As an Accredited Financial Counselor with more than five years of experience helping clients create, and maintain, household budgets, I have seen many clients fail to reach their full financial potential because of one very simple reason: a toxic attitude. Unfortunately, in today’s society, the word ‘budget’ has a negative connotation and feels very restrictive or confining.
How can you create a budget that works for you?
Budgeting is seen as either a form of torture or an activity that only “poor” people need to do. Both of these assumptions are completely false. In fact, the exact opposite is true! A budget isn’t a jail cell that keeps you from living the life you wanted, it is actually the key that sets you free to begin your journey towards achieving your goals. A budget not only lays out your dreams and plans for the future, but it also serves as a road map to attaining these visions!
Now that we all understand why having a budget is so important to attaining financial freedom, let’s move onto discovering three innovative ways to change your perspective on budgeting!
1. Make the budgeting process fun!
Instead of cramming budgeting in ten minutes before bed after a long and stressful day, set aside a solid block of time (I would recommend at least 1-2 hours) when you know you won’t be distracted. If you have a spouse or significant other, make it a “date night”- pour a glass of wine, pop popcorn or whatever else will help make the experience more enjoyable. Or, if you are flying solo, hit up your favorite coffee shop or wine bar, listen to your favorite band and begin budgeting.
By adding activities that you enjoy doing to the budgeting process, you will not only create a positive experience in the moment, but you will also create enjoyable memories. Both of which increase the likelihood of you continuing to budget, and ultimately, succeeding!
2. Focus on the positive
The old “is the glass half full or half empty?” quandary applies to budgeting as well. The best news is that it doesn’t matter how big your glass (or budget in this case) is, what matters is that you are maximizing it. Instead of dwelling on what you can’t afford, focus on figuring out what small steps you can take to achieve your goals. Try and find the areas you don’t mind cutting back on so you can allocate more funds to the things you love. For example, one of my clients loved attending concerts and music festivals but could never seem to afford the tickets to see her favorite bands. After reviewing his budget, we found that he was spending an abnormally large amount of money on groceries. Together we came up with different strategies to help reduce this expense (shopping the sales, not shopping when hungry and buying generic products instead of name-brand) and set a goal of reducing this expense by 25%. At first, it was tough for my client to acclimate to this new way of grocery shopping. But since he knew that all of the money he saved by passing up the Oreo’s would directly fund his concert tickets to Jack Johnson, it was much easier to pass up the unnecessary snacks. Instead of focusing on the negative (what he couldn’t buy) my client was able to clearly envision the positive (attending a concert), which led to great success!
3. Use a Strengths-based approach
Strengths-Based Budgeting (SBB) is in essence creating a financial environment that focuses on utilizing the unique talents and strengths of its creators. SBB strives to utilize individuals’ natural style, which is largely based upon their unique personality, experience, and areas of talent. An individual can discover their areas of natural talent through tools such as the Via Character Strengths or Gallup’s StrengthsFinder Assessment. Both online tools help individuals understand their unique talents and how to leverage them to become more effective in their personal and professional life.
The assessments are grounded in decades of solid research based on two fundamental assumptions:
- Each person’s talents are enduring and unique.
- Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of their greatest strength.
Instead of pouring time and energy into marginally improving our weaknesses, we should clearly identify our innate talents and be intentional about bringing those talents to bear. For example, an individual that is highly deliberative will approach budgeting very systematically, will anticipate many obstacles, and be very focused on the details. On the other hand strongly futuristic individual may not see obstacles, but they will be able to energize themselves with a clear vision of a financially secure future. Neither approach is “right” or “wrong”, just unique to the individual. When individuals are operating in their sweet spot they are proven to be more competent and effective. Positive psychology based assessments gives individuals’ specific knowledge, language, and tools to develop their talents into Strengths, which can be leveraged to increase engagement, productivity and profitability.
Strengths-Based Budgeting allows individuals to better understand, engage, and utilize their greatest talents in order to become financially fit and create budgets that enable them to reach their goals!
As you can see, budgeting doesn’t have to be an antiquated,soul-sucking process. With the right attitude and perspective, budgeting can be a lot of fun! So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make your financial dreams a reality!!