Hate Budgeting? Minimalism Might Help

Wouldn’t it be great if you only had to afford stuff you really loved and regularly used?

Will Smith quote photo

<– And no matter what kind of stuff or how much stuff you have, some people simply won’t like you and that is okay. Really. Your bigger concern is you liking you.

“No wealth
can ever make a bad man
at peace with himself.”
~ Plato

Our support group discussed the idea of minimalism as a possible pathway to financial well-being. All of my professional organizer and Feng Shui expert friends extol the benefits of clearing clutter. One friend even blogged about A Love Affair With Stuff and how you can start to reform your ways.

When I was putting together the agenda for this meeting my first thoughts were about the obstacles to minimalism. For me, nostalgia is a huge obstacle; how can I throw/give away/donate my Mother’s china set even though I neither love nor use it? Taking a picture doesn’t do it for me; some things have emotional fingerprints that I don’t care to dust.

Another obstacle is the fact that the accumulation of things represents the fact that I don’t have the time to deal with it now and – if I’m being honest – most likely never will. Once in a great while I’ll get the desire to purge the house and then I’m off and running. But I cannot summon up this urge simply by putting it on my calendar; it must have something to do with the planets being aligned or my therapist telling me that I’m being selfish keeping things that other people could use.

And then there’s the collections. Have you seen my seashell collection? Most conjure up happy memories of days at the beach and trips to wonderful places (like Sanibel Island, Blue Monkey Bay in St. Thomas or the Isle of Man). Memories are a salve to our weary hearts. Did you know that seashells were one of the first forms of currency?

“After a visit to the beach, it’s hard to believe that we live in a material world.” ~ Pam Shaw

There are many reasons why we hang onto things, especially if we or our parents grew up during the Great Depression. Stockpiling was one of the many survival tools employed. Golly the fabric my Mother saved…but you never knew when you or someone else might need it and then you didn’t have to buy it. It makes sense, it does. Many of us stockpile items for fear we won’t be able find the same items later, for a better price, or at the same quality (and the stores definitely market to that fear.)

Obstacles aside, the group surprised me and came up with many good reasons to choose the noble path of minimalism. Here are some thoughts to ponder on the subject:

  • De-cluttering and downsizing is a gift to your children. Spending time together going through objects, photographs, cards etc. could yield many happy memories that you don’t have to clean or store in your basement and that your kids won’t have to deal with later.
  • If you have beautiful things, don’t suffocate their beauty with a bunch of clutter.
  • Real estate in some parts of the world comes at a hefty price. Don’t waste space storing stuff you don’t love or use. (And don’t pay for a storage locker.)
  • Forgive yourself for not using an item (like the darned gym equipment that’s haunting you from the corner of your “guest bedroom”) and just release it. Check out FlyLady (Fly for “Finally Loving Yourself”) for some advice.
  • Don’t buy it in the first place. If you must buy, follow these four rules:
    (1) You must love it
    (2) You must determine when you’ll use/wear/read it
    (I honestly thought I’d wear more sequined shrug sweaters)
    (3) Decide where it will live and
    (4) Decide how and when you will let it go.

Here are a couple gems provided by the ever-wise and sharp-witted Mari McNeil on stuff:
“Stuff is psychic weight,”
“Stuff keeps us from our mission, our lives.”
I’ll give you a minute to let those settle in.

Some of you, like me, have tried de-cluttering only to re-accumulate (what is that?) and have tried creating organized systems only to have your system fail (as one regular in the group says, “There were no papers in the ‘Important Papers’ folder”).

The pressure to de-clutter can haunt you; your presumed inability to complete the task can discourage you and thwart your efforts. Reinforcement (coaching, help) may be needed. One participant gleefully exclaimed, “I’m a maximalist!” (and we love her all the same).

Perfectionism can create chaos, too, because, really, things will never be perfect. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, just do what you can.

Some other quick tips:

  • Get books from the library instead of buying them so that our tax dollars are being utilized and your home doesn’t accumulate more stuff.

I watched an episode of HGTV’s Small Space, Big Style that featured a couple with ten bookshelves packed to the brim. The husband said something like, “People talk about getting rid of books like it’s a virtuous thing.” It’s good to know what you love. An empty house can feel peaceful and orderly but it can also feel cold and lacking personality.

