Money Calendars (a.k.a. Flows) Help More Than Money Budgets


By the end of this article, you will...
  • Have the tools you need to start valuing your time more than your money
  • Be able to track your money against a calendar (a.k.a. a Flow) instead of a traditional budget

Time is more value than money. Period.

To put it simply: Right now, the very moment you're reading this will never come again. Today, this week, this year, this life, will all never come again. No matter how hard you work, nor how disciplined you are, you will only ever have 24 hours in a day. There were 24 hours in a day 30 years ago, and there will be 24 hours in a day 30 years from now.

On the other hand, you can always make more money; by getting another job, selling stuff on craigslist, starting to freelance, etc. There are about $60-$75 trillion dollars on the planet right now, but that number was far less 30 ago, and will be more 30 years from now.

Bottom line: There are always things you can do to make more money. But you can never make more time. Period. Time is the most scarce, and thus, the most valuable resources you have.

Which brings me to the moral of our story: How to track your money against your time -- instead of against your spending, like in traditional budgeting.

There are two types of traditional budgeting strategies.

One type requires you to spend money, and then look back to see how much you spent (i.e. How much did I spend on groceries last week? Let me try to spend less this week.). I call this retroactive budgeting. 

The other type requires you to put a ceiling on future spending and try not to go over that limit (i.e. I'll give myself $100 dollars for groceries this week, and try to stick to that every week.). I call this proactive budgeting. 

Their are pro's to traditional budgeting (i.e. what you think  you spend money on is often different from what you actually spend money on, and traditional budgeting can enlighten you on you're really spending your money). However, it misses the most important asset you have. Time.

If time and money were to have a baby, it'd be an automated budget, which I like to call a Flow. <3 Ah, my heart flutters. #moneynerd

A Flow is a way to proactively plan for what you'll spend, and force yourself to only spend what you plan by having separate accounts for each separate priorities, and then automating it. My surrogate asian father -- the fabulous Ramit Sethi -- is where I first learned of budgeting automation, but then I added the element of time to it as well.

Here's what you'll need to do:

1. Calculate the value of your time.
2. Calculate the cost of your time.
3. Assign percentages (rather than dollar values) to your money.
4. Automate it.

Let's go through an example...

Below is a picture of yours truly posing like a superhero on the red carpet of my film premiere. It was super fun! #punintended

1. Calculate the value of your time.

Outside of my regular "Clark Kent" day job, I choose to do the "Superhero" work play of making art. I can choose to do almost anything I want with my time. I highly value making art. Therefore, it's what I choose to do with my time.

I value making art over clipping coupons, watching TV, doing laundry, or dare I say it, budgeting! Dun dun dun! Any time I spend doing the things I value less than making art, is time I don't spend actually making art. (Obviously.) In other words, if I spend 1 hour clipping coupons, that's 1 hour not spent making a movie, painting, writing (on this website!), or on photography. 

Now, for me it's art. But for you, it might be swimming, volunteering, rock climbing, or learning magic tricks. But the bottom line is: 

What do you want to be spending your time doing above all else?

Tip: Make a list of 10 ways you want to spend your time, and definitely put your biggest baddest dreams on there! Put that list in order of what's most important to what's least important to you, compare that to how you spend your time now. (keep reading for an app that will help you with this) Comparing how you want to spend your time to how you already spend your time will help you see how you are valuing your time. Are you using your time clipping coupons or creating value for yourself and others? 

2. Calculate the cost of your time.

My film that premiered a few weeks ago took about 45 hours to make over a 5 month period. Painting a portrait takes me about 6 hours. For each of these I have a rate that I charge per hour or per project (based on the number of hours -- amongst other things -- that it will cost to finish). Let's call that $X.

In my "Clark Kent" job I get a salary that isn't paid out hourly, but I calculate it anyway. (My paycheck before taxes divided by the number of hours I worked for that paycheck.) Let's call that $Y.

I charge $Y per hour for commissions, and earn $X per hour at work. Either way, I know what those numbers are per hour. 

