I recently read that the average family waste approximately 30% of their household income on unexamined spending. To me, this is crazy – but unfortunately, my mindful spending habits are a more recent discovery, so it also struck a chord.
Like many of you I grew up in a society where we don’t really ever talk about money. And I firmly believe that this is why I have so many friends who end up waking up on a Monday morning, unmotivated before they even open their eyes to go to work for more money because their bank account balance is already making their tummy wrench from the weekend before.
Money is slipping through our fingers like sand. But it’s not sand. It’s pure, hard-earned cash. I am mother. I work full-time, I have debts up to my ears from years of poor money management but even more so from not understanding money and how to manage it. This past year I’ve moved twice, come home to letters I’d rather not open, taken phone calls I’d rather not take and pushed down financial worries that kept me up at night until I eventually couldn’t push them down further.
My anxiety and worry about money; where it should come from, how to make more of it and making my cash go further has taken me on a long journey. This journey made me see that managing my own finances and getting out from down under is a lot more simple than I personally made it.
Mindful Spending: How to Budget to Achieve Your Financial Goals
In this post I am sharing the first steps of becoming more conscious of where your money is going, how you really should think of your spending.
- Create your Monthly Budget.
- Define your Budget Categories and Monthly Allowance.
- Track your Daily Spending habits.
- Build a Mindful Spending approach around where you’re most likely to let your financial habits slip.
- Set Financial Milestones and identify your Goals.
Mindful Spending refers to: little daily changes to your financial habits- that really do add up to create the extra cash you need to achieve your goals – whatever they may be.
So whether you’re wanting to save for something truly life changing, like a down payment for your dream home, a travel experience of a lifetime or perhaps just want more money-than-month left come next payday. The place to start is creating and sticking to a budget – whatever your financial goals.
The key to ensure success with your budget isn’t really between having a monthly or a daily budget, it’s about having both. Your monthly budget is your overall goal, but it’s your mindful spending, aka. money-management during each day throughout the month that will help you achieve it.
Track Your Monthly Expenses
The first step would be to track your expenses for at least a month. Gaining clarity in how and where you’re spending your money can be quite a revelation in itself. Before you have the opportunity to start breaking the bad habits, you need to first identify the root-cause of your spending- emotional or psychological.
There are many ways to track your expenses, from budget apps for your smartphones to spreadsheets, but I feel that we create a real connection with pure paper – straight up cash notes, or in this case bank statements. So to speed this process up, get hold of your bank statements for at least the past month and arm yourself with a highlighter pen or two. Be ruthless. Every expense need to be accounted for. Every single one. The morning coffee, the afternoon snack and the bus ticket when your car broke down – and yes, the expense of getting your car fixed again. The more things you consider to be minor expenses, the more they really do add up at the end of the month.
Whilst tracking your previous expenses will take an hour or so in the afternoon, the yield for the time spent will be rewarded in creating a monthly – and daily – budget that is achievable for your goals.
Set a Daily Allowance
Daily allowance comes from how much money you have left at the end of the month. The goal is simple; ensuring our end result is to have more-money-than-month left.
Step 2 is not about dividing your wage in 31. To complete step 2, you need to focus on what you need to pay before you can spend. You don’t touch a single penny before you’ve paid yourself first and allocated some money into savings, credit cards, loans and bills. If the big monthly expenses are not automated to come out on payday (which ideally it should!), you need to move that money into another account or savings where you cannot accidentally spend it.
Now you can create your monthly budget based on spending categories that work for you. clothes, coffee, dining out is all fine – as long as it’s budgeted and allocated for. Set you’re category monthly allowance and immediately avoid wasting your hard-earned cash by dividing the money into your daily allowance. Practice discipline by adhering to the daily allowance set at the beginning of each month. Your allowance for each category will fluctuate throughout the year as holidays and life events happen, but once planned – stick to it.
Practice Mindful Spending
I’m certain you’ve all heard about – or know someone or somebody’s aunt – who’s implemented ‘mindfulness‘ in their life. Whether they decided to take a mindful approach to work, eating, sleeping or generally restructure the way they think and experience their surroundings. I’ll be the first person to hold up my hand and call myself out as a sceptic.
But here me out. If I could pass just one thing I’ve learned (the hard way!) on to you, it’s that even the most advanced spending plan won’t see your financial situation flourish if your spending is out of control due to emotional or psychological reasons.
Mindfulness, in it’s core, is about being conscious, creating awareness and presence. It’s not about deprivation, but appreciation. It’s about having control without feeling like your surroundings are controlling you. Mindfulness is about being aware and making choices for yourself not only when you have to, but also when you want to. Yes, you’ve probably heard a spiel or two about being more mindful of your actions and their impact – but have you ever thought about what it would mean to apply these very same principles to boost your finances and change the way you think about money?
Mindful Money-Management is about making things easier, not taking on more work. Being mindful of where your cash is going will help you realise your motivation for spending in the first place – emotional or psychological, and simply take charge of the process before your money is gone.
Create and Define Financial Goals
Having big dreams is awesome. But the truth is, big dreams usually come a need for larger finances. If you’re just now starting to implement a budget, I’d recommend you set small goals. Why? Whilst on the one hand a small goal is definitely achievable – and a quick win – on the other hand small goals work just like small expenses; they quickly add up to larger sums.
By now you should have your Daily Allowance all worked out, but just like going over your daily allowance can be tough – coming in under it can be a blessing in disguise. Try not to see it as having over-budgeted and quickly try to stove the difference into another category. Instead, put the extra quid or two towards your goal and keep working every day to achieve it. It’ll be sooner than you think.
Q: Have you ever gone down to the nitty-gritty and created a Daily Allowance in your Monthly Budget?
I loved writing this post and sharing my ’31-Day Mindful Spending Tracker’ with you.
Remember, my ’31-Day Mindful Spending Tracker’ is a PDF that I made and use. It’s absolutely FREE for you to Download and use as you wish. Please take a moment to share your thoughts below.