  • Meet your neighbors: Borrow instead of buy.
    Be a neighbor, lend stuff.
  • Purge by category (books, photos, winter clothes, bedding etc.) or by area (i.e. one drawer, one shelf).
  • Have a swap party, it’ll be like shopping in your living room and not spending any money. This helps satisfy our desire for something new/different. The local chapter of one of the organizations I belong to, NYS Women Inc., holds it’s annual “trash ‘n’ treasure auction” when members bring all of their re-gifted (perhaps never loved) items for them to find a new home and fund our scholarship program in the process.
  • One Mom shared that she bought all the same black socks for her entire family, the diabetic kind that are super stretchy. They fit everyone and no one had to spend time finding the match.

The group declared the biggest benefit to being a minimalist is having
time to live your life, having peace, and enjoying freedom.

Be well my friends,
Amy Jo
P.S. Our topic in June is “Staycations, Sunsets and Other Joys.” Join us Saturday, June 4th 10am and/or Monday, June 13th 6:30pm, upstairs at Dog Ears Bookstore & Cafe.

Posted in Budgeting, Living the life of your dreams, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money, Saving, Tackling debt | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

What I See in My Work as a Financial Planner

As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER TM professional and as President of Lauber Financial Planning, a Registered Investment Advisor, I have a code of confidentiality, so absolutely no names or identifying information will be shared here – or anywhere.

Some years ago I went to a conference on charitable giving and the advice I received (rendered by the so-down-to-earth-I-can-forget-how-brilliant-he-is John Brown) was to say to the client, “I don’t know if this will work for you but do you want to know what other people in your situation do?”

Do you know why this works?

So let me help you indulge in some harmless financial voyeurism.

First of all, I don’t have any “silver spoon” (old money) clients.
Not one.
That’s unusual for a financial planner but that’s the reason I started my business: to serve people who didn’t already have gobs of money. As a result, I work with people who are anywhere from $100,000 in debt (negative net worth) to over $10 million in net worth. Pretty wide spectrum, I know. You know what? The zeroes don’t matter; we all have our issues with money and are all trying to do the best we can – with many or few zeroes.

Almost every person who has sat in my office has said that they, “live comfortably, but not extravagantly.” In fact, they almost all use that exact phrase: comfortable but not extravagant (of course every one has a different definition of “extravagant”).

Most of my clients describe having been some version of “poor” growing up and saw how discipline and hard work served their parents, (“We didn’t have a lot of extras but we always had what we needed,”) and have allowed those standards/values/ideals to guide their life choices when it comes to money. As a result, most have good marriages, many friends, a faith life (however they choose to define it), and have made mostly good/beneficial financial choices.

Cute story:
Some years ago, when I asked a client what the he thought his best investment was,
he replied, “My marriage license.”

Most of my clients want to know:

  • How to figure out where all of their money goes. In fact many people find me through the I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money) support group. Believe me, you are not alone!
  • If they can retire (some want to know if they can retire today!)
  • When to take Social Security
  • If they should pay down debt or use extra money to build their savings
  • How to get on the same financial page as their spouse
  • How much they need to put in their 401(K) plans
  • How they can help their kids pay for college
  • What to do in case they need some form of long-term care (an aide, assisted living, nursing home care)

Several years ago, when I was still in “traditional” financial planning (i.e. investment management), I started noticing that even though we were managing clients’ investments for their retirement, very few clients had any idea how much money they spent each year. My colleagues didn’t want to make the clients uncomfortable by probing into their spending habits but to me it seemed foolish to guess at a number that was guiding all of our work.

Now the majority of my financial planning is based on cash flow; what you need to live the good life (as defined by you).

Many of my clients are engineers, most of them have created their own financial plan and want a second set of eyes on their work, validation if you will that they’re on the right track to retire.

Money and time 2The bigger issue is that, despite running numerous calculations and analyzing all of the available information, engineers know there is information that is not available,
and it prevents them from taking action.
They end up stuck, what many call “analysis paralysis,” possibly a form of perfectionism.

“What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation.” http://www.PsychologyToday.com
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

If you find yourself unable to make a decision after weighing all of the options, here is an excellent article on overcoming this issue. And the financial planning process can help guide decisions based on what we DO know and what we CAN control.
This typically results in feelings of empowerment, which significantly reduces anxiety.

