The Turned on Budget
Guest Contributor; Rob Bennett, creator of a stock cycles calculator called “The Returns-Sequence Reality Checker.”
Most People Hate Budgets
I love mine. I believe that that’s what makes me an effective saver.
Have you ever tried to lose weight? I have found that forcing myself to avoid certain foods doesn’t work. What does work is engaging in regular exercise. You know why? I enjoy exercise. So I do it. When you keep doing good things over and over again, in time you get results. To keep doing things over and over again, you have to like those things. (Barb’s comment; Or if you don’t particularly like the activity, you like the result)
So I don’t believe you are likely ever to become an effective saver for so long as you see it as an effort in self-denial. If you see your budget as a sour-faced schoolmarm pointing a boney finger of disapproval at you, you are never going to respond well to the feedback your budget is sending you.
For your budget to do its job, you need to be on speaking terms with it. For your budget to get you to the truly magical places to which highly successful savers go, you need to do even better than that. You need to come to like your budget, to think of it as a friend, to feel open enough around it to tell it your secrets. It’s when you really come to care about your budget that you will find the money management experience being transformed for you from a chore to a joy.
Is it Possible to Like Your Budget?
To make this happen, you need to come up with a different reason to save than the conventional one of financing an old-age retirement.
All money management decisions are choices as to whether to put money to use making your life better today (to spend) or to put money aside so that it can be used to make your life better tomorrow (to save). The problem with the conventional saving advice is that it puts the tomorrow too far out in the distance. At age 35, you won’t be retiring for three decades. Compare a benefit you receive today with one you will not receive for three decades and the one that you receive today is always going to exert a stronger pull.
Saving doesn’t have to be directed to financing an old-age retirement. Saving
buys financial freedom. Financial freedom can be put to all sorts of exciting purposes while you are in your 20s and 30s and 40s and 50s.
Saving could permit you to start your own business. Saving could permit you to stay at home with your kids until they start school. Saving could permit you to pay your mortgage off early. Saving could permit you to build a security fund large enough so that you wouldn’t need to worry about losing your job anymore. Saving could permit you to make a career change which would cause you to earn less at work that brought you greater fulfillment.
What if you decided from this day forward to save to achieve a goal like one of those, a goal of intense personal concern? If you are anything at all like me, you would soon find yourself saving more money than you imagined possible during the years when you directed your saving energies to achieving the boring, old, conventional saving goal.
Save for the conventional goal and your budgeting project is a series of negative experiences. “You don’t earn enough money to take a two-week vacation, cut it back to one!” your budget shouts at you. “Forget eating out three times per week, you cannot afford it!” your budget insists. “You need to do something about that movie habit of yours,” your budget demands.
Nag, nag, nag.
It’s all wasted words because you have your fingers in your ears.
What if it was your dream to be mortgage-free and you made it your aim to pull that off as quickly as possible?
At that point, spending less on your vacation would be a way to achieve your goal sooner. At that point, taking only one week of vacation would be your idea, not your budget’s. At that point, watching fewer movies would no longer be a sacrifice but something that just had to be done for you to gain a bigger prize — that wonderful feeling of empowerment and freedom that comes from having no mortgage payment over your head for the rest of your days.
Most money management advice is numbers-oriented. The numbers matter. So there is a certain sense in that. But my experience is that man is The Rationalizing Animal. We can figure our way around any set of rules we establish to block ourselves from doing what we really want to do.
A turned-on budget is a budget that works. You don’t turn a budget on with numbers, you turn it on with emotions. You need to care deeply, passionately, intensely about your saving goal. When you care about the saving goal, you don’t try to escape the dictates of your budget. You find yourself directing your mental energies towards coming up with new means of getting the numbers to work.
I love my budget. For a good reason. My budget helps me to get out of life what I want to get out of life.
My budget is my friend.
My budget turns me on.