Welcome to week two of the EASY Money Challenge, where we’re exploring a new framework to understand your relationship with money.
This week we’re tackling the “A” of EASY: Automate. Let’s talk about how to manage money without thinking about it.
Tune in above or through your favorite podcast app, or check out the transcript below.
At the end of each episode in the EASY Money Challenge, I’ll share an exercise to help you fill out your Money Map — an inventory that lets you see where your money comes from, where it’s going and how you want to use it.
These exercises will help you gain understanding and peace in your finances without clinging to the budgeting habits so many people are doubling down on this time of year.
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Here are three key principles to help you get money off your mind and focus on what you’ll do with money instead of what you’ll avoid.
No. 1: There’s no such thing as a fixed expense
A lot of the ways you hear about expenses makes them sound like obligations you can’t get out of. It can make you feel trapped by your finances.
Instead of obligations, consider your expenses as commitments. Those are agreements you make to pay.
Commitments are a choice you make and, therefore, one you can change anytime. You can be in charge of your finances, instead of in reaction to them. That means, when your financial situation doesn’t feel right, you can make all the big or small changes you want.
Uncommit to your housing costs and move into a 200-square-foot Airstream.
Uncommit to your student loan debt, and set up income-driven repayment.
Uncommit to a cable subscription, and switch to a streaming service.
Uncommit to your auto loan payment by selling your car.
No one chooses your commitments for you, and bills aren’t inevitable once you sign up. You can make a change anytime you want to adjust your experience.
No. 2: Some savings are meant to be spent
You can ease the burden of upcoming big spending by saving up the money in advance. You just have to let yourself spend it when the time comes.
Too many people get caught up in saving for savings’ sake — with no plan for how you’ll use the money.
When the purpose you give money is just to be saved, it’s hard to adjust your mindset to spend that money down the line when you need it.
Give your stash context by naming a purpose for the money: your future big spending.
Setting this money aside is less about financial discipline and more about creating ease in making future plans, so don’t get stressed about setting a savings goal or target date. Instead, focus on how you’ll use the money.
You deserve to find joy in your experience, whether that’s your next vacation, a new appliance, a celebration, a new car, a big move, an elaborate gift or anything else.
Creating buckets for these big spending plans helps you prioritize them without letting them disrupt your day-to-day finances. And you don’t have to struggle to give yourself permission to spend the money when the time comes.
You can use big spending goals for any future plans. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
Kids’ friends birthday fund.
Home down payment.
Wedding, graduation, anniversary or other celebration.
Buying a boat or an RV.
Fashion fund to buy clothes.
The best part about big spending goals is that they don’t have to include a target date or amount. You can have open-ended goals like “travel” or “gifts” and contribute and use funds whenever it feels right.
No. 3: Money should be easy
You shouldn’t have to think about your money all the time. That really sucks the fun out of your daily life.
Thankfully, just about everything about money management can be automated, so you can keep your money in check without thinking about it all the time.
Automation can include using tools or apps to handle your money for you, or it can be as simple as developing new habits.
Here are some examples of ways you can make money management automatic and get it off your mind:
Use direct deposit to automatically put your paycheck into buckets for your financial commitments and goals so you never have to think about how much is left to spend.
Set up auto-pay from your bank account for regular bills.
Use an app that keeps track of your bill amounts and due dates and sends you reminders to pay.
Set up calendar reminders before your bills are due.
Schedule a weekly meeting with your partner or family to chat about financial goals and challenges.
Use an auto-saving app that stashes money each day or week based on what you can spare.
Stash spare change from your spending in a jar so you don’t have to think about saving.
Use an app that automatically rounds up and saves the spare change from your digital transactions.
Negotiate with creditors and billers to move all your due dates to one or two days per month, so you have fewer to remember.
Use habit stacking, like checking your Yes Fund balance while you have your morning coffee each day.
There are tons of ways you can remove the decision-making from your money management. Take some time today to brainstorm where you sense friction in making financial decisions, and list some ways you can make that decision automatic to get it off your mind.
Fill out your Money Map
Now, let’s pull out the Money Map and look at your commitments next to your resources.
If you haven’t already, download your Money Map here.
This week, we’re going to list your commitments, so find the second section of your Money Map — your life costs and debt payments.
In those sections, make a list of your commitments, including any regular payments you make, like:
Mortgage or rent.
Transportation or fuel.
Subscriptions for streaming services.
Therapy and other health care.
Payments on student loans, auto loans, credit cards and other debt.
Contributions to big spending.
Next to each of these commitments, make a note of what happens if you don’t pay. For example:
If you pay rent late, you might have a five-day grace period, then owe an extra fee. If you go a certain number of months without paying, what are the eviction laws in your area?
If you don’t pay utility bills, how long before those services are cut off?
If you don’t pay for therapy, what’s the psychological impact?
If you don’t pay a debt bill, what’s the interest you’ll owe? Will you owe late fees? Do you risk losing collateral like your car or home? Will you have to field calls from debt collectors?
Prioritizing your commitments requires understanding these consequences, so you can weigh them against the consequences of using or not using your money in other ways.
Now, compare your monthly commitments to your monthly resources.
Revisit the first episode in this series, How to earn money with ease and joy, for guidance on your resources if you haven’t already filled out that part of your Money Map.
Now look at the two side by side. How do they line up? How does that feel? Do you see any places you want to make changes?
You might not be able to make changes immediately, but use this exercise to identify where you want to see change so you can start planning the steps you’ll take to make it happen.
Note that you don’t yet have a full picture — in the next two weeks, we’ll look at your goals and spending to round out your Money Map and give you more information to understand your next steps a little better. Stay tuned!
I’d love to learn what you uncover about your commitments through this exercise.
Are your total commitments higher or lower than you expected?
Where do you see opportunities for change?
How do your commitments line up with your resources, and how does that feel?
Hop into the comments of this post to share any responses you’re comfortable sharing with the community, or send me an email privately to email@example.com.
Get money off your mind
To wrap up today, just remember: Managing money shouldn’t bring you stress and heartache. Money is a tool to support the ease and joy you deserve to experience.
By reframing your expenses as commitments, committing to big spending you care about and setting your money on autopilot, you can focus on what you’ll do with money instead of what you’ll avoid.
Thank you for following along with this challenge, and I’ll talk to you next week!
Next up in the EASY Money Challenge
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