Life is too short to live it recklessly. Be mindful of your actions, what they say to others and how they dictate your future.
A few years ago,I flew with a group of friends across the country to celebrate my birthday — breakfast in New York City, lunch in Denver, and dinner and drinks in L.A. To call it a splurge is an understatement, and for me at the time, it was just another great day. A friend later asked us why we would want to do that. Without missing a beat, we said because we can.
I now realize the trip wasn’t just a gross display of privilege. I had allowed myself to fall victim to lifestyle inflation. It’s a common problem that many of us face. With every new promotion, new job, or side hustle, we are bringing in more income. We have more cash and deeper pockets but never seem to save more money.
After some self-reflection, I let the air out of my inflated lifestyle and saved my financial future.
I had known for a while that something had to change. I should have been saving more. I should have been more aware and deliberate with my spending. I was buying every new iPhone, eating out for lunch every day, ordering dinner delivery on a regular basis, and stoping at Starbucks for a pick me up several times a week. I had to cut all this out, but where to start?
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Somewhat by chance, I stumbled on to Kakebo. A Japanese term that means book of accounts for the household economy.
I made a quick visit to Amazon.com and bought the budgeting book “Kakebo The Japanese Art of Mindful Spending.” Two days later, the book arrived and I began the task of organizing my expenses and tracking my monthly budget. Before I knew it, I was on my way.
Following the book’s direction, I wrote down where every dollar was going and organized it into the following expense categories: essential, optional, entertainment and leisure, and extras and unforeseen events.
This made clear the categories in which I was over-spending and where my money was going. I was then able to make educated decisions about where to cut expenses. I started by eliminating paid subscriptions that I didn’t use every day, eating out became a treat, followed by expenses that didn’t bring long term value to my life. Finally I built a budget around what was important to me — my long term priorities.
I learned that my attempts to budget in the past all failed because I didn’t have the correct structure in place, and I wasn’t tracking my spending on a daily basis.
Kakebo helps you through the process of creating that much-needed monthly spending plan. It also forces you to take a couple of minutes at the end of every day to write down your spending and allocate it to one of the expense categories.
Newsflash — I learned that in some months, you have to plan for 5 weeks of spending, not the typical 4 weeks I had been allocating to each month (who knew). In my infinite wisdom, I had never thought of this, of course, there are not just 48 weeks in a year! Why would every month consist of just 4 weeks?
I knew better, but just never considered this in the context of a budget. Given this mindset, you can easily overspend in the months that contain 5 weeks. You have to adjust your budget appropriately.
”If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free. If our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.” – Edmund Burke
Now that I’m planning my spending in a mindful manner, I’ve increased my monthly savings in 2020 to 5 or 6 times the amount in 2019. I now adjust my savings goal each month. It all depends on the number of weeks I need to budget for in a particular month.
Along with finding the additional savings, I’ve finally taken command of my financial future. This may sound cliche, but I feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
I’ve given myself permission to say no to lifestyle inflation (it’s no longer in the budget). Now, I’m even planning the purchase of an income-producing rental property sometime in the next 3 years.
I used to say with my next raise, I’m going to hire a house cleaner, but I never seemed to have enough money to afford one. Now, I say it’s just not allowed. It’s not in the budget — and it will probably never be in the budget.
Life is too short to live recklessly. We should be mindful of our actions, what they say about us to others and how they dictate our futures.
If you’d like to take control of your budget or are looking for a new way to plan your household expenses, I highly recommend this system. There are several books available on Amazon.com, just research the options available and find the one that’s right for you.
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Practicing the Japanese Art of Mindful Spending Could Save Your Financial Future was originally published in The Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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