Whether it's saving more money, saving for a specific purpose, paying off debt, earning more, or earning the same amount but for different work/different hours, you might benefit from a Weekly Date with Money. This exercise is a great way to get started on your financial goals on your own.
Financial Habit Exercise: Get Romantic with Money
Step 1: Create a Money Tracker
It takes about 5-15 minutes to create an expense or finance tracker on paper. If you're aesthetically-driven (i.e you're motivated by beautiful things/ good design) be sure to come in to the shop to pick up a copy of Dot Journaling -- our favorite guide on creating your own analog trackers, including financial tracking layouts. If you just want a nice clean practical tracker, make a table in your notebook with five columns: Date, Expense, Revenue, Amount, and Budgeted (a Yes or No column -- did you budget for this or was it something you didn't expect to spend money on?). Paloma, our owner, has a full excel sheet because her date with money includes expenses for the shop, so this step also doubles as her weekly book-keeping. Here's a template she created for her business expenses. It's what she turns in to her accountant as well at the end of the year for tax purposes. You don't need anything this complex when you start out. Keep it easy so you start the weekly practice, later you can add bells and whistles.
Step 2: Update Weekly
Decide what day and time, EVERY WEEK, you will update your tracker and add your expenses to it from the previous week. It takes 15 to 30 minutes a week (at most) to do this step. Pro Level: Make a section of your notebook where you'll then spend another 5 minutes making a quick note about how money is feeling that week. No wrong answers, just write how it's feeling to think about/ process/ update your money that week. Paloma's day is Monday mornings, from 8:30 to 9:30am. She gives herself a whole hour, at a cafe, so that her money date doesn't feel rushed or stressful. It's a way to get centered and calibrate with what's happening with her money.
Step 3: Protect your time
Remove all barriers before and after this money date that might interfere or distract you. If you have kids for example, you might need to brainstorm with your partner or childcare-support system who can pick up the kids a whole 30 minutes before your money date begins so that even if everyone is running late, IT DOES NOT COME BETWEEN YOU and your hott money date.
Step 4: Repeat: Do Steps 1 and 2 every week for eight weeks. It might take time to get the hang of it. You'll find little tweaks along the way that make the date more helpful, more aligned with your week and work.
THE GOAL OF THIS EXERCISE
A financial advisor would tell you that keeping a weekly practice of expense tracking is just good financial hygiene. A goal psychologist would add that a weekly financial check-in, when you also write down how you're feeling about money, is a way to minimize fear, anxiety, and general freakouts about money. We’ve coached a lot of people on their financial goals and can state with certainty that a weekly date with your money leads to feelings of calmness, control, and self-efficacy. A weekly money date is also critical for reaching big financial goals.
THE HURDLE: What's hard for many of us is weirdly not time (because there's always time for the things that matter). The real challenge is that the limbic part of our brain deeply wants to avoid looking at our money, because that part of our brain is in charge of fear, worry and anxiety. Or more precisely, it is in charge of helping us avoid these feelings and for many of us, the limbic brain presumes that looking at our money will inevitably lead to worry, anxiety and freakouts. The weekly element of this exercise is thus crucial -- weekly money dates slowly help our limbic system see that our bank account is not a scary, dark pit of snakes we should avoid looking into it -- it's just a bunch of transactions that we can analyze, think about, have feelings about, and slowly mull over how to wrangle. Every week, you'll tackle looking into it a little bit at a time. Until it's no big whoop at all.
PALOMA'S STORY: "I'm particularly excited about this topic because I reeeeeeaaaaally understand how gnarly it can feel to look at your money every week. I used to come up with 100 excuses why I didn't 'have time' to do this. But then I'd spend 30 minutes dissecting Instagram feeds every day. How is Instagram more important than MY MONEY?!?!? So why did I procrastinate? I was suppressing the feelings -- I was actually terrified that doing this would just be a weekly reminder that I am the worst business owner. That I have no money sense. That I'm leading us to financial ruin -- so by not having a weekly money date, I was choosing to not submit myself to those feelings every week. The goods news -- I've been on a weekly money date habit for 5 weeks now and I can assure everyone: the feelings I have are the opposite of what I was terrified about. I feel just like my clients felt when I led them to start this habit: In control, calm, in charge of my life. It's made focusing on my big financial goals 100% easier. I can't say enough good things about weekly dates with your money."
DON'T GO IT ALONE
Buddy up when you can and see if one or two friends will join you on this weekly date - whether it's on zoom or in person, six feet apart :) bring your favorite drink and commit to each other to not skip a session for four weeks to see how it goes.