Sticking to a plan can be hard.
Last week, I found myself pacing around the kitchen attempting to talk myself out of snacking on toast with almond butter. I have this belief that bread = evil food, and can’t help but feel like it’s the one thing standing between me and a flat tummy.
My craving won out. Feeling badly about my lack of self-control, I texted my friend Alex, a holistic nutritionist & life coach, looking for support. I asked if she had any ideas for healthy snacks I could turn to instead of bread.
Her answer surprised me.
She suggested rice cakes (smart) … and went on to ask why I want the bread so badly. What feelings am I trying to prevent myself from feeling? She encouraged me to be gentle with myself. Instead of forbidding the snack, I should allow myself to enjoy it – as long as I am clear on why I’m really eating it.
Deep stuff. And exactly the guidance I needed.
How does this relate to money?
Food isn’t the only thing we use to protect ourselves from difficult feelings. We have many defences, including things like Netflix, social media, alcohol … and spending money.
Just like I reached out to my friend for help sticking to a food plan, many people seek out my help sticking to a spending plan!
Have 5 seconds? Here’s my take on what you really need to know:
Allow yourself luxuries!
Much like dieting, labelling something as off-limits can make it impossible to resist. As I learned from Alex’s fun video about how to eat healthy, people are more likely to desire things that are forbidden. So relax, enjoy some luxury!
When I work with a client to create a budget we always include an allowance for luxuries – or lifestyle spending, as I call it.
A rule of thumb for creating a balanced budget is to split up your after-tax income as follows:
- 20% for financial priorities (paying down debt, saving for the future)
- 50% for essentials, or needs (a place to live, food in the fridge, transportation to work)
- 30% for lifestyle, or wants (for you to spend on the things that bring you joy!)
If your cash flow is really tight, even the smallest luxuries allowance will do. You can get creative treating yourself on $20 a month.
Have 5 minutes? Here’s what else you should know:
Identify your “YES!”
Often when we think of a budget we think of sacrifice – a word which, like “diet”, can conjure up feelings of restriction or lack. There’s a positive side to sacrifice though! Just look at the definition: “Sacrifice – an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.”
Saying “NO!” to eating out or buying things you want but don’t need is only half of the equation. The other half is that there is something more important that you are saying “YES!” to.
It’s much easier to stick to your spending plan when you’re focusing on those things that you’ve decided are more important or worthy – perhaps being debt free, or having more time to spend with your family.
Try this experiment: write down your “YES!” and put it somewhere you can look at whenever you’re tempted to spend. For example, tuck a Post-It note in your wallet or stick one on your credit card.
Get to the heart of the matter
When we find ourselves doing something we know isn’t good for us, it’s often a defense to protect ourselves from feeling something icky. Like me, with bread. PS – after some introspection I realized I was protecting myself from feeling lack. So interesting!
Next time you find yourself ordering a meal or buying something you don’t really need – get curious! Ask yourself: what am I feeling right now? Or even: what feelings am I trying to protect myself from?
Awareness is the first step to changing a habit. Try to understand the root of what’s driving your behaviour.
Set yourself up for success
It’s certainly not easy to curb the impulse to spend but there are things you can do to make it less of a struggle. A few practices that work for me are:
- Planning ahead
- Being intentional
- Scheduling my shopping
Hmmm I bet these would work for sticking to a meal plan too!
Want to know more about these smart spending practices? I wrote all about them in a blog last month. Read them here! Or, check out this article with three ways to save money without depriving yourself.
How do you treat yo’self?? Tell me in the comments below!
For me, it’s mani-pedis and travel.