So, when I make a purchase, or better yet, before I make the purchase I calculate how many hours of work/play it costs. Some examples: A chai latte tea costs me about 10 minutes of work, a new dress is about 2 hours of work, and my wedding is about a month of work (or 200 hours).

In the words of the great Oscar Wilde, "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." I think Oscar Wilde would've loved Twitter. But I digress. 

Once you start thinking of the things you buy in terms of the time you had to work to get them, then you'll start valuing your time more.

Tip: Next time you're about to make a purchase, ask yourself, "How much time will this cost me? Is it worth it?"

3. Assign percentages (rather than dollar values) to your money.

As a baby, I spent my time like this:

As a teenager,  I spent my time and money like this:

As an adult, I spend my money and time like this:

Time (one day a few years ago)

These are my actual current spending percentages:

How you spend your money and time is a reflection of your priorities. Yes, there are things you "must" do. However, those things don't have to hold you back from what you want to do. After all, are the things you "must" do really taking up all 24 hours of your time?

There are 168 hours in a week. If you work for 50 hours, and sleep for 56, then you still have 62 hours left!

Tip: Track your time for one day and see how your really spend it. I used this app: aTimeLogger2 to track my time for a week (hence the chart above) and it was illuminating! Here's another great one that automatically tracks how much time you spend on your portable hard drive portal of time-suck...I mean on your phone: Moment.

4. Automate it.

This is better seen in video. Below is a video excerpt from The Guide to Getting Your $h*t Together, where I go into this in more detail.

But, to give you and overview, I write out the date each expense is due, and then set up my accounts to automatically divide by the number of paychecks I get per month (and if you're a freelancer, pay yourself as if you received paychecks. You're your own employee). For example, if I receive 2 paychecks per month, and my car payment is $400 due on the 21st of each month, then I put $200 from my first paycheck in a checking account and $200 from my second paycheck in the same checking account. (I do that via direct deposit so I don't actually move any money myself.) And, I sign up for auto bill pay for my car payment, and by the time the 21st of the month comes around the $400 payment is already there and automatically deducted from my checking account. It takes a month or so for this to all shake out, but once it's set, it's completely automated.

Way back in the day, like before I valued my time as much as I do now, I used to spend about 4-5 hours a week budgeting and counting pennies. I would literally spend time budgeting every day. Yikes! Now I spend 30 minutes per month; just to make sure my money Flow is doing it's thing. Glorious!

Here's a video of how I set this up and track it.
(See the video in high quality here. )

And finally, as a bonus, not only do I do this for the present, but I also do it for the future. I have a target future percentage of how I want to spend both my time and money and it's tiered as a "conservative" projection, "realistic" projection, and all out "dream" projection of how I'd spend my time and money in the future.

Here's an example:

Focusing on my future goals for time and money spending makes it so I'm not anchored to the past spending habits. Rather, I'm anchored in a vision of the future.

Make a plan. Automate it. Move on.

There are better things you can be doing with your time than budgeting.

What did you find most helpful?

If you loved reading this as much as I loved writing it for you, then share it with a friend! They'll thank you for it. 


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The Simple Way to Stop Worrying About Money

What's Worth > $$$ ?

How do YOU Define Yourself?

For a long time I doubted myself, my art, my professional skills, and had been afraid to show my art work to anyone. But, on the eve of turning 30 (a few weeks ago), I made the determination that I would change my mindset and attitude from one of fear and scarcity, to one of abundance and gratitude in order to live the life I want, and start being the person I want to become. A shift in mindset (more than math) is what got me out of $40,000 in student loans, and booking art gigs left and right (woot woot!).

That shift in mindset has been more instrumental to changing my finances than math. Math motivated me to change my money behavior within the short term. But a deep and sincere commitment -- no, a vow -- to redefine yourself, that really recharged my life's batteries.

But how do you go from living in fear of your passion to living proudly for your passion; from pinching pennies, to living in abundance?


