What brings you joy is the key to a bud­get plan

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - Bri­anna McGur­ran Ask Bri­anna

I’m try­ing to keep my spend­ing in check, but I want to treat my­self oc­ca­sion­ally. Is it ever OK for me to spend a lit­tle ex­tra on some­thing spe­cial? chances are you’re go­ing to start spend­ing money on other things that are short­term, quick-fix things,” said H. Jude Boudreaux, a cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner and founder of Up­per­line Fi­nan­cial Plan­ning in New Or­leans.

Rest as­sured. There are ways to build fun into a slim bud­get. But first, let’s make sure you’re choos­ing your splurges wisely.

Find your happy

Your first task is to fig­ure out what “es­sen­tial and restora­tive” mean to you. Iden­tify the ex­pe­ri­ences that bring you deep joy, not just fleet­ing plea­sure, and pri­or­i­tize them.

Boudreaux of­ten asks his clients the three ques­tions for­mu­lated by Ge­orge Kinder, founder of the life plan­ning move­ment, which en­cour­ages fi­nan­cial pro­fes­sion­als to in­cor­po­rate clients’ non­mon­e­tary goals and val­ues into their fi­nan­cial plans. The ques­tions ask how you’d change your life if you were com­pletely fi­nan­cially se­cure, if you had five to 10 years to live, and if you had 24 hours to live. Your an­swers shed light on what’s most im­por­tant to you.

Boudreaux says his clients’ most sat­is­fy­ing ac­tiv­i­ties of­ten don’t cost much. But if the ex­er­cise re­veals you have a pen­chant for travel to far­away lands, make that a longer-term goal and cre­ate a plan to re­al­ize it.

Make your goals spe­cific, Boudreaux says; in­stead of set­ting aside money for travel in gen­eral, save for a “nine­day trip to Ire­land.” Also, con­sider set­ting up a sep­a­rate, travel-only sav­ings ac­count at a bank other than the one where you keep your check­ing ac­count. If the ac­counts aren’t linked, you’ll be less likely to dip into those sav­ings for daily ex­penses.

Build it into life­style

Smaller splurges can be worked into your life and your bud­get more of­ten.

Live mu­sic fills you with en­ergy and makes you lose track of time? Pri­or­i­tize it. Con­sider free venues or sign up to see a monthly show through So­far Sounds, a con­cert se­ries in hun­dreds of cities that fea­tures on-the-rise acts and, in many cases, ac­cepts pay­ment by do­na­tion. In­stead of a spa day ev­ery six weeks, give your­self a home fa­cial or hair mask.

Re­think ‘self-care’

Even if you’ve dis­cov­ered your great­est joys are costly, know­ing what they are can help you re­cast how you think of “self-care.”

Re­fram­ing might mean keep­ing track of ev­ery $15 you save by bring­ing lunch to work and putting it to­ward your travel fund, says Ash­ley Fe­in­stein Ger­st­ley, a money coach and founder of The Fis­cal Femme in New York.

“Of­ten what hap­pens is,” Ger­st­ley says, “what we think we’re ‘treat­ing our­selves’ with is at the ex­pense of what the true treat would be.”

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