A Whole Month of Financial Clarity


Featured, Personal Financial Planning | by: Bob Brandt, CFP®

My wife, Karen, is on Day 10 of that nutrition plan everyone’s talking about. You know the one. Eliminate sugar, grains, legumes, dairy and alcohol from your diet for 30 days straight — no slips, or you start over. After 30 days, see how much better you feel!

Then, reintroduce the banned food groups one by one to determine which one might be causing the distress you were experiencing: eczema, allergies, asthma, bloating, low energy, weight gain, etc. Voila! Cause and effect become clear. Which foods did you miss the most, and are they worth the distress they are causing you?

Naturally, the design of this nutrition plan has prompted lots of discussion at home. It got me thinking… what if the same design could be used to gain insight into a monthly budget? Just as we often eat mindlessly, many of us also spend money without thinking. And we all know the distress that can cause.

What if we decided to eliminate certain financial splurges for a month: Thirty days without eating in a restaurant, getting takeout, going to a coffee shop, renting movies, buying new clothes, attending concerts, getting manicures, etc. Your own list might be different, but you get the idea. How much did you save that month? Did you find you didn’t miss certain things as much as you thought you would? What if you put the money you saved toward one of your financial goals, instead?

Perhaps in that month you established new habits, such as bringing your lunch to work, getting books and movies out of the library, making pizza at home, or giving yourself manicures. You might discover you enjoy bringing your lunch, say, but really feel it’s worth it to splurge on an occasional dinner in a restaurant. Or maybe you’ll find that after 30 days you weren’t convinced there was all that much financial advantage to maintaining this level of austerity.

Whether we’re talking about nutrition or spending habits, there is power in becoming aware of the choices we’re making and the effects these choices are having on our lives. Then, once our eyes have been opened, we can mindfully choose to support what we value most — in our health and our finances.