A colleague (and the inspiration for my business Sheryl Garrett) shared a very interesting article on expectations and happiness (or lack of): Almost everyone who is unhappy with life is unhappy for the same reasons. Your expectations and comparing yourself to others when it comes to money can make a good life seem less so. Please remember to be kind to yourself.

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

Posted in Goals, Living the life of your dreams, Marriage and Money, Money in relationships, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The moment in a parking lot that I realized a big truth

It was evening and I was walking to my car after a very interesting theater experience (about philanthropy, family, grief, and asking people for money, put on by Theatre For Change).  I was casually chatting with a client as we both walked through the parking lot.

She remarked how I think about money so differently from how so many other people – especially financial planners – do and I chalked it up to the fact that I am so different and, being the age I currently am, don’t really care about being different and it certainly isn’t a negative thing; I embrace it. But then something came out of my mouth that was neither planned nor ever consciously thought:

“I don’t want people to believe the lie about money.”

I think we both kind of gasped, at least I know I did. There it was, my truth, my mission, in one simple statement in a parking lot in Buffalo, NY.

I suppose, like an ex-smoker who feels everyone should quit because s/he did, I can be a little over zealous in my mission. Since I’ve believed the lie of money (“you must work more, earn more, have more in order to be happy, successful, and accepted”) and it occasionally reminds me of its allure, I can more easily spot it in myself and in others and I want so badly for people to live lives of peace and abundance, of truth and joy, of love and priorities. And I think most people want to live those lives, too. Therefore, I have work to do.

My work as a financial planner puts me in a position of doing many calculations to help people make difficult financial decisions such as when to retire, how much to put into a college savings plan or how to set aside https://amyjolauber.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/money-for-enjoyment-make-sure-its-in-your-budget/ but I always tell people, “Don’t fall in love with the numbers.” The numbers aren’t the story; their lives are the story. Money is the employee who fetches you great coffee so you can keep doing your work. (You can read more about this concept in:https://amyjolauber.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/money-as-employee/ )

My family jokes that I have a sign on my back that says, “Please tell me your life story.” This personal trait of mine has lead me to have curious – and sometimes confusingly intimate – conversations with complete strangers while grocery shopping or waiting in line at Disney World. But, it has also helped me connect with people and discuss the intimate place in ourselves where money resides: Our Self-Worth.

You see, the truth, the moral of the life-story, if you will, is all about reminding people https://amyjolauber.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/dont-confuse-net-worth-with-self-worth/. Don’t fall for the lie. It’s okay if you’ve fallen for it before, now you know better and can choose a different path.

Zig Ziglar said, “Money won’t make you happy, but everyone wants to find out for themselves.”

Like “The Force” in “Star Wars,” money can be powerful, it can be powerful for good as well as for evil. Join the resistance, leave the Dark Side!

To learn more about money, thoughts, values and relationships, check out any of my blog categories (listed to the right) and if you’re in Western New York, come to our support group: “I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having MonDog Ears Bookstore & Cafeey),” we meet the 1st Saturday 10:30am-noon and the 2nd Monday 6:30-8pm, for a nominal fee ($5-$20pp), usually at Dog Ears Bookstore & Cafe where you may also purchase my books.

Peace and abundance,
Amy Jo

Posted in Living the life of your dreams, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Cheap Eats: Filling Your Tummy Without Emptying Your Wallet

The budget topic focus for March was food. While most of my clients and support group attendees regularly talk about reducing their food expenditures in an attempt to manage their budget better, I don’t see food as one of the big budget problems. Sure, you can do better and do more with less but that requires planning which requires time; something very few of us have (more on that later).

Here are some things I hear regularly from clients and support group attendees:

  • “I like to buy organic food and it’s so much more expensive.” (There’s typically one spouse who feels organic is worth the investment and one spouse who thinks it’s a waste of money.)
  • “I take care of everybody every day, so I feel I deserve to go out to eat. Then, I feel guilty.”
  • “I don’t like to cook.”
  • “I don’t know how to cook.”
  • “I don’t have the time, we’re all so busy, we end up grabbing something from the drive-through.”
  • “I hate that we throw away so much food, it’s such a waste.”

I think the biggest issue in food budgeting is making healthy – but realistic – choices.

