Managing Finances is like Herding Cats

Some days it can feel like a never-ending struggle. We start the day with the best of intentions and by lunchtime it seems like everything is a mess. Our finances, both income and expenses, are rarely consistent from month to month.

According to Wikipedia, herding cats is a “…futile attempt to control…entities which are inherently uncontrollable…” I like this analogy because managing finances involves things we can’t control, such as the ever-changing price of gas or the cost of health insurance.

To complicate things further, our daily micro-decisions happen almost without thought to their impact on our financial wellness.  We make quick choices to fix the immediate need or problem.

Being mindful of our choices and planning ahead is the best strategy long term. Rather than chasing moving targets, focus on what matters most to you and filter your decisions with that in mind.

Here are some insights to help you capture your thoughts and actions throughout the day. Over time you will notice consistent patterns and behaviors. It will help you make sense of what you have going on.

  • Label every financial action with a #purpose
    • Use a simple notepad or mobile app like Google Keep or Evernote  to track what you did, cost, date and purpose
    • If you have a receipt – jot down on the receipt, take a snapshot and start a photo album to help organize
  • Once a week organize your notes by #circumstances of each financial action
    • Planned, Spur of the moment or Unexpected (flat tire, urgent care)
  • Every few weeks review your notes
    • What circumstance do most of your financial decisions fit in?
    • What purpose stands out for each type of circumstance?
    • What patterns do you see?
  • Choose one or two types of financial actions that you want to increase, reduce or eliminate
    • Write them down where you can see them every day – screensaver, mirror, refrigerator
    • Be specific about what you want to accomplish by when and why

Challenge yourself to do this for 30 days. Begin today. Share your #FinancialZen story with us!

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