Yes, you read that correctly. It is with positive anticipation that I go through what many people view as “worse than root canal without pain meds.”
Why the difference?
First, as someone who is inherently risk averse when it comes to financial security, the reality of how I am spending my money is necessary for me to get out of bed every day with a less-than-fearful attitude. My bag lady syndrome has a prominent role in my life. The practice of monthly account reconciliation (which I began at 13 years old) and budget reviews keeps me managing this character trait rather than it lording over me. Bag Lady Syndrome (BLS) was introduced in the 70’s as a definition to middle-aged women’s concern that they’ll wind up homeless and carrying around their worldly goods in shopping bags. Allianz Insurance company’s 2014 study estimates that 50% of non-married women have BLS. I have been quoted in 2 articles about it as people seemed incredulous that my privileged life would not diminish this feeling.
Second, as a lifelong dieter, I will offer this metaphor: when my actual spending is lower than my budget, I feel like I’ve lost 10 pounds. It truly is a feeling of lightness, freedom, security and smart living all rolled into one. If I am over my budget, it is generally a modest amount and rather than panic, I recognize what I need to do to minimize the impact and keep it as the 2-pound weight gain.
Lastly, and most importantly, I have the opportunity to examine how my values and interests are in concert with my spending. To create the proposed yearly budget, I spend a great deal of time reflecting on my relationship to money, my needs, my values, and my pursuits. This exercise allows me to clarify how I want to live my life, what adjustments I need to make and in what time-frame. What line item suddenly becomes more important through this mindful/personal lens? For example, what will bring me more joy, travel or local entertainment. Is enhancing my personal space more important to me than clothes shopping? How do I incorporate my passion of philanthropy in my budget? How do I prepare for the unknown expenses (i.e., medical issues, unforeseen home repairs, gifts)? The questions venture far beyond need versus want. I explore, at a deeper level, my life and how to live it in the way that makes the most sense for me.
The budget review is not just a look at how my dollars are spent. It is a true reflection of how I live my life per my values and interests. Creating a financial platform gives me knowledge, comfort, clarity, and some degree of control. It is also the narrative of who I am and what I believe in through my financial means.
The result of the spreadsheet of actual versus proposed? I lost 5 pounds in 2016 and I feel fully prepared to create my 2017 annual budget. Onward and upward…