I don't live on a budget. That's too confining. It makes me think that I've got to be counting my pennies or forgoing the satisfaction of my wants to fulfill my needs. When I'm on a budget, I end up more of a financial wreck than when I started.
Instead, I have a spending plan. Now that's something I can relate to. I have money coming in from my paychecks, and while there are bills I must pay, I have a plan for spending that cash -- and it usually centers around me!
OK, it's just semantics -- a game of mental gymnastics I play with myself to avoid the roadblocks that the thought of "budgeting" places in my path. But if you've found yourself in a similar situation, in which sticking to a budget -- er, spending plan -- was too restrictive, making the process more fun may help you achieve your goals, as it has with me.
It's all about me
So what do I spend my money on? As I said, I spend it on me, basically.
Or, rather, my future.
We've all heard the admonition to pay yourself first. Well, I don't. That's sounds too much like a job. Instead, I spend money on myself. I try to make the spending on me as lavish as possible, too. It doesn't matter that this excess just happens to be going into my savings account at the same time. The bigger the amount I spend here, the happier I am. And really, isn't that what matters most? Making sure you're happy?
Luckily, by being selfish and thinking only of my needs, I'm also ensuring that I'll not be a burden to friends, family, or society later on in life. Hmmm. Maybe Gordon Gekko was right: Greed is good.
What else do I spend my money on? Well, I cheerfully send a check to my mortgage company each month. I've got a gargantuan mortgage on which I've stretched out payments for 30 years. Each time I write out that check (OK, I hit the "send" button since I have online banking), I smile and think that not only is the principal being reduced each month, but also, as a percentage of my salary, that payment is shrinking each and every year as well. I feel good that I've used some of the cheapest money around to buy some comfortable digs that will appreciate in value over time. What's not to smile about?
While I'm in the spending mood, I do try to do it wisely. Just because I'm wallowing in myself, that doesn't mean I abandon all reason. Like the folks at Motley Fool Green Light -- whose advice just this month alone can help you save or earn more than $1,100 -- I try to find ways to be smarter about where and what I spend my money on.
Staying in the pink
Sure, maybe I don't exhibit quite as much mirth when I send my money to the gas company, since I figure the gas company is making out better on the deal than I am. Yet knowing the IRS will give me a tax deduction this year simply for insulating my house, for example, does make buying the itchy stuff a more cheery occasion.
There is one area where I've broken the cardinal rule of frugality: I bought an expensive car. We all know that new cars depreciate in value the minute you drive them off the lot and that a used car, even only a year or two old, would be a smarter spending decision. Plenty of real-life millionaires drive older-model, American-made cars. However, after years (and years) of always driving old beater cars, I decided to splurge on a shiny new import.
The funny thing is that just by following a spending plan for a little while, you suddenly find that it's easier to splurge on yourself occasionally. Maybe it's not a new car; perhaps it's a new set of clothes, a set of golf clubs, or a nice vacation getaway. Whatever your personal gotta-have is, by having a spending plan in place that focuses on you and your well-being -- even if you have to use head games to make it work, as I do -- you'll find yourself so much better off at the end.
Now, you have to realize that the ultimate purpose of your spending plan is to make you better off financially, and so you can't load up on luxuries regularly, but within those loose guidelines you can be as selfish as you want and still come out ahead.
Put your spending plan into action today, and if you want to supplement it with money-saving ideas, you can get a trial subscription to Motley Fool Green Light free for 30 days. It might be the best money you've spent on yourself all year.