One of my sisters, Jacki Gray, was our featured speaker for the March 5th meeting. Jacki is the kitchen manager at Powell House, a Quaker Retreat Center near Albany, NY. On any given weekend, Jacki has to cook for about 100 people, 50 of whom have special diets (either by ailment or choice, or multiples of both). She has to accommodate everyone and remain within budget. She happens to be a fantastic cook, too. She makes this green tomato soup that makes me glad to be alive. And don’t even get me started on the pumpkin cake with brown butter frosting.

Jacki helped us focus on a few key areas when it comes to food budgeting, eating healthy and enjoying your food:

Learn to make soup. You can do a lot with soup, using up random things (leftover Chinese take-out rice) and veggies that are starting to be past their prime, making stock from bones and vegetable trimmings you keep in the freezer, and using some well-selected herbs (sing with me: “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”) and spices (cumin, chili powder). She claims all soups are made better with a can of rich, creamy coconut milk.

Jacki referenced several of Moosewood’s cookbooks which feature vegetarian mMoosewood Restaurant New Classicseals (she mentioned that it’s easy to add meat to most recipes, as you wish). Soup can be very inexpensive, hearty or light, mostly easy (especially if you happen to own a stick blender) and enjoyable.

While she didn’t talk about this, if you’re a meat eater, buying an entire cow or pig can be very economical, provided you have the freezer space. Otherwise, having meat as a mere addition to or ingredient in the meal rather than the focus is not only healthy for your wallet but healthier for your body. Think stir-frys, salads, soups, casseroles, quiches, pizzas …with a little meat.

Another one of my sisters, Adrienne (the recycling guru), shared several recipes for sour milk. Just Google recipes, you’d be surprised. The most popular is for sour milk pancakes.

Jacki shared one of her industry secrets: Go to a food wholesaler (if you’re in Western New York, check out Desiderio’s, in fact, the group is meeting there for a field trip Saturday, April 2nd at 8:45am) and check out their #2s: These are fruits and veggies that are too ripe for the grocery stores to purchase and can be bought by you (in larger quantities, however, great for parties, showers etc.) for a very low price. Jacki once came to a family gathering with a HUGE crate of plums that I think she got for $10. Everyone, including the mailman, ate plums that week (and she made jam from what was leftover).

Which brings me to the “I don’t want to throw it out” part of the blog. Consider all of the following strategies for fruits and veggies that are past their peak:
1. Can you put it in soup?
2. Can you put it in a smoothie?
3. Can you can/preserve it?
4. Can you freeze it for use later (in soup, smoothies, stir frys etc.)?
5. If nothing else, can you compost it? Then at least it’s like making a deposit to your garden or plants next year.
6. Can you make a pretty centerpiece with it?fall centerpiece

Of course you can avoid throwing away food by not buying too much in the first place. Be aware of the merchandising techniques grocery stores will use. Make a list, respect your list, and shop your list.

If you really want to focus on using everything you have and limiting your expenditures, you have to develop a method – your method– of meal planning. I blogged about my technique here: https://amyjolauber.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/notes-from-the-i-hate-budgeting-support-group-food-thanksgiving-and-leftovers/ But if you’re very busy and/or don’t like to/don’t know how to cook, then perhaps grabbing some prepped items at your local supermarket and then throwing some things together and calling it a salad can work for you. Here are notes from a group meeting a few years ago that talks about food expenditures among other things:https://amyjolauber.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/notes-from-the-2nd-meeting-of-the-i-hate-budgeting-support-group/.

What about farm shares? In my experience, it was challenging to use up the items that were in our bag each week and sometimes the items didn’t match up with what our week looked like. I’d say farm shares/CSAs are a great way to buy produce if (a) You’ve got time to use what you get and (b) you like a challenge (think of the TV show, “Chopped)

Regarding organic, there are some items that should always be purchased organic because pesticide residue may be greater on them. I always direct people to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen guidelines. In short, if you’re going to eat the peel (apples, peppers, berries) buy it organic. Milk products, too; no sense having all of those yucky hormones and pesticides in your diet when you think you are eating healthy.

One of our regulars, truly one of the sweetest women alive, gave me a couple of very useful links. Budget Bytes is a great blog for recipe ideas, using what you have on hand, shopping smart…all good stuff. You may also purchase her recipe book by the same name.