1. Take Teeny Tiny Steps: I'd often felt overwhelmed by all the projects I'm working on (a film, a personal finance course, photo projects, a ton of travel, etc.). So rather than doing a lot each day, I make a goal to just do 1 teeny tiny thing each day. Rather than make it a goal for the day to "edit a whole scene of the film", which would take hours, I instead take the smallest baby-step of a goal possible -- "off load all of the footage from one shoot" -- which would only take minutes. That's it. One. Teeny. Tiny. Step. Per. Day.

Sometimes I feel inspired to do more, other times I just have the energy for a tiny step. And that's okay! It's one step further down the road I want to be on, and closer to the life I want. The 7 tiny steps  over the past week, would but me further today than had I not taken those steps.

2. Run Yourself Like a Business: In my "Clark Kent" life (my 9-to-5), I set up and manage huge technology systems for very large (20,000 employee+) organizations. By the time I get my "Superwoman" life on (my 5-to-9) I'm tir'd (can't even get the "e" in I'm so tir'd)!

But alas, there's hope. I run my life like a business through different project management tools. I budget my time, use project management tools (my latest fave is Asana), and try to automate as much as possible (future post on that later for all you type-A's out there who feel me!).

3. Attitude Gratitude: I've started keeping a gratitude journal  in addition to my Buddhist practice. Each night before bed I think of at least one thing I'm grateful for and tell my fiance or record it. "What was your happiest moment today?" is another way we'll end our day. Try asking yourself that tonight, and you'll see a wonderful habit blossom.

4. Nike it up! Just do it! Just keep moving forward because your soul depends on it. Really. The doubt/fear/etc. doesn't go away, but you'll be so busy doing (instead of waiting for yourself to do something) that all you can do is move forward. With every action you take -- small (sending an email) or big (screening a film -- side note: I have a Film Festival Premiere next month! Eep!) -- your life will have no choice but to move in the direction of your dreams.

I'll repeat that...

I'm grateful to have seen this today:

What's 1 thing you're grateful for today?

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Could you list 100 of your dreams?

Whenever I have downtime online (instead of checking social media again) I look at my list of 100 dreams and make plans to work towards them. It's a list of anything -- no rules -- I want to do with my life. I have everything from "sleep" to "take my man to Hawai'i" on here. Writing down the first 30 or so is easy, but then you start to slow down. 

I've heard of bucket lists, but feel this just works better for me. I also use this as a motivator for how I want to spend my time, energy and money. So, rather than trying to save time doing dishes, or optimizing all of my errands into one afternoon, or, in other words, focusing and planning around the things I don't want to do/drain me of energy/or are lower priority,  instead, I just focus on what I do want to do / give me energy/ and is high priority. Everything else just then falls into place or gets de-priortize (as it should). 

More concretely, one of my dreams is to read a book a month. So while doing dishes I'll listen to an audio book. The $14/month subscription for audio books is worth it to me because the fee is nominal for me, and getting to hear the books I've chosen is awesome, a priority for me, and thus worth it. 

Bottom line: Prioritize around your dreams (the things that give you energy), rather than around your chores (the demands the drain your energy). That's true for both money and time. 

Shout out to Laura Vanderkam, whose workshop I learned this in. Check out her List of 100 Dreams

My List of "100" Dreams (it's 46 right now, but meh. That's cool with me)

strike through = Made it!
bold = actively working on it
plain = new/pending

  1. Get a black belt in something (I did boxing for 20 years, and tae kwon do for 4)
  2. Try Aikido
  3. Take my man to hawai'i
  4. go my man to new zeleand
  5. have a super fun wedding
  6. show in a gallery
  7. create a successful creative business
  8. inspire others
  9. buy a house
  10. have multiple streams of income
  11. take my man to morocco
  12. work on a feature film
  13. bake more bread
  14. teach an online course
  16. create scrapbooks from old stuff
  17. shoot on analog still photography film again
  18. publish a book of my artwork
  19. speak at events
  20. lead workshops
  21. take class at the folk school w/ my man
  22. have a family day each month (rock climb, cycling around the beach, LEGO museum, jet ski/wakeboard, aqua jet pack, hicking)
  23. read a book each month
  24. have a monthly girls' night
  25. visit chicago yearly
  26. cook 
  27. learn to throw pottery
  28. do my nails more often
  29. get a monthly massage 
  30. go shopping more often
  31. sleep
  32. scuba dive
  33. start a scholarship program 
  34. mentor low-income high school students
  35. Learn japanese
  36. Visit kyoto
  37. Visit japan 
  38. Stretch canvas
  39. Attend workshop by my favorite artist
  40. learn to use a speed bag
  41. ride a bike with no handle bars
  42. Eat healthy
  43. Excercise 
  44. volunteer helping sea turtles
  45. visit the turtle hospital on marathon key
  46. make moroccan tea

