What do your spending habits say about you? If you were to look at the last five items you purchased on your bank statement, what would they be? A car payment, an expensive dress, an airplane ticket, a donation to your favorite charity, membership fees to a yoga studio, new shoes, or a night out?
This says more about you than what you may think. What you might not realize is that the way you spend your money is the way that you spend your time, which contributes to the way you lead your life and the legacy you leave behind.
Oftentimes we find ourselves working long days with vacations few and far between, and in the meantime we seek to reward ourselves with something that provides instant gratification. We may have good intentions in doing this, but what results are meaningless purchases that don’t lead to life-changing experiences. Saving for these experiences might not be pleasurable, may take some time, but it will be worth the wait once you find yourself cliff diving in Costa Rica, or perhaps something a little less on edge, but you get the point.
It is ok if you find it hard to kick old habits and maintain good ones. It’s not easy for everyone, but you will accomplish this if you take on some of these tricks and you have an end goal that motivates and excites you.
Ethical budgeting is the concept that you should only be spending money towards your needs, towards helping you reach your goals and making you a better person, and that any excess should be used in a way that contributes to the rest of the global community. Have you ever sat down and looked at the categories your expenses fall into? Before I began spending ethically, I realized that a big chunk of my income was going towards my wants, which consisted primarily of expensive dinners, shopping sprees and impulsive purchases I’d find by going down the store aisles aimlessly. Once I reflected on the life I wanted long-term, and visualized the goals that I wanted to accomplish, I began saving and making a plan as to how I could get there financially. Two years later I had saved up enough to move to Vietnam from Australia, and I was able to start my own sustainable handbag line and ethnic textile business – all because I took on ethical budgeting.
Some of us have student debt, mortgages and other bills to pay off. If this is the case I highly recommend checking out Dave Ramsey, a financial author who often speaks about how to get out of debt. He breaks up how to take control of your money through his “7 Baby Steps” process.
Where is it all going? Break down your budget
When you are trying to figure out if something falls under ‘needs’ or ‘wants’, you should try asking yourself, “does this contribute to my health, shelter and clothing at a basic level?” Basic being the key word here. It’s very easy to convince yourself that you also need the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in addition to the kale salad. You’d be surprised by how much you could save if you cut out these small extra costs.
The key here is to crunch numbers and give each dollar you earn a purpose. Have mini financial goals throughout the year that match up to your personal goals, and keep checking back to monitor how you are doing and how you can improve.
I had a pivotal mind shift once I did the number crunching and realized how much I could save if I cut out all of the mindless consuming. I also calculated how much money I needed to live overseas and start a business, which became my motivation and turned into a fun game of watching the numbers grow after each paycheck. I became protective of my income and the way I was spending it. Knowing what I’d be using my savings for in the future made it a whole lot easier for me to say no to things that would sabotage my goal. Reminding myself that a $50 dress could pay for at least 25 meals in Vietnam was a source of reinforcement to stick to my plan.
Some tricks I found that helped me stay motivated:
- Start with an extremely rewarding end goal that inspires you infinitely
- Visualize how it will feel and what your life will be like once you achieve your goal
- Write out baby steps to get there and continuously review them
- Hold yourself accountable but allow yourself to cheat every now and then
- Share your process with close family and friends for support
- Surround yourself with like-minded people
- Draw inspiration from people online who have already reached similar goals. Listening to podcasts like Mixergy and Tropical MBA, and reading blogs like Money Mustache and Marie Forleo will help to keep you on track
Is it making you a better person? Invest in the right things.
When you do have discretionary income, the most important thing to consider is using it in ways that make you a better person. How do you define yourself? This is largely represented by how you spend your money. What do you need to move forward? Prioritize what is most valuable to you and make it happen.
Ethical budgeting in 5 steps:
- Define – reflect on yourself, your goals and your needs vs. wants
- Crunch Numbers – take your total income and give each dollar a purpose
- Benchmark – check in regularly to see if you are sticking to your ethical budget
- Redefine – continue to evolve your budget as your perspective expands
- Celebrate – once you have reached your end goals, celebrate! You deserve it
And remember, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Henry David Thoreau
By Danica Ratte, Founder & Sustainable Fashion Designer, Wild Tussah