**This year is A Year of Good Habits. Each month, I’ll focus on developing or strengthening one financial habit to better automate that behavior so we can double our net worth in three years and become location independent. In January, I’m focusing on setting and sticking to a budget as the goal. To do that, I started using a new budgeting software called You Need a Budget. Below is my take on how that’s working out for us.** (By the way, if you click the link above, you’ll get a free month and I’ll get a free month. Thanks for supporting this blog!).
Here We Go
Why did I pick budgeting as a habit? Is it a habit, exactly? If we look at a habit as a behavior or set of behaviors that have become automated, then the way we channel the money that comes into our house is a habit. In the past, I’ve used the 50/50 budget method and Mvelopes software to channel our family’s finances. Some people use an anti-budget which works, too. But for me, a reformed spendthrift, I need the parameters of a budget to help me spend less. I say “I” because my husband does not have this problem to the same extent. He doesn’t spend much (I am also the family purchaser, for the most part. I buy groceries, pay insurance, etc.).
One of the books that has had the biggest impact on how I think is Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business. Using emerging findings from the field of neuroscience, Duhigg explains how habits, good and bad, are formed.
He explains a concept that has been revolutionary for me. Brains are the body’s biggest energy sucker and use around 20% of the body’s available energy, so they need to work as efficiently as possible. Automatizing behavior is a way to cut down on energy use. Think about the first time you tried to tie your shoe. It took an incredible amount of focus and energy to make your hands form the loops and tie the shoes. Now, you do it without thinking about it. It’s become automated and you don’t have to use as much conscious brain-power to do it.
Our family’s dream is to move internationally in three years. In order to do that, we’ve set a goal of doubling our net worth by December 2019. While that amount of money won’t replace our yearly expenses using the 4% rule (yet!—we’re slowly bringing down our spending), it will give us enough financial security to leave our “safe” jobs to travel.
For us “semi-adventurous” folk, having that nest egg in the bank is important. Everyone has different levels of tolerance for financial security.
My husband grew up very, very poor, in Santiago, Chile. While his family always had enough food to eat, he spent time after school collecting wood scraps in order to heat their house. His mom worked three jobs after his dad died, when he was 13, in order to keep their family afloat. As you can probably imagine, financial security is important to him.
love minimalism. I discovered Becoming Minimalist and The Minimalists about three years ago. I started my minimalist journey with Courtney Carver, of Project 333, and used thirty-three items of clothes per quarter, for about a year. At the same time, I started cleaning out our house, getting rid of things we no longer needed.
During one January break, when we were snowed in, I tackled about twenty boxes of books that had been stored in various basements since my college days. I curated my collection, keeping maybe thirty tomes, and giving the rest to charity. I read Marie Kondo last year, and Konmaried the rest of my house.
While The Minimalists recommend a more radical approach of boxing up everything you own, and then only pulling out the things you need as you need them, my own more measured approach worked better for me and our family.
I think it would have been very hard for my boys to suddenly have nothing in their rooms and have to go dig out the toys they wanted. This way, I’ve slowly boxed up things they don’t play with anymore, and I store those in a big Tupperware bin in our storage closet. If the boys don’t ask for any of the toys inside for six months (and they rarely do), then I donate them to charity.
I have a friend who is amazing in so many ways. She is giving, has co-funded charities that help refugees, and is so excited about life she never stops participating in cool events in our area. She has family who lives internationally so she and her family travel a lot. But she is terrified of budgeting. She and I have made dates to sit down and look at her budget but she keeps cancelling—she can’t bring herself to do it. She is afraid that if she puts the numbers to paper that she will be forced to stop doing something she likes—travel, supporting charities, enjoying local entertainment.