Get More Control Over Money
Creating a Balanced Life with Less Money Pressures
by Vicki Handfield
Spend and Save Wisely
We have all spent too much money at times, some more than others. It is important, in any economy to spend wisely, and save money for a rainy day, when possible. But during recessions, it's critical.
Our Get Healthy, Get Happy strategies are interactive. When money pressures get to you, exercise, better eating habits and improved ‘self-care’ skills can help you reduce unnecessary spending, impulse buying in particular.
Emotionally Driven Spending
Often, spending choices are emotionally-driven. One can make rational choices if one waits and thinks. That is the key to making healthier spending choices. This is something that most people know, but don’t always use.
It's best to review your past spending choices and see what may have contributed to making a poor decision. It's also good to discuss choices with a spouse, significant other or good friend.
The best way to get control over money and your spending is to write down a budget. It is extremely helpful and what I recommend to all.
To start, make a list of your monthly bills and amount, in chronological order, with the date each is due. Include bills that come due less than monthly, such as sewer or water bills. Finally, identify spending that is necessary, but not billed directly. This might include groceries, children’s activities, personal care, etc. One of the benefits of doing this is you now know how much money you need each month to pay all your bills and cover the expenses that you feel are essential.
Store this list on your computer, update it as changes occur and print it out monthly. Use this list to track your spending each month. Checking it once a week should be adequate, although doing it more often in the beginning helps to establish the habit. When you look at your bills regularly, it helps you make better decisions about additional spending.
Partners and Money
When money issues arise, it causes stress in households. Couples fight over money. The plan is to reduce the frequency and intensity of these disagreements. Often one partner handles the bills. If this is working well, there is no need to make a change. But if there are frequent arguments, it must become more of an active partnership. By this I mean, the bill-paying should become something done by both, at least for awhile.
Often the non-bill-paying partner does not have a good idea of how money is spent and does the excess spending. Sometimes it is the bill-paying partner who overspends, since the other one doesn't pay any attention to it. Both of these situations are detrimental to the relationship and can be helped by doing the job together and creating a budget to work from.
Together, decide on a time to sit down every week and review the finances, including paychecks, bills paid, bills due and spending choices/issues. Do this amicably, so that it does not become, or continue to be, the source of frequent fighting. If you begin to argue, make a "time-out" sign, walk away and return later to continue the discussion. Make an agreement now to respect the "time-out" sign, with the understanding that it means talking later to make further efforts to resolve the issue. This process will probably be difficult in the beginning, but if you do it regularly, it will improve finances and relationship issues a great deal.
As we work on improving your spending habits, bring your budget list to your visits with me. We will review your budget and the areas of strength and weakness. We will discuss your financial history, the good times and the bad times. You are probably well aware of things that contributed to the bad times, but may never have actually talked about it. People often are more comfortable talking about sex than their finances! But they find that talking brings a lot of relief, especially when they are told that they are far from alone! As I said, bringing things out in the open brings relief and this is an important first step to making positive changes.
Once we have begun the discussion and identified existing habits, we will be able to set some early goals for change. Often, these are learning to cut back on excessive spending. In order to accomplish this it is very helpful to find things to do which bring enjoyment but are not expensive.
This is a lot like learning to eat healthier versus dieting. Deprivation does not work well! When we deprive ourselves, we tend to revolt and do the forbidden things after a period of deprivation. It works a lot better to 'import' the healthier, enjoyable things, often activities.
Our society has become too passive, almost inert! We have too many 'couch potatoes'. Some time relaxing on the couch is great; too much is destructive. When people spend too much time doing little or nothing, it adversely affects self-esteem. In other words, we feel like crap when we don't do much. Unfortunately, things like watching TV and playing video games can be addictive. In the beginning, I recommend slowly reducing the amount of time that you spend doing these things and slowly increase time spent doing more active, enjoyable things.
It is difficult to break habits and build new ones! But it can be done, a little at a time. It is vital to identify things that you can do that are still pretty easy, enjoyable and affordable, but may be things you have avoided while becoming too dependent on the couch potato-isms. I suggest beginning to do more cooking at home. This does two things. First it saves money, and second, it builds enjoyable, useful habits. It is also often more difficult to venture outside the home when you are accustomed to hanging out at home a lot. So in the beginning, it helps to find things to do at home, so it's still easy to find your way back to the couch.
It is very important to find good rewards for changing behavior patterns to healthier habits. When it comes to spending less, people often think it is difficult if not impossible to find things that don't cost a lot of money. However, the reality is there are tons of things to do which are not expensive!
I'll give you a comprehensive list of possibilities, but here are some examples — cooking at home (mentioned above), finding inexpensive hobbies, spending time with friends doing cheap things, listening to music, seeing or doing artwork, engaging in exercise or outdoor activities, taking adult education classes, gardening (seasonal, but doable for many months of the year), joining volunteer organizations or civic groups, or taking classes for personal growth or career development.
In order to move ahead, please make some choices of new things to try. Write down your list and bring it to your next visit with me and we can make a plan to ensure that you actually follow through with these positive changes! By doing these things, you can bring down your expenses and increase your sense of satisfaction with your life, along with relief from financial pressure.
If you have questions about these money issue tips or would like to know more about my 6 step plan to help with lasting life experience improvement, please let me know by contacting me and I will be glad to help you create the positive healthy, happy changes you want to make. As you make these changes, you will be pleasantly surprised at how powerful they are for you.