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designed to help you start controlling your money (so it stops controlling you),
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"Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It"

'My good friend died, my relationship ended, my 3 year old company is going to shit. To say I was depressed would be generous.'

Those were the words of a man who inspired me today. In the depths of emptiness and hardship, he found light and hope by making a very simple vow to himself. And I'll emphasize this again -- it was a vow -- not a promise, nor a goal -- a vow. His vow? 'I vow to love myself.'

He wrote it down, and vowed to accomplish it. Every moment thereafter he made every decision, every email, every choice, weighed every option, with that vow in mind.

How would your life be different if you loved yourself first? When someone asked you if you want to go to that party? If you're deciding to return that phone call or email? If you're weighing what vacation you want to go on? How would you decide where your money should go?

How would things be different if you sincerely vowed to love yourself? Your flaws, decisions, vulnerabilities, goals, and you. You. You as you are have everything you need to be at your best. I truly and sincerely believe that about everyone. Really.

Happiness comes down to that. Feel a fire in your belly, a surge in your heart, a feeling in your gut. Feel the enormity of life telling you the thing you already know but try to run away from, or make excuses to keep from yourself.

It's the age old battle: You vs. Yourself. To be or not to be. < --- that is the question. The answer? Love yourself like your life depends on it.

For more:
Watch the speech.
Get the book.

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7 Things You "Should" Know by Now

This post is dedicated to both of my twenty-something, professional, college grad, savvy, caring, super smart younger sisters. 

The people I care about most -- my family and friends -- aren't as obsessed with personal finance as I am (I know, big shocker). They come to me with:

"You gotta help me with this stuff"

"I don't know nearly as much as I should.

So here it is, the bare minimum of what you "should" know by now:

The Past (Debt)

  • Pay your credit card balance off each month because:
    • If you carry a balance it will increase the amount of money you owe over time significantly.
    • Also, if you carry a balance month over month for several months, then your credit score (which is your financial G.P.A.) will suffer.
    • I know it's hard to stop using it. But figure out what you're using it on most. Do you actually need that? What can you do instead of going shopping for it? If you don't pay off your credit cards each month, then you are in emergency mode, and it should be your #1 financial goal. 
#1 Recommended Step to $ Peace-of-Mind:
Make paying off your credit card each month your #1 financial goal. 
  • Student loans can wait: 
    • If you have a very good reason for paying them off early then do it. Otherwise let and let live. By paying them off faster you'll save money in interest over time, BUT you may also lose money. Example of how you could lose money: Say your student loans have an interest rate of 4%, but your retirement account performs at 8%, then you would be losing money if you put your extra cash your student loans instead of retirement. I know, you're looking at me like WTF? Keep reading...
  • Interest rates are the price you pay for borrowing money. Always. Look. At. Interest. Rate. ALWAYS. Say your friend needs $500, and they ask you for it but you don't really want to lend it to them because it's your last $500, so you say "No." But your friend counters with, "If you lend me $500 now, I'll give you back $600 in a month." Well that sounds sweet, right? So, you decide you'll lend it. You lent $500, and got back $600, so you made $100. The $100 dollar difference is interest. It's the money your friend paid you so they could barrow from you.  
    • Interest rate is also what you pay your credit card company, your student loan lender, and every loan ever. 
    • Once you understand interest rates, then you can make educated financial decisions pretty much forever. 
#2 Recommended Step to $ Peace-of-Mind:
Write down all of your debt in one place (spreadsheets a glorious things people!), the interest rate for each, automate the minimum payment for each, and then decide if there are any you want to pay off more quickly. Tackle either the smallest loan or the highest interest rate loan first. Only tackle one at a time. These calculators will help you decide which/if you want to pay them more quickly, and here I share my own interest rate epiphany. 