Leanne Brown is the author of Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 /Day. You may download the cookbook pdf for free but if you like this book enough to buy it, the publisher will donate a copy of the book to someone who needs it. Our joyful budgeter’s endorsement, “I like her recipes because she frequently includes vegetables to boost nutrition and flavor.”

Here’s to joyful eating and joyful budgeting!

Posted in Budgeting, Personal Finance with a twist | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Family, Friends and Money: The Dysfunctional Trifecta

The February 6th meeting of the “I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money)” support group focused on the dynamic between family members and friends when money is added to the mix.

Boy-oh-boy was this an active discussion! I think it was our best meeting yet. Here are some insights to help you make wise and confident financial decisions when family or friends come a-callin’.

  • We all came to agree that helping our kids by giving them money is akin to giving someone a fish (instead of teaching them how to fish); it only helps them temporarily. It also implies that you don’t think they could figure out their situation without your help, which may keep them coming back to you rather than learning and choosing differently next time.
  • Much of parenting is about role modeling. If your kids are coming to you for money, it’s important to share with them how you handled a similar situation and that the reason you have money to give or lend to them is because you’ve followed certain strategies that support financial stability.
  • Similarly, one attendee shared that her sister was frequently asking various family members for money. Instead of giving her sister money, she offered to pay for her to receive financial counseling so that she could learn how to stand on her own two feet.
  • On that note, stop making money a secret (I like to think of myself as the Dr. Ruth of money). It’s important to teach your kids about managing money by allowing them to learn how you actually manage money. The key to financial peace and stability is being able to say “No” to some things so that you can say “Yes” to the really important things. Be careful not to say, “We can’t afford that!” and instead say, “Our money already has jobs to do this month. If some more money comes in, perhaps we can afford this extra item.”
  • We had a lengthy discussion about boundaries and establishing and maintaining healthy ones when it comes to money. Boundaries do not mean walls to block people out or to shut yourself in, they merely mean personal financial space to maintain financial well-being (after all, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the resources to help them). It’s about self-care, not selfishness.

It is the weight of our choices, however, that causes us to put them off.

This is normal, by the way. When we do not have enough information or insight about a situation, we experience mental tension. To relieve this tension, we either need to make a decision or put it off.

Since making a decision also involves risk (more on that in a minute), most will opt to put it off. This is fine unless the person asking you for money needs the money ASAP and is perhaps employing aspects of your relationship to “encourage” you to make the decision sooner rather than later. In which case, we usually decide by saying, “Yes, here you go”… and later regretting it.

Your plan B can be, “Next time I will tell the person I need 24 hours to decide and I will stick to that rule myself.”

Or your plan B could be to offer them a Plan B such as “let me help you find a job.”

Or your plan B could be to choose not to give a hoot.

The risks involved with money and family members/friends include:
If I say “No:”
They may not talk to me anymore
They may reject me
They may judge me (as greedy, selfish)

If I say “Yes:”
I may cut myself short (see my blog post https://amyjolauber.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/are-you-addicted-to-helping-others-at-your-own-peril/)
I may be sending the wrong message (that you can always come to me for money)
I may be putting a bandage on a bullet wound (enabling someone to remain stuck rather than truly helping them move forward)

Do you think it’s possible to separate the relationship from the money? Your family member/friend may think, “You have the money, you could give it to me” but does that obligate you to do so? One of the attendees had the best sound bite of the meeting: Is being generous a need or a want?

I am constantly reminding attendees the importance of knowing and living by your core values. Identify and use your core values to guide your decisions so that emotions don’t have the power to sway you one way or another.

I have someone in my circle who has been out of work for a while. It was getting pretty scary. I thought about giving him some money (one of my core values is charity). This person shared that he received a large check for the holidays and promptly spent 25% of it on a cosmetic treatment. Now, I’ll admit, my first reaction was to be quite judgmental about the whole matter. Then I returned to my core value – charity – which does not judge. I offered the money and he declined, having recently obtained work. That taught me an important lesson about giving: Give charitably or not at all.

If you want to gain a better understanding of personal finance so that you can make wise, confident decisions, join us at a meeting,  email me (ajlauber@lauberfinancialplanning) to receive my quarterly newsletter, check out lots of other financial wellness freebies or schedule your complimentary initial consultation with me today.

