One Week To Payday: Take Control , Take Stock and Take A Moment To Share
“The sense of being in control is central to happiness. Keeping on top of your finances is usually a much more important recipe for happiness than trying to make lots of money.” (Liz Hoggard in Making Slough Happy)
I started the month by writing a rough budget, and setting up systems to nudge myself towards spending less. Now I am taking a moment to bask in the happy glow this has created. I have felt more in control of our spending because, thanks to making my bank’s website my homepage, I got in the habit of checking our bank accounts every day. And using little mini-wallets to hold cash for different areas of spending meant I didn’t constantly worry about whether I could afford what I was spending. Keeping all our receipts has been an eye-opener though – I was way off on what I thought we spent on different areas. I have used this to set realistic (ish) targets for next month, rather than writing an ideal budget that doesn’t reflect how we actually spend our money. I have taken control of our finances and I am feeling a teeny bit smug.
So, to make sure I keep it up, I am introducing a new, monthly habit. In the last week of each month, set a budget for next month’s spending before the money comes in. You can download a really comprehensive budget planner over at Diary Of A Frugal Family.
Another new habit for the last week of each month is to Take Stock. One of my guiding principles is to Quantify Your Assets and it makes sense to do this before I plan our spending and saving for the coming month. So I will audit our food supplies before I plan meals, try on all my clothes and work out some new outfits with them, before treating myself (just a little) in the sales, make lists (I love a list!) of what we have already in the flat, and whatever else helps me to pay attention to what we’ve got, rather than focussing on what we can’t afford right now. This won’t just make me feel a little happier, it will save us money I might have spent on things we already have.
When I thought about how to buy Happiness earlier this month I resolved to try to share a little of what we have – if only to remind us that we are so much better off than we think. Living frugally can become a selfish pursuit, enjoying bargains at other people’s expense, thinking only about what I have to do without rather than what other people are doing without, envying people who have more (or at least appear to). We live in one of the richest countries in the world and are by no means poor (around the national household average, if you were wondering) but because I am always focussed on whether we have enough to last to the end of the month I never think about giving some of my carefully managed money away. Well, as of this month, that will change: my final new monthly habit is to share what we have left.
That sounds pretty generous, eh? Actually, the bank account is only just in the black and no more (this is a big improvement on the whole of the last year). But there is some loose change in most of my little mini-wallets and I am off to see how much it adds up to. Just a tenner? Five quid? Can we scrape together £2.50 to give a homeless person back a little of their dignity? It’s a fairly pathetic start, but it’s something.