The Present (Budgeting, Credit Score)

  • Budget Future-Focused Flow I hate the word budget so much. Instead, focus on the future. What is your dream scenario? What if you had all the money that ever lived? :) What would you do with your time? Go on a road trip cross country, fly all over the world, volunteer with orphan elephants in Kenya? Rather than focus on the past pennies you've lost (aka budgeting) focus on where you want money (which is just a tool to get you something) to go. Decide on your life goals, and automate your money to support getting you there. Automate what goes into savings, your checking account, and retirement. Set and forget it. Auto-pay everything and make how you want to spend your time the question that drives your financial decisions, rather than how you want to spend your money. 
#3 Recommended Step to $ Peace-of-Mind:
Automate 'er thing! Read this to see what I do with my money. Even if you don't have direct deposit, set aside time (like actually put it on a calendar) for 15mins twice a month to make the transfers. For me, on the 15th and last day of the month, I take 15mins to look at my checklist for both what's automated and what's not. Yes, I have a checklist so I don't have to just remember it all (it's in the same place as the calendar), and I check: "Okay X amount went to retirement as it was suppose to. Check. It's the last day of the month, so I'll pay the rent. Check. etc.).
  • Get your financial G.P.A  (also known as your CREDIT SCORE). This is what banks look at to decide if (a) they should lend money to you, and they judge you on whether you'll pay them back based on this, and (b) what Interest rate -- our friend from above -- they'll charge you. In other words, if you want to barrow $5,000 to buy a car, then whoever is deciding whether to lend you the money will look at your credit score to decide if they will lend it to you, and how much on top of the $5,000 you'll have to pay them back. If you have a high credit score (like an "A") then maybe you'll pay back $5,200, but if you have a low credit score (like a "D") then you'll pay back $6,200. It's up to them and your credit score. Credit score are numeric and loosely letter grades. But the point is, know yours.
  • Keep (or make!) your Credit Score solid by paying off your credit card each month, making on time payments, keeping credit cards (or other debt) open for a long period of time (years), keeping your debt-to-income ratio low. Debt to income ratio example: Say my credit card limit is $10,000 and I'm in credit card debt for $9,000, then my debt-to-income ratio is very high because I'm using 90% of my limit. But if my credit card limit is $10,000, and I have credit debt of $1,000, then my debt-to-income ratio is very low, which is a good thing because it shows I'm responsible and not over spending. 

#4 Recommended Step to $ Peace-of-Mind:
Get your financial G.P.A. credit score here and check it every 6 months. (Again, make spirochete for this!)

The Future (Savings, Retirement)