You can do this, read the book, “The Four Agreements,” it’ll help. Here is a snapshot of them:

The Four Agreements

Peace & abundance,
Amy Jo

Posted in Money in relationships, Personal Finance with a twist | Tagged | 2 Comments

Loving Your Cheapskate Spouse

This post is not about my darling husband (whose own grandmother lovingly called, “Tighter than two coats of paint”).

With that out of the way, I thought I’d share some insights into cheapskates / skinflints / tightwads / penny-pinchers and how to love them.

Let’s be clear, we are not talking about frugality. I was raised to be frugal and resourceful; two traits that generally promote financial wellness. But frugal is not cheap, and cheap is not frugal. I think, for fear that they will appear cheap, good people are simply afraid to be frugal.

Frugal is Cinderella, her mean step-sister is Cheap.

Frugality is positive, creative, hopeful, mindful and disciplined.
Cheap is negative, scared, competitive and paralyzed.

Tightwads / skinflints / cheapskates / penny-pinchers are usually acting out of fear; what we in the business call a scarcity mindset (as opposed to an abundance mindset). This fear compels the closed-walleted to protect what they have, resulting in limited – or even the complete cessation of – spending, especially on comforts, luxuries, entertainment and recreation.

There is a section of our brain called the insula which is located in the inner regions of the brain (it is insulated) quite near the part of the “primitive” brain that controls our fight or flight response (which is typically called upon regarding money but which is not generally known for its good financial decisions). The insula is associated with visceral functions – those resulting in anxiety and fear – including those involving money.

I heard a pod cast or possibly an interview on NPR about the insula’s role in financial decision-making. The report included a discussion about how the more sensitive (and large) this region of the brain is, the more (literally) painful it is to spend money. It’s almost as if money is an appendage and the tightwad’s fear of amputation is very, very great. And this same person may experience “ghost” or phantom pain as a result of past purchases.

Here is a great article on the subject of the insula and it’s role in cash versus credit-card spending (plus some other nuggets to cause your intellect to do a jig; did you know that the German word for debt – schuld –  means “sin” or “guilt?”).

If you’re wondering if the insula is more sensitive in the brains of women or men (in general) you can read this article: He Sees Dollars, She Sees Sense and if you’re wondering why you married your financial opposite, this article will shed some valuable light on the subject (hint: he/she exhibits a facet of financial security and stability that you may not have believed you could generate on your own).

When my husband and I were honeymooning in Bermuda
(see, he’s not cheap)
we took a carriage ride during which the driver
hibiscus budpointed out red hibiscus-looking flowers, all in bud form.

He said, “We call them ‘Scottish purses’ because they never open.”

In some cases this fear of spending money could lead to an obsession, best addressed with a licensed therapist. (Right, like s/he will ever go for that.) But for most of you, it’s more likely that your spouse is merely trying to protect the family’s finances and doesn’t appreciate you making fun of them for what they view is a big responsibility. It’s not easy always minding the store, you know.

If you try to coax the cheap skate away from his/her ways by increased spending (or “manage” him/her by making purchases on the sly, you know who you are) you’re likely to get the opposite reaction: he/she will batten down the hatches even further in order control your wonton and naive impulsivity.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Mark 3:25

If you wish to love your tightwad, communicate that you want to be on the same team …and consider limiting your expenditures accordingly. Ideally you and your beloved are in the same boat, rowing in the same direction.Sculpture from Hilton Anatole Dallas

Going through both income and expenditures together (while not the ideal date night) can help both of you confront the realities of your financial situation. If you’re in good financial standing, maybe El-Cheapo will feel a sense of ease and comfort and loosen the purse strings. On the other hand, if you’re financial footing is tenuous, perhaps you’ll give your spouse more credit for keeping you afloat this long.

Hopefully I’ve made the skinflint behavior more understandable, and where there is understanding, respect, empathy and love have a fighting chance.

Feel free to checkout the “Couples” tab on my website for more information and if you’d like a free copy of “The Top Three Money Struggles That Ruin a Marriage And How To Avoid Them,” email me ajlauber@lauberfinancialplanning.com.

