Lighten Up About Money

How much money do you pass up each year by paying full-price for toilet paper at Target and neglecting to return to The Gap for a price adjustment on your sweatpants? Who cares? My hunch is that you have better things to do with your time than stare at an Excel spreadsheet tracking down every dime that passes through your fingers.

That may sound like blasphemy coming from a financial writer, but at The Motley Fool, we're all about striking a balance. What good is an extra five spot in your back pocket if it weighs you down with worry?

Want to put that kick back into your step and clear your money management calendar? Start taking shortcuts. Try the 60% budgeting solution we occasionally preach. In it, 60% of your income is earmarked for "committed expenses" (mortgage, food, car payments, utilities, etc.), 10% for "fun money," another 10% for irregular expenses (your short-term savings), 10% for retirement savings, and 10% for long-term savings and/or debt reduction. Creating broad categories like these covers your bases and lessens the need for nitpicky record-keeping.

I also have my own approach that I call the Lazy Girl's Guide to Budgeting. It requires a week or so of vigilant wallet-watching (this cute "Spending Patch" will go perfectly with that new wallet!) and then going on a virtual spending spree for items like retirement cash and house down-payment funds that you'll need during the course of life. Setting up automatic balance transfers for your IRA, 401(k), and short-term savings allows you to slack off for months -- even years! -- while still meeting your big money goals.

Some of my colleagues (yes, Roger, I'm talking about you) tsk tsk my lackadaisical ways. However, I don't go through my day thoughtlessly trailing dimes and dollar bills, as Roger will lead you to believe. I recognize that every dollar is an investment -- whether it's for my nephew's college fund or my immediate coffee craving. But fretting over the occasional $3 here and there is a distraction from life's real pleasures.

One final note: This "go with the flow" attitude is not for those who: (a) have high-interest debt to pay off, (b) have no idea how much money they have coming in and going out on a monthly basis, or (c) have no short-term, long-term, medium-term, or any-term savings plan in place. In situations such as these, a temporary restraining order on blissful ignorance is due.

Once you've got your bases covered, I say life is far too precious and way too short to spend it searching for that Val-Pack coupon (for a whopping 20% off your $2.95 burger) you swore was around here somewhere.


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