  • Saving, Retirement, and Investing are 3 different things. 
  • Save FIRST. If you leave it for last, or for whatever's "left over" you know you're not going to do it. Even if just $20 bucks a month. Automate it. One of the most gratifying feelings is seeing how many months I can live off of my savings (again, automatically calculated on my future-focused flow preadsheet). Decide how many months feels right to you (again the personal part of personal finance) and make that target your financial goal. 
#5 Recommended Step to $ Peace-of-Mind:
Automate your savings. Here is how I automate mine. And there's a super easy way to automate as well -- an app called Digit, which pulls spare change from your account automatically. If $20 a month sounds like too much, then Digit is a great place to start. 
  • Retirement. It's the inverse of borrowing money. Rather than paying money to barrow money, someone is paying you to barrow your money and you get paid interest. How much interest? Well, that depends how the stock market performs. Traditionally a retirement fund is an account you put money into (aka contribute to), and that money gets traded on the stock market, which goes up and down. Some days you lose money, some days you make money. But, on average, and in the U.S., and over several years (like 30+), you make money... enough money to where you won't have to work anymore (aka don't have to trade time for money anymore). That's when you're "retired."
    • There are a zillion types of retirement accounts. But they basically boil down to this:
      • Before taxes: Your $ goes into your retirement account > You get your paycheck
      • After taxes: You get your paycheck > Your $ goes into your retirement account
  • Give Yourself a Raise! The first time many people get a retirement account is with their first "real job." And, often times the employer also puts money into that retirement account. This is called "matching" -- for every $1 you put in, your employer puts in $1. Now it isn't always $1 for $1. Maybe your employer puts in 50 cents for every $1 you put in. Regardless of what it is, you should be taking advantage of it. Automate it, and match. Note: the IRS (Uncle Sam) puts a limit on how much you can put into retirement each year (wongt wongt wongt). Nonetheless, you should make it a financial goal to get as much out of this perk as possible because it means you won't have to work sooner (a.k.a. can retire sooner).
#6 Recommended Step to $ Peace-of-Mind:
Find out what type of retirement account your employer provides, sign up for it, automate it, and maximize your employer match as much as possible. Read this
  • Investing. Until you pay off your credit cards each month, have an emergency fund with a few months of savings (whatever amount of months let you sleep at night), and are maxing out your retirement contribution, then I'm not talking to you about investing. Period. Build the foundation of the house before you put on the roof. 

Big Bonus
  • Insurance. Like crazy basic explanation: If there's an emergency (injury, death, earthquake, etc.) you (or someone affected by he emergency) get paid a lot to help you get back on your feet. There are many types of insurance, here are a few:
    • Health: If you get really sick or into an accident, insurance helps pay for you to get better.
    • Car: If you hit someone's car, or they hit you, then insurance helps pay for the damage.
    • Life: If you (or someone you love) dies, then insurance pays you to help get back on your feet. Now this only typically applies if the person who died was a breadwinner. Example: You work and you job supports you and your spouse. If you have life insurance, and unexpectedly pass, then your spouse gets paid thousands of dollars because they needed your income form your job to subsist. I know. I'm sorry it's a morbid one. But insurance is for this. 
It's relatively common for employers to provide health and life insurance.

#7 Recommended Step to $ Peace-of-Mind:
Get health insurance from your employer or here. If you have a car, get car insurance. If you rent consider renters insurance. If you provide for anyone other than yourself (send your mom some money each month even) then consider life insurance. 

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designed to help you start controlling your money (so it stops controlling you),
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Here's To You! Thank you!

Hey you! Ya, you. Who else would I be talking to?

Thank you.

Thanks to all 7,000+ of you... 107 countries around the world...

in all 50 states...

who keep coming back...

and keep this lovely little blog growing...

from my private personal secret money diary experiment in 2012, to the a money peace-of-mind community that helps you build money confidence, courage, and proves your'e not alone...

"What I really love about the blog is I guess what you could call the foundational principles of the entire blog. I also agree that happiness does buy money :) ... I basically have been following the advice on your website for a few years now." 
"This is a masterpiece, have enjoyed reading this amazing and an informative article [blog] after ages. Thanks for sharing." 
"Almost there - I have been revising my debt payments to keep with my goal of paying it off at a certain time frame. I think I am driving myself crazy sometimes editing the spreadsheet but like you said, I am just sticking to a plan =)"

Haha Money makes me feel...

Like I the resources to financial health are out there for me
Like the internet is being used for good
Like happiness can buy me money
Poll Maker

Why Budgets Build Bad Habits...and what I do instead

Simply put...

Budgets are retroactive.

Peace-of-mind planning is proactive.

Let me explain...

Imagine you go to a restaurant, and you drink all of the water in your glass. Then you wait and wait and wait and grow increasingly thirsty until you feel like your throat is made of sand paper. The waiter finally comes by to fill your glass and you are relieved of your thirst endured agony. That's Budgeting. 


Imagine you go to a restaurant, and you drink half to the water in your glass. Immediately, before your throat ever gets a chance to hint at ever feeling dry - BOOM! Your glass if full. Oh yeah! #win Your glass never goes less than half full, you never have to twiddle your parched little fingers to get a drop of relief, you are always abounding with refreshment. That's Peace-of-mind planning. 

