The Psychology of the Spending Plan
The word “budget” gives me the creepy crawlies, but that doesn’t mean that I’m irresponsible with my money. I’m all about replacing words and phrases which don’t serve me well or traumatize me.
My painful hips, I call “my fair ladies” instead of “the worthless aching menaces that won’t let me sleep,” so as to stop adding negative feelings to the pain. I say that I am “particular” instead of picky. I call my dog’s droppings “presents” in my head so that it’s easier to go out and pick them up.
And this year, I read a Wall Street Journal article called The Trouble With Budgets and I started calling my budget the “Spending Plan.”
I know my inner workings well enough to play some tricks on my head. My heart wants everything it desires while my rational mind knows how much income there is this month. When my heart and my rational mind sit down to write a budget together, I either have an anxiety attack, need to take a nap, or run out to get Ben and Jerrys “Chunky Monkey.”
The phrase “Spending plan” makes my heart say “ooh, wow, I get to SPEND some money!” and my rational mind says, “Ooh, a plan. I love to plan things.” It’s a very rewarding partnership.
These days, everyone who watches Oprah at the gym knows about the power of positive thinking in terms of money. Re-framing your thoughts on money helps and a great way to start if this is daunting, is just to change your language. There are other ways of replacing words and tricking yourself to help your mind feel more available to being financially responsable. You can actually change all of the planning-related words to make them sound friendlier and less stuffy especially if you’ve had bad experiences with creating a budget.
Income/wages= “Love” as in “Show me some Love.”
Expenses= “Desires” (even if rent is more a need than a desire, this helps me remember that I am putting money into something I truly want and appreciate).
Debt Management= “Building Credit” (This helps me look toward the future instead of feeling guilty about the past since paying off debt truly increases your credit score!)
Savings= “Future Spending” (This works better for me since I had relatives who “saved” and acted like scrooge until they died and left us an awkward and unmanageable trust.
Smartaboutmoney.org has a brilliant site on the four steps of making a spending plan with printable pages to help you get organized. When you print out the worksheets, you can cross out and re-write the words if you like the little tricks mentioned above. The page has a positive spin on the purpose of thing kind of plan; “A spending plan is not meant to be a strict budget. Instead, it’s a guide that will help you take control of your financial future and, ultimately, reach your goals.”
Some of my other tricks for budgeting are:
1. If you are scrimping in order to have a particular item or a dream future, put a picture of it by the desk where you write your budget, and another one in your wallet! Mine is a little trite: a beach house.
2. Do two drafts of your spending plan. Write one and then come back to it the next day and edit it a little. Notice why you changed it.
3. Don’t write a spending plan when you’re hungry, depressed, or while watching the L.Word. One written when you are calm and with a real-live perspective on finances will work much better.
4. Let your partner or best friend see your budget if you respect and trust him or her. A loved one can give you perspective on your spending and gently help you stick to your budget when you’re out and about and making decisions.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’re not perfectly balanced, try again next month. Remember: at least you’re doing better than the U.S. Military.