May Day or Mayday: Which is it for Your Money?

May Day or Mayday - picture of life buoy on a pole at the beach

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When I was a kid, one of my favorite days of the year was May Day.

Now, I understand that May Day is a regional thing, so let me explain.

May Day is basically a spring “celebration” that takes place on May 1st. In some respects, it’s similar to Halloween, but the giving happens in reverse. Children create “May Day” baskets full of candy. Then, they leave them on the doorstep of their friend’s houses, ring the doorbell, and run like the dickens to get out of the area. If the person giving the basket is caught, they are given a kiss.

As a little boy, you can imagine that I definitely did not want any girl germs to be passed my way. But candy baskets and a fun game of chase, THAT – my friends – is living!

While many of you have probably never heard of May Day, the term “mayday” is much more familiar. You know, the international radio signal that pilots and ship captains use when they’re in distress. As in, “Mayday, mayday, we’re going down.”

Yeah, that mayday.


So what the heck does this have to do with money?

Well, in honor of May Day, I wanted to ask you a question: Are your finances celebrating May Day or calling out “Mayday?” Are you receiving the gifts of good planning, or are you in distress? Here are a few ways you might be able to tell.

Your Finances May Be Calling Out “Mayday” If…

You’ve Failed to Track Your ExpensesTracking your spending is one the most important thing you can do to keep your money on track. It’s also the best way to determine if your money ship has sprung a leak. By tracking expenses, you can see how all of your money is being spent. It provides a concrete picture of the good (or bad) choices you’ve made. If you’re not tracking what you spend, you could be in trouble without even knowing it. Start tracking them now or your call of “Mayday” could be too late! In areas you are spending too much always check out Rakuten for cash back offers on purchases!

You’re Not on a Budget – When you don’t control your money, that means it controls you. And let me tell you, money isn’t a very good pilot. But, when you take command of the cockpit, you can follow the flight plan and steer your finances to safety. That’s all accomplished by getting on a budget. You see, a budget isn’t a restrictive tool that blocks you from where you want to go. It’s your guide – a map – that provides a plan to help you get exactly what you want. So, grab hold of the wheel and guide your dollars through the friendly skies.

You’re Drowning in Debt – Here’s the deal: If you have debt or are adding debt over and above your mortgage, you’re almost certainly living beyond your means. That’s harsh, but true. If you can’t pay cash you can’t afford it. The thing is, debt will sink your money ship faster than anything else. When you’re constantly taking on debt, you torpedo the power of your paycheck. Instead of being able to save money or using it to get what you really want, you’re forced to use your paycheck to bail you out. That means you have to work harder and longer just to pay off your debt. Destroy your debt now and right your money ship.

You’re Not Saving for Retirement – Maybe you’re doing well with everything else, but for some reason you’re not saving for retirement. You may not be calling “mayday” now, but just wait. The time to start saving for retirement was yesterday. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to right your retirement ship. Correct your course now. Start saving at least 10% of your income toward retirement and avoid disaster later.

Turn “Mayday” into “May Day”

No matter what your financial situation looks like now, you can still turn “mayday” into May Day. All it takes is a little commitment mixed with a pinch of effort. I mean, you can spare 30 minutes a month to live the rest of your life in comfort, right?

These days, there are dozens of tools and apps that can help! Our favorite is Personal Capital. We’ve used it for years, and we love it! Wanna know the best part? It is FREE!

Yep. It’s free.

Just sign up for your free account and get access to some of the best tools around. Personal Capital makes tracking your spending easy with their expense tracking feature. Make sure you’re building wealth with their net worth tracker. To top it off, they’ve got a retirement calculator and an investment analyzer that searches for ways to reduce fees on all of your investments. And yeah, it’s FREE.

Seriously, we can’t recommend it enough. Just click here to sign up for your free Personal Capital account and get started right away.

The Bottom Line

No matter where you are on your financial journey, you can turn it around. Even if you’re calling “mayday” now, things can get better. Use the tips above to turn your mayday into May Day starting today!

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  1. I remember May Day growing up! Didn’t realize that was regional though.

    I cash attest to personal capital as well, great tool to help you from calling out “mayday!”.

    The Green Swan

    1. Apparently, it is. I mention May Day to my friends where I live now and get blank stares 🙂

  2. Hahah love the name of this post and overall theme – so clever! Right now, I am in “get out of debt” mode, which is hard, but will absolutely be worth it. Blogging has changed everything for me!

    1. Thanks Natalie! Any time you can make extra money, it definitely helps. As you know, that is only part of the equation though!

  3. It’s May Day for my money. 🙂

    I tracked every dollar I spent last month and have a lot of insight on where I could cut back my spending. I feel empowered this month.

  4. Ha ha, love the theme of the post and can attest to those blank stares you get. I believe May Day also has roots to Labor Day somehow. Regardless, thankful my “mayday” is years behind me.

    1. Not sure on the Labor Day roots, but I’m glad our “mayday” is behind us too! 🙂

  5. I’ve never heard of May Day, but that’s definitely what we’re celebrating now! I remember “mayday.” That was a scary time! So blessed to be on track financially, but it took work. Great article, Greg. I’ve been away from the blogosphere for a while, and on a sabbatical recently, but I’m back to reading all of my friends’ blogs. I like what you’ve done here since you started writing. You have a gift for it. Of course, Holly does as well, but everyone knows that! lol

  6. Couldn’t agree more than tracking spending, having a budget, and paying down debt are essential to avoiding financial disaster. What would you say when people discuss tracking and budgeting as alternative approaches? We use a hybrid but I know some are firmly in one camp or the other. Is it just semantics?

    1. Hey Kalie, I think you can definitely use a hybrid approach – which is kind of what we do now. However, they are technically two separate things. Budgeting is telling your money where to go. Tracking your spending is watching what you actually do with it. In other words, a budget is the plan. Tracking your spending is gathering info on the results.

  7. Great analogy! We’re still in the phase of paying off as much debt as possible, so we spend as little as possible. All of our monthly expenses go on one credit card and we track it that way, instead of creating of a budget. However, I have started to fantasize about when the debt is paid off. We will definitely need to start budgeting then – especially with how to allocate our income towards other debts (student loans, mortgages) versus investments.

  8. This post brought back some childhood memories, Greg. It’s really interesting how you celebrate May 1. In our country, it is a labor day and there are open-site recruitment everywhere.

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