In other words, 

Budgets = Drain you (a.k.a. living paycheck to paycheck)

Peace-of-mind planning = Replenishes you. You are overflowing. 

Budgets also never work. Unless you're an accountant, who wants to sit there saving receipts or looking backwards on your life just to deprive yourself of things you enjoy (coffee in the morning, eating out with friends, badass new art supplies -- that last one's my personal fave!). Whether they're online tools that "automatically" budget for you, or manual receipt-saving, they look backwards on spending rather than forward on living.

Here's what I do...(I haven't budgeted for about a 2 years now)...

:::drum roll:::

Peace-of-mind planning...

Step 1: Decide on the things you love and give you joy. That are "worth" spending time and energy on because you love them.

Here's a helpful exercise: What's the last purchase you made that was a little more than you thought you could afford -- a splurge if you will -- and you felt awesome about it? You told all of your friends, you can't stop thinking about it, and it will serve you many times over. Maybe it's a brand new shiny convertible, a dream dress that fits perfectly, a huge micro loan to a woman in the Philippines that can now run her business because of your generosity (that last one's mine again :)

Put those things first. For me it's saving like crazy for a house, traveling, and art supplies. I put those things (and my dreams) first. 

Step 2: Separate the things you love and give you joy from your obligations. 

Why do you overspend? Same reason why you over eat. Probably because you have only one checking account. Not because your will power is so awful or you're such bad person. But because the chocolate cake is next to the low-fat yogurt, and -- of course! -- you're going to eat the cake.

I have all of my "dream"/"nice-to-have" money (the stuff from step #1) in separate accounts from the stuff that I "must-pay." Having both my "nice-to-have", savings, and dreams, in the same account as my "must-pay" expenses is, again, like having chocolate cake in the house next to the low fat yogurt while trying to lose weight. It's not going to work. You're going to eat the cake. Don't fool yourself.

You can figure out what your dreams are, how much they'll cost, how much you want to save, how much you have to have to survive, and then separate them.

Step 3: Set it up and forget it. 

Put numbers on each of these categories: Dreams, Savings, Must-pay expenses, and Nice-to-have expenses. Then put each bucket in a different account. 

Here's an example -- notice how the accounts at the bottom:

The example above is an example of what I do. I automate direct-deposits to go into each account, and only carry the Nice-to-Have checking account debit card in my wallet. This way, I'll never go over (I'll never eat the "chocolate" cake).

Bonus! Go for the dream!

I took it one step further by also figuring out how 3 scenarios: 

1- A survival scenario = given my current expenses what is the bare minimum I would need in order to not live on the streets. 

2 - A realistic scenario (the example above) = what is more likely, and I'm not just eating ramen noodles.

3 - My dream scenario - what I wish my cashflow looked like. Notice how my housing is $0, that's because I wouldn't pay for housing in this scenario (because my tenants would, or my house would be paid off), and how there's no debt and a ton of savings and dream spending. In my 'dream' example I'd also be making 170% times more. 

This gives me a goal to aim for, a way of looking forward to filling the glass before the water runs out. 

Extra Bonus: Emergency Savings

At the bottom of my peace-of-mind plan I also have how many months I could live off of my emergency savings if the survival scenario came true. In this example it's 5.1 months:

That's another proactive peace-of-mind win that puts things in perspective. 

Through proactive planning, I've relieved the pressure from having the "cake" in the house, started actually seeing what it would look like to live my dream life (and am working words it because I can see the "finish line" clearly), and have built a realistic grasp on my safety net should there be an emergency. Take that retroactive budgeting! Boom!

The numbers above aren't my own (I simplified them a bit for your viewing pleasure), but they are from the guide I designed for you...

A little bundle of awesome designed to start you on a path to growing your money tree
You can get the Guide -- where you can plug in your own numbers in the template above -- videos, step-by-step lessons, and my real life examples on money management and managing money stress happiness. 

Here's a sneak peak of the checklist -- the foundation for the course...


