My own struggles
I struggled a lot with my love of food. It felt like I would never get a handle on my eating-out budget no matter how I tried, and I was constantly raising and lowering the budgeted amount, making grand plans but getting nowhere. This same pattern repeated it self with my grocery budget.
Finally I let myself spend as much as I wanted one month to see how bad it would really be. Giving myself that permission was difficult but I stuck with it.
At the end of that month I was able to pick out the things that I had purchased that had really satiated me at mealtime. Then using that information I was able to make sure that no matter what, I could always have those things to build my meals around or in the case of takeaway, that I only bought meals that I always enjoyed.
Discover Your Simple Pleasures
When you have about fifteen minutes to spare, sit down with a sheet of paper in a quiet corner. Start to write down everything in your life that brings you positive emotions, such as joy, happiness, laughter, contentment and calm. Inevitably not all of these things will be items that you purchase, but all are valuable to this exercise.
Once you have your list, ask yourself how often you do these things and if you are satisfied with it. Also check the balance of purchased items vs. 'free' experiences such as spending time with family or engaging a hobby that you already own all the material and tools for.
Another good thing to note is how many of the things fall into the same category. If most of what brings you joy is food, this could signal either an over-reliance on food to prop up your moods or it may nudge you to making food a larger part of your life by cooking more often, or writing a food blog critiquing restaurants.
There is no hard and fast way to interpret this information. Go with your gut instincts.
When you have a good idea of what truly adds to your life, and how often you ideally would like to do it add it into your budget and plan ahead for it:
- Schedule a fixed date with your husband to go see a movie, or call up your friends and plan a beach picnic. Try to be very specific about what you are doing so that it is not a nebulous idea in your mind, but a concrete plan.
- You may decided to block off time in your schedule to work on your novel, or add special ingredients to your grocery budget to try your hand at making your favourite restaurant dessert.
- Perhaps you will head out to a concert, take a long walk in nature or start saving for your next vacation.
In addition, it is equally important at this stage to evaluate if there are areas in your life that you are spending too much time and money on, but not getting anything positive back in return. When you have identified these things, make a plan to cut them out and replace them with items from your list that do add value to your life.
- Perhaps you buy too many snack items but conversely struggle with your weight. Identify what healthy snacks you do enjoy and buy them instead. Or make a plan to have a tasting session of healthy snacks to identify ones you do like.
- If you find you grab take-always lot but often feel dissatisfied with the food or how it makes you feel after. Narrow down your take-away to only the restaurants whose food you always enjoy. Then think of what home-made meals you like and cook them more often. You can also try to cook some of your favourite take away meals at home as well, once they are not too complicated.
- If you find you buy a lot of books but don't get around to reading them. Use the library instead, at least then when you find you don't like a book you can simply return it.
The beauty in taking time to make your pleasure a priority in your budget is that it removes the guilt you feel when you try to make a more 'responsible' budget and end up using your money on these things anyway.
It is a key step in realistic and healthy budgeting, which enabled you stay the course for the long term.
Even more importantly, if you spend your resources and time doing what make you happy, you will by default be happier in general. Cutting down on doing other things that don't inspire you, leaves lots of room to become enamoured with life.
Life in and of itself is a pleasure. Practising gratitude and spending time in nature are great ways to reconnect to the simplest of joys. I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday season and are ready for the New Year.