4 Financial Resolutions You Can Keep

One of the most common new year’s resolutions is to make financial changes. Here are 4 goals that with some commitment are doable, impactful, and will help your conscious and subconscious mind work together to make change easier in your financial life.

1 – Start to review your spending every week.

If you want to change your spending habits you’ve got to commit to really understanding your current habits. This is one of those places where a little bit more focus can yield huge results. If you can really develop an understanding of your spending patterns, it will give you insights of what is working well in your financial life, and what needs improvement. Use a tool like Mint.com or PocketSmith.com to track your transactions and help you to categorize the results. (If you use Mint, under the Trends tab, the Spending by Category report is a personal favorite)

2 – Decide how much ‘fun money’ you and your partner have to spend each week.

If you’re like most of the couples I’ve worked with, there’s usually one area that you spend money on that drives your partner insane, and vice versa. You’re unique individuals with unique preferences so instead of trying to remake them, just decide how much you both get to spend each week without being accountable to the other and stick to that amount.

3 – Find yourself overspending? Spend cash.

If you find that you’re spending more on lunches, coffees, etc than you’d like in a given week, switching to cash can be a great scorecard. If you decide you’ve got to make it on $100 per week, and you get to the end of the week with money left over, that’s money you can direct towards your long-term goals. If you get to the end of the week and find yourself out of cash, you have a decision to make. You can always use one of your credit cards or hit the ATM but having that pause to think about what’s really important gives you the opportunity to make a new choice.

4 – Use images to help make better choices.

The goal-seeking parts of our brain seem to be driven by images which we can ultimately use to our benefit. Make a simple photo-book and start with 4-5 pages of goals you’ve accomplished to prime your goal-seeking mechanism. Then grab photos from Google Image Search or Pinterest to use in the rest of your photo book, images of the things you’d like to accomplish. You can then order an inexpensive book that can remind you of what you’re working towards that you can carry in your briefcase, keep where you process your bills, or use whenever things get tough and you need a dose of inspiration. My book has photos mostly of family travel that I’d like us to take, paying off our home, and goals for my company. Find images that are inspirational for you, and use them as a boost when choices get tough. (go to http://www.shutterfly.com/photo-books/simple-path and choose the 5×7 soft cover only option and you can do this quickly for less than $20)

Got a question about financial planning? Email me at jude@upperlinefinancial.com or check out my blog for financial tips, trends, resources and musings.

What financial resolutions did you make this year and what do you do to stay on track?

Family financial planning… and an email to my daughters

My husband and I have decided it’s time to get focused and organized when it comes to our family financial planning. We have lots of plans and need help working toward those plans. As entrepreneurs, our focus has primarily been on building companies and paying bills. We are more than behind when it comes to 401s, 529s and IRAs.

We recently enlisted the help of the most amazing, talented Jude Boudreaux of Upperline Financial. In the two meetings we’ve had with him, my husband and I have had conversations we’ve never had before. Prior to our meeting, Jude asked us to think separately about our own personal vision for ourselves and our family. For example:

If we had everything we needed and all the money in the world, what would life look like?

We took turns sharing our visions with each other. As the chatty one in the family, it felt good to shut up and just listen to what my husband’s hopes and dreams for himself and our family are. He is so hopeful and optimistic–an unexpected reminder of why I fell in love with him in the first place.

Then it was my turn, and he walked away with a greater understanding of where I’m coming from and an appreciation for why it’s been harder for me to articulate my hopes and dreams lately. You see, I’ve been in the trenches running the home operations and haven’t had quite as much mental freedom to dream big.

Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the diapers, the carpool, the doctor appointments, the playdates, the parenting.

TheGate

Jude reminded us that in a relationship, there is a Ying and a Yang. The heaven (the dreamer) needs the earth (the grounder) and vice versa. Both are important and energize each other. This made me feel less inadequate. If we were both dreamers, we’d never land anywhere. My role is just as important as his, and I am grateful for his dreams because they inspire me. I think he is grateful that I’m here to make sure his feet touch the ground every once in a while.

The most exciting part of these preliminary exercises about our vision for our future was that we discovered a lot of similarities, shared goals and values. I think we’ve always known in the back of our minds that our ideas for the future were similar, but we never really put them down on paper and discussed them in a safe, nonjudgmental way.

One of the exercises was to think about what we would do if we knew we only had 5-10 years to live. This was my answer:

  • I would start writing letters to my children.
  • I would spend time with my family.
  • I would make things, sew things, be more creative.

Jude was curious about why I would start writing letters to my children.

If I were to leave this earth early, I want my children to be able to read my letters and hear my voice so that they will always have me near. I want them to know how I feel about them and what my hopes and dreams for them are. I want them to know my thoughts on everything from perms (as in don’t get one) to the importance of buying good sheets (even if it’s the only set you’ve got). I want them to know that time heals everything, that tomorrow is always a new day, that love is the only thing that matters and that tattoos are permanent. I want to prepare them for breaking hearts and broken hearts, that the body is a temple and that it is to be honored. I want them to know that in our family, we work hard for everything we have, and that everything we have is to be shared. I want them to know that we are stewards of this earth and that when they feel they are just a drop in the ocean, they can be certain that the ocean would be less without that drop (to quote Mother Teresa).

discovery

Because my husband and I both expressed a strong desire to ensure our children are prepared for a world with or without us, Jude thought the idea of writing letters to our children would be a great way to do that.

Our “homework” was to start writing letters. I created gmail accounts for each girl and I wrote my first letter. I share it with you today in the event you feel this might be something worthwhile. Email is so easy and you can even attach links, photos, videos, etc. Obviously, technology changes so quickly, so I suspect I will have to “upgrade” things to microchip clouds or brain scans but it’s a start.

Read my first email to my daughters.

How do you share your hopes and dreams with your children?

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