For a Better Relationship With Money, Make Plans
Making a plan is one of the most simple and effective things you can do — not just for living frugally, but for living life. There are few great things that were not made with some sort of plan.
I'll admit that talking about planning's awesomeness is easy for me. I am a natural planner. It's a quality that has both benefits and problems. On one hand, I love that it helps me get things done. But I also have to work to accept changes when a plan is modified for reasons beyond my control. I get jealous of people who easily adjust to the unexpected. (See also: 4 Tips for Living Spontaneously on the Cheap)
There are benefits to both sides, of course — and by learning to balance planning and spontaneity, we can all save more money and live better.
Make Small Plans
A lot of the common frugal living advice — bring your own lunch, don't go to the coffee shop — these are small plans. You have to plan ahead to buy the food for lunch, and plan the time to put that food together. When you make lots of little plans like this, the savings can really add up. And there are thousands of ways to save money with small plans, including:
- Buying products when they're at their cheapest
- Making your own coffee
- Preparing home-cooked meals
- Using daily deals vouchers
- Searching for the right travel deals
...and many more.
Make Big Plans
Big plans often require, well, big planning. They can take time not just to achieve, but to simply plan. And making big plans can be challenging — I mean, some of the most well-paid people out there are essentially master planners, such as architects, engineers, and so on.
But big plans also have the biggest payouts. Big plans are what make the most epic movies, the tallest skyscrapers, and elite athletes. These plans take time and commitment.
In the world of personal finance, big plans are things like your budget and the steps to achieve your finance-related life goals — things like buying a house, sending your child to college, or creating a submarine that honks its horn and tailgates James Cameron as he travels to the bottom of Challenger Deep (OK, that's not really a goal I have, but I just think it would be hilarious — and cost a lot of money). Big plans are there to inspire you, remind you of what you're working towards, and give you concrete steps to reach those goals. And when you feel off track, big plans are there to help you get back.
When it comes to saving money, big plans are like a calzone, with lots of small plans making up the delicious filling. If you already have all those small plans prepped, making that big plan is pretty easy.
You might think that you can start saving more without a plan. And maybe, maybe you can. But honestly? It's not likely.
Make Realistic Plans
Whether your plans are big or small, they're not going to benefit you much if you can't stick to them. And I don't mean that in the sense that someone, somewhere could stick to these plans; I mean that you could stick to them. There is a person on this planet who is able to run faster than everyone else. But no matter how much you train, it's probably not going to be you (sorry, sport).
Make plans that challenge you, but are doable in your situation. If your Mondays are absolutely crazy, and you simply can't make your own lunch that day, buy lunch on Mondays and bring it in every other day of the week.
When your plans become habits, make more plans.
Don't Worship Plans
Plans are great. I'd even argue that they're necessary. But don't consider your plans to be holy word written in stone. We will always get curveballs thrown at us. And fastballs. And palmballs. And Vulcan changeups (which Wikipedia informs me is a delightfully named type of pitch).
This is where spontaneity comes in. It can feel difficult, or even impossible to accept a change in a plan. But that doesn't mean it's a time to give up. Rather, it's a time to adjust what you're doing, move forward, and stay open to new opportunities.
Your turn, readers — are you a planner? What role does planning take in your life?