Budgeting, tracking, and saving money are just a few of the fun things we get to do as adults. Do you do those things in a way that leaves room for investing in yourself, in your goals, or do you look at your budget with an attitude of scarcity, that there couldn’t possibly be room in the budget?
Let’s talk about how you can be intentional about how you allocate money toward your goals, regardless of your current budgeting habits.
When you budget for your rent or your other regular monthly expenses, you’d better believe you find room for them in the budget. Budgeting for a goal and investing in yourself should be just the same, and you can find ways to fit them into your monthly budget as well.
We are like liquid in a container - we fill the space we have. You may think you don’t have “enough” to invest in yourself. However, when there is excess cash on hand in any given month that you don’t have a plan for, you’ll likely end up spending it on something else. If you plan ahead to allocate that excess to achieving your goals, you’ll be amazed to discover how much you could have been investing in yourself all along.
Be intentional about reviewing your overall goal and aligning it with your budget. You can do this by breaking your goal down into smaller objectives to reach and determining the total financial cost of each. Once you select a target date for reaching each objective, you can break that cost down into monthly payments you’ll be making toward it.
Those monthly contributions are either going into an account that you don’t touch until it’s time to pay for your goal, or they are contributing to some sort of monthly payment plan that you’ve set up with whoever it is you are paying to meet your objective.
This way, your goal fits into your budget just like any other monthly expense, and you’re being proactive instead of reacting and springing for a cost you hadn’t budgeted for. When you live into this new budget, that’s when you start investing in yourself, in your goals.
A good budget is a flexible tool for you to use to reach your goals. You’re just keeping track of money going in and going out.
If the monthly amount you’ve planned to set aside is too high, remember that you just made up that target date. Either move back the target date for your goals, think of ways to reduce other monthly expenses, or think of creative ways to increase your income to help meet the target.
You have the power to adjust and customize both your goals and your budgets to your needs.
As you live into your new budget, schedule monthly or weekly checkins to track your expenses, your progress toward your goals, and to make sure you’re following through with your plans. Adjust your budget as you track actual versus predicted expenses to be as accurate as possible.
Sometimes you may go over on expenses in one month. It happens! You may have had an unanticipated emergency, or visited family and spent money on an excursion that wasn’t in the budget.
When this happens, it’s important to pay off any debt incurred, rework your budget if needed, and stop the bleeding before it turns into a real problem. Don’t simply put things on a credit card when they start to exceed your budget. That debt will need to be paid eventually, and you don’t want your goal to be tainted with the perils of unnecessary debt.
Can budgeting for your goals and financial management in this way really be this simple? Yes, it can. This is all a math equation: keeping track of money coming in and money going out. The hard part is sticking to your budget and being disciplined about prioritizing your goals over other tempting expenses. Try asking yourself a daily check-in question during your regular presence practice, if you have one: “How will my spending decisions today reflect the person I would like to be and the goals I want to reach?”
When you get used to this, you may find that this method of managing money in pursuit of a goal is like discovering a superpower you didn’t know you had. Use your powers for good, for working towards goals and feeling fulfilled everyday, and not for the needless, mindless accumulation of superficial things. Remember - money alone does not buy happiness.
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