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Checklist to Getting Your $h*t Together Checklist

BEFORE ... Survival mode :(

At the beginning of my pay off journey I was in Survive mode...$40,000 in student loans, not paying off my credit cards each month, not saving for retirement, zero emergency fund...wongt wongt wongt..

But then I planted a seed...

AFTER ... ALIVE mode! =D

My money tree sprouted through reading ferociously about personal finance, calculating and re-calculating my budget (I had dreams of spreadsheet. really!)! 

And now, I have no student loan burden, pay off my credit cards each month, put more than the national average towards retirement, and can live off of my emergency fund for at least 5 months. 

I put everything I learned into ...

A little bundle of awesome designed to start you on a path to growing your money tree. 
With videos, a checklist, step-by-step lesson on money management and managing money stress happiness. 

Here's a sneak peak...


3 Awesome Debt Calculators & Ice Cream

Debt calculators often have a bunch of ads all over the place (and yes, I have seen enough to's Saturday night and I'm writing this. Love this stuff!), only let you plug in one loan/line of credit, and are thus now fun. But these three are pretty much as awesome as eating ice cream...

 3. Snow Cone = Time Value

This one is for you other nerdy cool speed sheet lovers out there. Holler! You can plug in multiple loans/lines of credit and it gives you a schedule for when you'll be done that you can see line by line. (There's another I reviewed from Pine Grove, which is great if you only have just one line of credit/loan.) It also compares different strategies with graphs and charts...again, great for the nerdy cool kids who love that stuff (yours truly!).


2. Two scoops =

This is what I used to pay down my debt. It's super simple. Has the cleanest interface out there; it's just one page. Requires no login, and is basically a spreed sheet with a great interface. Just plug in your numbers and play away. It's flexible so you can run different scenarios like Avalanche (paying highest interest first) vs. Snowball (paying smallest principals first) so you can see what works for you. You can also adjust the numbers on a sliding scale thingy...and who doesn't like those!?

1. Ice Cream Sunday =  Ready for Zero

This is a free web and mobile tool that connects directly to your accounts and updates automatically. It's really fresh and fluid, can sync it with your calendar, and can send you progress reports and digest emails that you can schedule for yourself. Personally, I just want to set up a repayment plan and then automate it (which is why all I needed were two scoops), and dings and emails reminding me of my debt wouldn't have been very encouraging. When I was paying off my debt, I only used to check my balance once a month. Nonetheless, this is a pretty fantastic tool. 

Here's one loan/line of credit example:

It also has adjustable nob sliding thingies. #win

Paying in Full
As a reminder (or news) to you, the above is what happens if I pay my credit card in full this month. I  save myself 3 years and 5 months of debt. 

Paying the Minimum
As a reminder (or news) to you, the above is what happens if I pay my credit card minimum, it would take me 3 years and 5 months + $134.52 extra. #Interest

This is a small example, but imagine what this looks like when it's thousands of dollars.

Use one of these calculators today! Time is ticking! The ice cream is melting!

Also, remember, getting your sh*t together is more than just about managing debt, and debt -- in and of itself (is that how that saying goes?) -- isn't a "bad" thing. You need to understanding interest (which the calculators above will help with), your goals, the "opportunity cost" of paying debt versus doing something else with your money (and time). And that's why I share my money experience in...

BEFORE ... Survival mode :(

At the beginning of my pay off journey I was in Survive mode...$40,000 in student loans, not paying off my credit cards each month, not saving for retirement, zero emergency fund...wongt wongt wongt..

But then I planted a seed...

AFTER ... ALIVE mode! =D

My money tree sprouted through reading ferociously about personal finance, calculating and re-calculating my budget (I had dreams of spreadsheet. really.)! 

And now, I have no student loan burden, pay off my credit cards each month, put more than the national average towards retirement, and can live off of my emergency fund for at least 5 months. 

I put everything I learned into ...

A little bundle of awesome designed to start you on a path to growing your money tree. 
With videos, a checklist, step-by-step lesson on money management and managing money stress happiness. 

Here's a sneak peak...


Was this helpful? Share it with a friend. 

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