Why We Can’t Stick to a Budget

Why We Can’t Stick to a Budget

Do you know you should have a budget, but also know you won’t stick to one?

Do you believe that other people magically manage their money effectively, but there is something wrong with you that you don’t?

Most people know they should live by a budget, but we don’t know how to create a budget that they will actually follow.

Budgets are like diets: we start strong and then “cheat” and then “fail.”

Just like diets, most budgets don’t really work in practice because they assume we only engage in rational behavior.

Just like food, money is not rational.

Money is deeply emotional.

Money is deeply rooted in feelings and beliefs we have about safety, risk, scarcity, and abundance.

When our budgets don’t work with our money emotions, we abandon them quickly.

You are not lazy or irresponsible. You are likely doing the best you can with what you’ve got.

What you’ve got is a culture having the wrong conversations (or no conversation at all) about money, a lack of meaningful education about personal finance, and a misunderstanding about how we relate to money.

If you are longing to follow a budget, but don’t trust yourself to actually do it, start by getting curious about your “money mind.”

What was the money story in your family growing up? Was there never enough?

Was there what you needed, but not what you wanted?

Was there shame or guilt in messages about money?

Was there a lot of money?

How was it talked about, or not?

How do you feel in your body when you think about money? Do you feel tight and anxious? Do you feel suddenly blank and confused? Does your stomach turn a little? Does it feel hard to breathe? These sensations are nervous system responses to the idea of money. You might go into fight/flight/freeze when it comes to money. We rarely make rational decisions from these states.

Are you surprised to find that you have a lot of feelings about money now that you think about it?

You are not alone. We all experience this and that is why we can’t talk solutions without doing the work of getting to know and healing our money emotions.

Financial Wellness Tip: 

Take 15-20 minutes (or 5, if that’s what you’ve got), and write out the answers to the questions above. Take a peak inside your money mind and get to know a little bit about why you do (or don’t do) what you do.

Then, place a hand on your chest and say to yourself, “This is not my fault. I am not bad for feeling these feelings. AND, I can heal and make changes that serve me in my own time.”

What is “Financial Wellness”

What is “Financial Wellness”

There is a lot of talk about budgeting, financial management, and things we should do to be “good, responsible” people with our money.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of shame built into conversations about money and we know that shame shuts down, it doesn’t motivate.

We can’t learn in shame. We can’t heal in shame. We can’t care for ourselves and our futures in shame.

Shame does not create wellness around anything, especially money.

Wellness is holistic.

Wellness is balance.

Wellness if fluid.

Wellness is responsive.

Financial Wellness is aligned. 

Financial Wellness is holistic. This means that we look at the whole picture (practical, emotional, and systemic) of a person’s financial life and we consider many factors when identifying financial goals and creating financial behaviors.

Financial Wellness is balance. We consider a variety of needs and values when it comes to money management to develop goals and behaviors that are responsive to individual needs and values.

Financial Wellness is fluid. We need to be in relationship with our money in a way that we can shift and change with the events of life. Goals and strategies that do not incorporate unexpected events and expenses or changes in circumstances and values don’t work over time.

Financial Wellness is responsive. We can live with our money so that it works for us rather than us working for it. We can live with our money in this way no matter our circumstances. It is not about wealth, but health when it comes to effective money management.

Financial Wellness is aligned. When we are clear about our true values, we can shift from fear-based behaviors to empowered behaviors that are aligned with our values.

When we stop thinking about money in shame-based ways, we become free to create a relationship with our money that is focused on achieving Financial Wellness.

Financial Wellness Tip: 

Do you have a shame-based inner dialogue about money? What if you shifted your language from “financial responsibility” to “financial wellness?” What happens in your body when you adopt wellness language? What about “aligned,” “fluid,” or “responsive?” How do these words land in your being? Do any of them create more space?

Whatever word feels best, write down what “financial ____________” means to you. Are you surprised by what you wrote?

How to Practice Financial Boundaries During the Holidays

How to Practice Financial Boundaries During the Holidays

holiday spending
You’d be surprised how often personal finances come up in therapy. 

We think of money as a practical matter, but it is deeply emotional with complex psychology driving our financial decisions. 

The end-of-year holidays are especially fraught. Did you know Americans add $1,300 on average to their debt during the holidays? And, that debt doesn’t get paid off until the next holiday season, when we create it again! 

How we take care of our financial health is deeply connected to how we take care of and value ourselves. 

As we head into November, it may feel too late to save up for this year’s holidays, but we can still practice financial wellness starting right where we are. 

  1. Muster the courage to find out what your financial picture looks like. Making decisions from a place of full truth and knowledge of our situation is important. While it might feel scary to tally up all debts and obligations compared to your income, it is an critical first step in financial self-care.
  2. Breathe. Take the time to write down your feelings about what you’ve found. Remember: this is not the whole story! This is the beginning of your journey to financial wellness.
  3. Identify what you have to work with for holiday spending this year. Write that number at the top of a sheet of paper.
  4. List anticipated holiday expenses. People, travel, food, etc.
  5. List January expenses, such as self-employment taxes for those self-employed folks! 

Now, if you’ve gotten this far, give yourself a round of applause because this takes a lot of courage, especially when we’ve been sticking our heads in the sand about our finances. And, we’re not there yet. 

Holidays come with a TON of expectations. We may want to enjoy generous gift giving. We may feel that others expect generous gifts from us. Family may expect us to travel without concern for the financial impact it may have. We may have children for whom we want to create magic and memories.

Here are some ways to have financial boundaries that honor the holiday while also honoring your financial well-being. 
  1. Unfortunately, that [_______________] is not going to work for me/my family this year.
  2. We are not going to be able to travel, but we’d love to set up a video chat while you are celebrating.
  3. We are only able to provide gifts for children this year, but not adults. We don’t expect gifts for ourselves, either.
  4. I really want to attend, but I’m not sure if gifts are expected. That is not something I will be able to do this year. Should I still plan on attending or plan to come next year?
  5. We will be giving handmade gifts this year.
  6. Talk to children about gifts vs experiences and create opportunities for them to decide what they value and really want. 
Remember, financial wellness isn’t about doing it perfectly.

It’s about what you can do today to be on the path toward financial health tomorrow.

If you can avoid adding debt this holiday season, great! If not, see if you can minimize the amount of debt you create and make a plan for a debt-free holiday next year!