You know that euphoric feeling of cruising through your favorite store (in real life or online), plucking up something that catches your eye, and deciding “Hm. Yeah, I’ll take it!”
Or perhaps you’re more prone to put your cash down for experiences, like plane tickets to a winter getaway. Or maybe you just like the freedom of eating out whenever, and wherever, you like: “I’ll take a triple, venti, half-sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato and, what the heck, a blueberry muffin! Dinner’s not for another two hours.”
… but deep down, if you’re really honest about it, underneath the fleeting excitement of spending that cash, your heart sinks. Your “fun” purchase just added another layer of stress to your already stressful money situation.
You’re Stuck in the Worst Kind of Catch-22
We hear about it from new budgeters all the time: you’re chronically stressed about money, and—the cruelest of ironies—only find relief when you’re spending it. In those fleeting moments of spending, you feel in control and happy.
But then reality catches up. It’s going to be tight until payday (and nearly impossible without your credit card, again). If only you’d waited to buy those jeans. Or postponed the mini-vacation. Or packed your lunch last week!
And when your next paycheck arrives? Sweet relief! Let the spending begin! The pattern continues.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
If this cycle of abundance and scarcity sounds all too familiar, then let me introduce you to a third option. There’s a sweet spot between spending and, well, an empty bank account. It’s called financial peace. Instead of bouncing between extremes like a ping-pong ball, rest for a minute, and consider this:
What if you could heal your finances
and enjoy buying the things that you really want most?
Financial peace is hard to imagine if you’ve never experienced it before. And it’s especially hard to believe in if you’ve already tried budgeting, and it didn’t quite deliver your dream life. But, it’s real! You can drastically minimize (if not eliminate) the stress and desperation that you feel about money—even if you don’t have very much of it! I speak from experience. But don’t take my word for it …
Give (Financial) Peace a Chance
So, how do you get to the magical land of Financial Peace? If you’re clued-in to the general message here at YNAB, you probably suspect that you’ll need a budget, and you’d be right! If you don’t already have one, or even if you’ve tried YNAB before and it didn’t stick, go grab a free, 34-day trial. That’s Step 1.
And it’s a big step, ripe with possibility, like total control of your life and savings in the bank (the average new YNABer squirrels away $6,000 in the first year!). But you have to actually budget:
Budgeting is when you make a concrete, realistic plan
for the dollars that you have in your possession, this minute,
in order to attain your desired future outcome.
And we already know, your “desired future outcome” involves spending some money for fun, not total deprivation! Right? That’s why we’re here, after all: to avoid the famine!
Make Budgeting Fun
So, here’s Step 2. This is the fun part, in case my heading didn’t tip you off. I want you to practice the part of budgeting that everybody forgets about. You can call it ‘wiggle room’ or ‘fun money’ or ‘planting wishes’ …
Most people start budgeting and focus only on their obligations. They think there’s not enough cash for fun, or worse, that a budget is supposed to keep them from spending money for fun. That, my friend, is not how you win the long-game.
Nope, instead, I want you to choose something enjoyable to spend your money on. What was missing under the Christmas tree this year? I want you to pick something that you could realistically afford within a month, if you set aside a little cash every payday. Now create a category and target in YNAB to save up for your something.
The Joy of Intentional Spending
Step 3: go spend the money on the thing!
Now, if you’re carrying a lot of debt or have extra-small paychecks, this might feel like the wrong way to go. Surely, these dollars can be put to better use, right? Don’t talk yourself out of this purchase—even Jesse budgeted a bit of fun money when funds were tight!
And you should, too, because that’s how you really learn to fall in love with budgeting. You’ll never experience a greater shopping high than spending money that you’ve planned to spend. There’s absolutely no shopping hangover. No guilt. Just pure enjoyment of your purchase.
Instead of feeling worried, you’ll feel empowered! That, my friend, is a little taste of the financial peace that’s possible for you. Give it a shot, it’ll change your life.
Need More Pointers?
Make sure you check out YNAB’s free, online workshops, which are packed with information and inspiration to help you finally conquer your cash flow. And bring your questions—these workshops are interactive!