managing your money isn’t complicated either. Whether you are Mark Zuckerberg or someone just bussing tables, managing your money comes down to questions about how you earn money and how you use it. Do you work? Do you have stocks or rental property? Do you save money for retirement? How much do you spend on food, or housing, or cars, or trips to the movies? It’s mostly about input and output, and the timing of both.
It’s easy to make mistakes before a pattern develops, but that’s when they can be fixed most easily.
Early in a knitting project, it’s hard to get a feel for a pattern and very easy to make mistakes. After you get going, the pattern starts to develop and mistakes become easier to see. Unfortunately, the easiest time to fix a mistake is right after you’ve made it, and the easiest time to find the mistake is several rows later. You can either tear out the work back to the mistake, reach in with a crochet hook and try to fix it (which never seems to look exactly right for me), or live with the mistake.
It’s easy to make mistakes with your money, too, especially if you can’t see the patterns. Regular budgeting and expense tracking is crucial in helping you catch problems in your money management in their early stages. Not doing so may mean that you end up in deep financial holes that are difficult to escape.
It takes patience, practice, and care to build something really valuable.
It’s relatively easy to knit well enough to put together a simple scarf, but my inspiration to take on knitting again was a beautiful book of Aran sweaters. I wanted one of those complicated heavy wool sweaters, but knew as a beginning sweater it was way beyond my capabilities. Nine years later, it probably still is, though I have the materials and pattern for a cabled vest I’m itching to try. I’ve spent years developing my skills so that I can knit a proper gauge, follow a more complex pattern, and knit something fine. I know that if I want my pieces to look good, I have to take my time to do things correctly, and I may have to start over a few times to make sure I’m knitting something I’ll be proud to wear or share. If I try to rush or take shortcuts, I’ll end up with a bunch of tangles or a sloppy piece of cloth instead of the carefully handcrafted work I’m trying to achieve.
Developing a strong financial position doesn’t happen overnight either. It takes a lot of patience to build your investments and benefit from compounding interest. It takes a lot of study to gain the knowledge to manage your financial affairs wisely so that your assets are protected from various risks. I know that if I want to be in a good place later, I have to put in patience, practice and care with my money.
Not every project needs to be a big project.
Knitting a big project is fun and ends up impressive, but it can also be daunting to work on something for months and months. When the big project gets overwhelming, sometimes I need to put it aside for awhile and work on something I can finish more quickly. Sometimes I need something manageable for a while so i can go back to the big project later. (I’ll get back to that sweater one day!)
Big financial projects like paying off big debts or saving for retirement can be overwhelming too. Sometimes you need a quick win to help you move forward and to give you confidence to try more ambitious . Maybe you should pat yourself on the back for making progress on paying off a big loan or putting just a little more in your 401K each month, even if you aren’t there yet. Maybe you just managed to save enough to pay for your vacation in cash this year. Not every win needs to be big.
You don’t need to accumulate a big stash, no matter how fun it is to buy new stuff.
It’s fun to go yarn shopping. I like to imagine what I’ll do with yarn of wonderful colors or marvelous softness. Over the years, though, I’ve found that if I don’t have an actual project in mind, a lot of the yarn in my stash just sits. Even if I do have a project in mind, it might be years before I can get to it because I already have so many projects and so much yarn. It would have been a lot smarter to just buy yarn as I decide to attempt a new project, and only for that project.
Likewise, I have tons of other things around my house that I’ve bought that I don’t really need from years of buying without really thinking about it. I bought clothes that didn’t fit right, food that sounded like fun home menu items in the grocery store but never actually got made, books that I’ve never read, and countless other examples. Buying less in the past would mean have meant more room in my house and more money in the bank now. while I’ll never be stuffless, I certainly am more mindful about bringing new things into my house now.
Why Knitting is Like Managing Your Money
Knitting starts with a ball of yarn and a couple of needles. You make a few loops. Then you make a few more. You start getting a strip of yarn, or maybe a loop. Slowly, a shape emerges. Work hard and work carefully and eventually you have a hat, or a sock, or maybe even a sweater. Keep going, and eventually you’ll be proud of the comfortable clothing you’ve made.
Knitting is like managing your money because both take patience and diligence to bring good results. You won’t find success overnight. You have to keep at it, but eventually you can turn raw materials into a successful ending. So work hard, pay attention, and you can be proud of the comfortable life you’ve made.
What has your favorite hobby taught you about money?