You don’t have to be a math fiend to get in the swing of playing on paper with your monthly or yearly spending plan. You know, what if you spend a little less here, then it will free up a little more for there? It’s almost like putting together a dream baseball team or at least playing a mental chess game.
Remember, regardless of your income level, your goal is to gain control over your expenditures. A good spending plan is crucial in coming face-to-face with what you can actually do with your resources. Done right, it’s about how to best meet your life’s biggest dreams or ambitions.
As you run the numbers, be realistic. Here’s a place where a money-buddy or discussion group can be especially helpful. What are you overlooking? If this is a best-scenario projection, how will you account for the inevitable surprises and adjust for them? Are you building sufficient margins into the plan? Are you relying on wishful thinking anywhere — you know, something like winning the lottery or my dream of having a book become a best-seller?
Are you trying to impose a lifestyle on yourself that will leave you uncomfortable? One that’s too spartan or too ascetic? What do you need as a source of joy or pleasure?
If your spending plan fails to fit your reality or if you fail to stick to your guidelines, then the bills and debt will still control your life, rather than the other way around.
Paradoxically, self-imposed limits can be liberating. Zen Buddhists and old Quakers could both explain how strict discipline can lead to freedom. Those mystics can be surprisingly down-to-earth, as we’ll see.
Is there a current expense you can do without altogether?
What limits are you willing to abide by?
Is there an inexpensive source of joy or pleasure in your plan?