How do you feel about your finances? Do any of these statements reflect your own relationship with money?
“I have no idea what I’m doing! I don’t understand any of the jargon I hear other people using and it all goes over my head.”
“I’m in a lot of debt and seem to be in an endless cycle of borrowing to pay off other debt.”
“I don’t keep track of how much I’m spending and rarely look at my bank accounts. In fact, I really don’t know how much money I have.”
“I wish I had more savings and feel guilty whenever I spend money.”
I asked myself this question and found that, although I had a fairly good understanding of finance and (what I thought was) a good relationship with money – in the sense that I had no debt apart from my student loan – I wasn’t satisfied with the way I had been managing or spending my money. I had simply put the money I had earnt into the same bank accounts I had had since I was 16 (one savings and one current) with practically no interest being accumulated, I regretted quite a lot of the purchases I was making – even the amount I was spending on food – and I felt a sense of guilt and disappointment in myself that my savings weren’t at a level that I was comfortable with.
It was then that I realised that, although how much you earn obviously goes some way to assisting you with your financial goals, what you do with your money when you get it is so important.
your money mindset
Discovering what your own money mindset is will help you work out what to do with the money you already have and your future earnings.
Your attitude towards money will, naturally, be influenced by your own life experiences. These experiences could be anything from a change in circumstances to the way money was discussed within your family when you were younger (having a family who spoke openly about money could well make you feel more at ease than someone whose family never spoke about it at all, for example). That said, your money mindset is fluid. It can change simply by you wanting it to change.
To find out what your own money mindset is you’ll first need to consider how money makes you feel. For example:
Are you satisfied with your current situation? If not, what you be satisfied with? How would you feel if you were in this situation?
Does money worry you? If it does, why?
Next, consider which of these statements resonate with you:
“I save more than I spend. Planning for the future is my priority.”
“I prioritise the present rather than the future. Life is unpredictable so I might as well make sure I’m happy now.”
It’s likely that a combination of the two will be true:
“I know saving and ensuring my money is worth the equivalent amount in the future is important, but I’ll only be young once and I want to enjoy the money I earn.”
It may well be the case that the way you have managed your money to date has been influenced by this attitude. On the other hand, it may not.
You may have every intention of saving as much as you can to secure the freedom it can provide, or you may want to invest your money to ensure that it grows in line with, or above, inflation, but you may not have had the chance to work out, or you may not know, exactly how to do that.
Within this blog I will be trying to explain – in a jargon-free and easy-to-understand way – what you need to know, and I’ll be giving you some ideas as to what you should be doing with the money you’re not spending.
That said, the idea that you won’t be spending any money at all is completely unrealistic. Other than the essentials (rent, bills, food etc.) the 50/30/20 rule (which is helpful to use as a guide, as I mentioned in this post) allows for 30% of your income to be spent on so called ‘discretionary items’. In other words, you are absolutely allowed to spend money. You just need to have a strategy to ensure that the money you do spend gives you as much fulfilment as possible. Just remember that anything you don’t spend can be saved or invested though, so spending as little as possible will always help.
I’ve developed a really useful way of working out what I should spend my money on to ensure I am able to enjoy myself and live the life I want to lead whilst cutting down on the actual amount I’m spending.
The method simply requires you to choose three areas of your life which are of the utmost importance to you and to list them in order of priority.
You can take a very broad approach to this but, to get as much out of this exercise as possible, try to be as specific as you can.
Rather than writing “spending time with friends and family”, detail exactly what you want to do with them/get out of the time you spend with them (for example, “developing my relationships with family and friends by having meaningful conversations with them”). Rather than “my health”, put to paper the exact concern you find to be most important (“improving my overall fitness with a view to being about to run 5k in under 30 minutes”). I appreciate that this is really difficult though and you may have much better things to be doing with your time so the main thing is to just come up with the list. The very fact that you will be thinking about what you are doing with your money is, in itself, a step in the right direction.
This will now provide you with a focus as to how you should be spending your money. Note that this is a method that should be used alongside a saving strategy if that is your goal (I’ll be providing you with some saving strategy ideas within this blog soon).
Do not feel guilty about spending money on these three things (within reason, don’t go berserk!). If spending meaningful time with friends and family is number one on your list, don’t worry about spending money on a nice dinner or evening in the pub with your nearest and dearest if you’re able to talk and make memories. Don’t always go for the most expensive options and perhaps have one fewer drink than you usually would but don’t feel guilty about going in the first place.
However, if you do this, you must make every effort to reduce your spending on any area of your life which doesn’t feature on the list. If staying up to date with the latest fashions isn’t on that list, think twice about buying that off-the-shoulder top you spotted at full price. Instead wait for it to go into the sale before taking the plunge or just don’t get it at all.
By prioritising the things that matter to you in life you’ll prevent yourself feeling guilty for purchases that you make. Obviously this isn’t a free-pass to spend all of your money on these three things, but it’s a way of deducing where you can start to make savings without compromising the most important things in your life.
Restricting your spending to the things that really matter to you will be difficult, and will need constant re-assessment as your priorities may change on a quarterly basis, or even more regularly than that. However, I’ve found it to be an incredibly helpful way of deciding very quickly whether or not to reach for my purse and spend my hard earned money.
This isn’t about cutting everything else out completely. The ‘rule’ is simply that you need to find ways of spending less money on experiences or goods which don’t contribute to your priorities. Of course you can cut things out, but don’t feel you have to stop doing things that don’t feature on the list or buying things that don’t contribute to your priorities.
Within this blog I’ll be giving you some ideas as to how you’ll be able to do and buy the same things you’re used to even if you’re trying to kerb your spending without compromising on the lifestyle you want. Stay tuned!