People are much less likely to do personal budgeting and finances if they perceive it as a task instead of a lifestyle. Here are some simple tips to help you move from frustrated financer to free flowing lifestyle budgeter. Ideally, budgeting for you will be more like doing yoga than doing dishes!
1. Ask Yourself “Why”
If budgeting is going to be a lifestyle for you, you need to know your motivation. Don’t just assume “budgeting is a thing responsible, mature people do, so I need to do it!” You won’t be inspired to build, follow, and track a budget unless you identify why you’re undertaking budgeting.
Are you trying to save, become more comfortable with finances, or make sure you’re spending money where it matters? Am I in a relationship that requires I budget with a partner? Identifying why you want to budget will help you figure out how you should be budgeting and what you should care about.
2. Schedule It!
Think about how your other lifestyle choices began, how they gained momentum, and use those principles. If you run, go to the gym, make conscious healthy eating decisions, or meditate, think back to how those practices started and what works for you. Maybe you meditate whenever you’re stressed? Maybe you meditate on a schedule? Maybe you got into meditation when a friend did? Whether it’s a response to emotions, a certain schedule, or accountability, apply those same techniques to your budgeting journey.
Budgeting might be a weekly or monthly part of your routine, with a half hour or hour set aside for it. You might be the type of person who will budget spontaneously or as a response to emotions, if you begin feeling stressed about money. In that case, find ways to overcome the inertia and begin the budgeting process.
3. Budget Time Vibes
However you get to budgeting, give yourself the freedom to succeed in it. Budgeting doesn’t have to mean you sit in a dark room by candlelight scratching at paper ledgers with a #2 pencil (although hey, whatever works!).
Make sure budgeting fits your vibe. If you want to budget on paper, do it on paper. If excel is your forte, give yourself permission to jazz it up with colors and pie charts. Make sure you’ve got a good vibe going with music, coffee, or whatever fits your mood.
4. Ask Yourself “What”
Once you’re in the budget time zone and you’ve got the good vibes going, you’ll need to think back to the “why” of budgeting. Identify your goals, and find resources. Maybe you need to find some budgeting software, use Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, or print off some free, colorful budgeting sheets from Pinterest. You might need to collect paper receipts, but it might be easier to take pictures of receipts and refer to them later. What bank statements or checking statements do you need to pay attention to? Begin to set up the things you’ll accomplish and track during your budgeting journey.
5. Allow The Process to Change
Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, your budget lifestyle will change over time. If you’ve done yoga, you’ll know that what you start with is not what you end up with. Once you’ve done yoga for a few months the practice begins to look very different than it did when you started out. As you grow and learn in a task, your goals and process change. People often think that budgeting, unlike other lifestyle practices, is about rigidity and hard mathematics. But this isn’t true! Allow your budgeting “whys” and “whats” to shift over time.
Don’t simply put your head down and keep doing the same thing over and over! Allow your budgeting practice to change over time. The categories will change, the vibes will change, you might do it more or less often, it might become more or less precise. These things are okay as long as the changes are related to the first “why” of budgeting. Continually reassess the practice and the motivation.
Rinse and repeat! On your lifestyle budgeting journey, return to each of the steps, and watch your process grow with you over time. Good luck!