The New Year has arrived, and it promises untold opportunities for wealth-building! However, tapping into the storehouse of financial gain involves a responsible approach to budgeting. It requires a thorough assessment of how your inflow and outflow of money should ideally align. Most importantly, it demands a commitment to establish sound money practices; something that is usually not high on our priority list.
Whenever I hear the word budget, it conjures up thoughts of an arduous and time-consuming process. Much of this is due to the fact that ‘money’ is imbued with all sorts of emotions and, at times, uncomfortable feelings.
In the Taoist tradition which I closely follow, there is a Chinese concept called ‘Wu Wei’ (pronounced ooooh way) that offers a poignant perspective in our quest for sound money management. It essentially means ‘non-doing’ or ‘effortless action’, a life course that is devoid of struggle or excessive effort. With practice, it enables an unconscious mental state which allows our actions to flow with the natural rhythms of life.
Below are three foundational pillars which embody the Wu Wei of budgeting responsibly. When pursued with awareness and small doses of focus, they can lead to higher levels of equilibrium between what we earn and what we spend.
Ensuing from the simple practice of examining your budget are unconscious habits that make managing your money just like breathing. The key here is practice, engaging in this ritual on a regular basis to foster improvement. By way of example, an element of all championship sports teams is their commitment to practice, the absence of which would lead to mediocrity. Similarly, maintaining an effective budget involves preparation and looking at one’s history while also anticipating what’s ahead. “
So here’s a suggestion. In the spirit of Wu Wei, consider carving out a small, consistent period of time each day to take a look at your budget. Personally, I’ve made a commitment to spend 16 minutes a day in 2016 for taking stock of my budget. Rather than viewing it as an annoying obligation, I plan to engage with it in a playful way; maybe at a park or even while eating ice cream. My hope is that these small yet consistent ‘Slight Edge’ check-in’s will help me maintain integrity with my budget and broader financial aspirations.
Breaking down your budget into categories can be important in ensuring that you’re not overlooking any commitments. Examples of categories include common obligations like rent/mortgage, groceries, gas and utilities. A couple that are often overlooked are emergency savings and asset savings (hint hint: a gold savings plan). This is a repository of money available to you for when the unexpected happens, which it will. And then there’s my favorite category which I call the Fun Fund. It’s the place where you set aside funds for those enjoyable things in life like vacations, sporting events, a dinner out or a concert. Ignoring this latter category can make budgeting ‘no fun’, so always honor it with at least a few dollars that can compound over time for your enjoyment.
Look for Savings
My friend Steve Reed is a master at this. Check out his awesome blog where he goes into detail about his frugal ways. So is my brother, who is still an avid coupon-clipper for his groceries (I chuckled at him about this for years, but he’s the one laughing now). Bottom line: there are tons of ways to shave money off of your budget if you actively look for them. Case in point, I just knocked $90 off my monthly cell phone bill by cutting back on my data plan, minutes that I wasn’t even using!
Tap into Tech Financial Tools
There are some awesome debit cards like Moven and Akimbo that make it a snap to track your spending against a budget. Then there is my favorite budgeting app called Spending Tracker that helps you reconcile spending debits and credits: so sleek and so Wu-Wei!
This book by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey is an amazing read, particularly if you’ve had a history of allowing your expenses to exceed your earnings. The strategies he recommends are a bit old school, but they do work. And his online budget app Every Dollar is the bomb! I highly recommend it.
Again, the beauty of budgeting is that it doesn’t have to turn into a painstaking process that you’ll try to avoid. Rather, just like money, it can flow in harmony with your highest desires for wealth and a comfortable lifestyle. All it takes is a small and effortless decision to claim responsibility for your financial freedom.
Michael Scott is a Denver-based journalist whose primary work focuses on disruptive trends in the new digital economy. More on Michael can be found at BitDisrupt