Now, I’m not talking about the easy figures, like the mortgage, power bill, car payment, and insurance. Those are things that recur so they’re simple to keep track of. I’m talking about the bills that make you say, Ouch! New tires, prescriptions, extra stuff for the kids – and boy, do all those unexpected items add up. Then there’s something I call the end-cap expenditure. You might recognize them as big-store, end-of-the-aisle-$19.99 deals that call your name. Or maybe it’s those red-tag-takeanother- thirty-percent-off items that beckon you to take them home.
Usually it’s something you’ve really needed (okay wanted) for oh so long – like the last 15 seconds. And of course, the deals are incredible, or the bargain is just too good to pass up! So you succumb, once again, and by the end of the month, you’ve dismantled your budget – one unbelievable bargain at a time. When it comes to this type of discretionary spending, we tend to walk around in an unconscious or a semiconscious state. Marketing ploys at the grocery or sporting good store, giant wholesaler, or flashing on our computer screens rob us of the joys of money management.
So how can you get on track? First, identify one short-term desire – for instance, a weekend away for you and your spouse, or a computer upgrade for the family. Your goal becomes saving $350 within x-number of months. A shared desire becomes a practical tool to help you stop unconscious, unnecessary spending. Thereafter, every time you’re tempted to pick up something not on your list, you can remind yourself that the $19.99 will have a more meaningful, long-term impact when applied toward your goal, versus an impulse purchase.
By establishing an attainable goal, in a short period of time you’ll be rewarded and encouraged to continue the process. The keys are recognition and control, which you develop once you decide to spend money smarter and with purpose. This practice not only supports a family budget and provides for future fun, it also creates accountability and fosters team spirit. The realization of a reward helps you want to repeat the activity of budget-keeping and savings-building.
It’s important to note that this practice relies on shifting attitudes more than shifting money. What do most of my clients say when they accomplish this several times in a row? We had no idea how much those things were robbing us. Impulse spending was harming long-term relationships in our family. Becoming conscious of cash flow and its link to monthly budgeting – as well as working together for savings – can have a positive impact on your quality of life. Likewise, your children learn how to be good stewards of limited resources.
So get busy. Establish a plan, work toward a goal with special rewards, and watch your attitude and habits shift as you truly gain control of where your money goes. Before long you’ll discover, budget doesn’t have to be a bad word.