Peace and abundance,
Amy Jo

Posted in Budgeting, Marriage and Money, Money in relationships, Personal Finance with a twist, Psychology of Money | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Solving the Mystery of Where All of Your Money Goes

Some years ago my husband and I started tracking our expenditures to get a handle on what we were spending. This lasted, oh, about 3 1/2 weeks. It’s not unusual to lose steam with this task. In fact a colleague, Sandi Martin wrote a hilarious post about it, you can read it here and here’s another and another about trying and failing at budgeting. My hubby and I have since tried again (and again) and I think that’s the main point: Keep trying. One time he emailed me asking, “Where does it all go and what does it all mean?”

I’m putting together a money management and budget work book; a judgment-free, mindfulness-enhancing, Biblically based version. It includes some pages to track your spending by category and then by sub category.
Guess what I left off of the original list?
Laundry detergent.

You know what else? (This is kind of embarrassing since so many people are committed to this ongoing purchase.)
Cell phone bills.

Yes sometimes these things of life go unnoticed while we journey through the typical financial cycle of working, earning money, trading money for goods and services, and repeating this cycle for what seems like forever.

I think most people assume that retirement means
they’ll be free from this cycle when, in fact,
you must actually change the steps of the cycle
and replace earnings from working with withdrawals from savings.

Perhaps people are afraid they won’t be able to make this change
and cannot figure out how to save money, any way, and therefore plan to go on with the current cycle indefinitely.
This is not inherently wrong, it’s just something to be aware of: Your perception of your own choices. After all, saving for retirement is about living for today.

I read a curious blog post by serial entrepreneur James Altucher, it was about how he lives no where and owns almost nothing. You can read it here. An element that is missing from the author’s experience is providing for a family (be it children, siblings, parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents and friends that are like family); a major component of most of our lives when it comes to money – how we earn it and how we spend it.

Speaking of spending, here is a sneak peek at the categories and sub categories I’m including in the work book so you can start to get an idea of where all of your money goes:

_____property taxes
_____Snow plowing/Landscaping
_____Cleaning (service, supplies)

Child care 
_____babysitters/daycare/afterschool programs

_____Car payment
_____Maintenance/car wash


_____Purchases (work, play, special occasion, footwear, outerwear)
_____Cleaning/detergent/fabric softener

Personal care
_____Hair cuts/color/products
_____Spa treatments
_____Life coaching/therapy
_____Gym memberships
_____Yoga, pilates etc.

Medical, dental, vision, Rx
_____Insurance premiums
_____Alternative modalities

_____Student loan(s)

_____Movies, theater
_____Cable, satellite

_____Transportation (flights, car, bus, train)

Charitable contributions
_____Via payroll deduction
_____Random school fundraisers

Miscellaneous (wait until you see this list!)
_____Cell phone
Pet expenses (totally worth every penny)
_____vet/meds (our beloved dog just had 31 teeth removed)
_____wedding / shower / baby shower
_____cards/wrapping paper/shipping
Hobbies, sports
Professional advisors
_____Tax preparation
_____Financial planning
_____Long-Term Care

Overwhelming, isn’t it? And this is only personal expenditures, I didn’t even include income or payroll taxes! I also didn’t include credit card payments or savings (short term or long term). This is because, unless you do the savings automatically and first, there will be nothing left in your budget by the time you run through this list. Don’t you wonder how your parents managed? But look at the list; so many things didn’t even exist then.

There is an exercise I ask my clients to complete which is helpful in determining what and how to change based on each of their WHY: Their individual motivations and drivers.

Getting to WHY is a matter of determining your core values (i.e. family, kindness and health) and your core needs (i.e. acceptance, harmony, and physical activity).

Once you know your WHY (what your core values and needs are, and those of your spouse and/or children if you’re a householder) you are in a position to make better choices going forward with the HOW.

For example, if one of your core values is health and one of your core needs is security, you may choose to allocate more of your spending to health and wellness as well as health insurance and savings, and choose to reduce spending in categories that may conflict with your desire to attain or maintain your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health and/or compromise your feelings of security.

It’s not easy, but you can do this.

To live is to choose - Kofi Annan

Email me if you’d like a free copy of my New Year’s Resolutions Worksheet “Re-Solutions” and/or a copy of my quarterly newsletter.

Posted in Budgeting, Personal Finance with a twist, Saving, Tackling debt | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment