In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondō says, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
The same can be said for budgeting—the question of how you choose to manage your money is actually the question of how you want to live your life:
- Fly by the seat of your pants, and you’ll find yourself living paycheck to paycheck, on the rollercoaster of abundance and scarcity.
- Track your expenses, and you’ll probably come out even, most days.
- But, master your budget? Then, the sky’s the limit!
If you’ve been watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondō, on Netflix, you know that her method does, indeed, seem to deliver on the book’s promise of changing lives for the better. But, the life-changing results don’t just appear out of thin air—they require that you organize your belongings by category, and then focus, individually, on every object that you own to decide whether or not it sparks joy.
If only you could hire a closet organizer to do it for you, or stuff your extra stuff into a storage shed and be done with it, right?
But neither option works.
Nobody, but you, could adequately gauge what your belongings mean to you. A stranger couldn’t know their sentimental value or how your things make you feel. Similarly, an accountant, your spouse (whoever) couldn’t know which categories belong in your budget, what your financial goals should be or how your expenses should be prioritized. That’s because they don’t know how your days stack up, and how to budget for you in a way that would make you happiest in the present and long-term while helping you accomplish the non-negotiables.
And, stuffing your things into storage doesn’t solve a clutter problem, either. That’s just hiding it! In fact, you’d probably keep accumulating stuff until your house was full, again. Automated budgeting apps present the same problem—they don’t require your attention, which means you don’t learn anything.
The brilliance behind The KonMari Method is that you have to slow down and really think about your choices. It feels like magic because when you shift your attention, it changes your perception of reality. Do you really want or need that treadmill?
Your perception, in turn, influences your actions and, therefore, dictates your outcome. Nope, the treadmill can go! Let’s make this a sewing room.
You can’t automate focus. You have to get in there, and do it—you have to hold that treadmill in your arms and decide if it sparks joy! Similarly, YNAB requires you to examine each of your spending choices and ask yourself, “Is this a priority?”
It’s amazing, and so indescribably freeing, to discover that your happiness isn’t tethered to the million small purchases that you previously felt so attached to. It’s also pretty cool to budget for the fun stuff.
The reward for decluttering your home or tidying up your finances is less anxiety, more breathing room (literal and metaphorical) and fresh potential. When you’ve got a clear mental picture of what you’re working with, space-wise or dollar-wise, you can spot opportunities and imagine new possibilities. Things that you never even dreamed of attempting will become totally doable.
And, the best part? Once you’ve done the initial heavy-lifting, it’s easy to keep going because upkeep is easier than a total overhaul and, more importantly, you feel so much better.
You could kneel down—phone in hand and bank app open—and thank your checking account for housing your dollars …
You could limit yourself to only 30 budget categories (Kidding! Keep as many as you like. ?) …
You could fold your dollar bills, neatly, into rectangles that stand on end …
Or, you could sign up for a free, 34-day trial of YNAB and make sure that every time you spend a dollar it sparks true joy.
Your Next Step
Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?