Create a Budget Based on the Best Money You've Ever Spent

Some people really struggle when it comes to building a budget. They feel it's too much of a chore to make and stick to one. After all, budgeting just shows you how much money you don't have to spend on the things you want, right?

I don't know if budgeting will ever be fun for everyone, but there are certainly ways to make it easier. Even if you hate budgeting, you might be able to talk yourself into making one based on the best money you ever spent. (See also: Stop Using These 5 Excuses Not to Budget)

What is the best money you've ever spent?

What is the most rewarding thing you've ever spent money on? When were you surprised by how much value you received when you thought it would be much less? When did you spend money on experiences or goods that you deeply value to this day? This is the best money you've ever spent.

You may know the answers to this question immediately, or it may take you a while to think back. If you're going to make this the basis for your budget, you need to take the time to have several meaningful answers.

What were you really buying?

Chances are, what you got out of your best purchases ever were beyond what people could see. Maybe some of the best money you ever spent was on a vacation with your family. But, as nice as Hawaii may have been, you weren't really buying the trip. You were buying special, one-on-one time with your loved ones.

Figuring out what you were really buying will help you shape your budget. Maybe the best money you ever spent was on travel, but you were really buying adventure, or new relationships, or a newfound confidence in yourself. This will help you pinpoint where you want to spend and where you want to save in your new budget. (See also: 4 Reasons You Should Splurge on Experiences, Not Things)

Would you want to spend that way again?

Sometimes, the best money you ever spent was the best because it bought an experience you can't have again. Maybe you don't need to go back to Morocco, or you hope you never have to invest in trauma counseling again. When you're building a budget, it's important to know if you want to repeat the exact experience or invest in different things for your future.

Building a budget

Once you've determined the best money you've ever spent and what you were really buying, it's time to build a new budget.

Focus on your values

Sure, you have to pay necessities, like the water bill, that may not fit in with any of your values. However, for any money that's not spent on essentials, see if there is a way to spend it or save it that lines up with something that is very important to you.

To find your values, look at what you were really buying when you spent your best money ever. These are clearly things that are important to you — things that you don't want to miss out on in life.

Even if you decided that you don't want to save to repeat a previous experience, look at what you got from that experience. Maybe investing in counseling taught you to prioritize yourself. There are other ways to do that, even if you don't need to see a therapist again. Set these things up in your budget so you can continue to live according to what is important to you.

Set up separate accounts

If you are saving toward particular goals, set up separate accounts for each one. Yeah, that means some more annoying paperwork, but it's not usually too hard. Seeing "Travel Money" or "Self Care $$$" every time you log in to your bank will help motivate you to keep saving. It will also make you think twice about using that money for something else. (See also: Reach Your Money Goals Faster With a Simple Naming Trick)

Keep pictures or trinkets to remind you of your goals

Now that your new goals line up with things you've done in the past, set out reminders of those things. If you want to travel, put up photos of past trips or display mementos where you'll see them regularly. All of this will help motivate you to stick to your budget so you can come back home with new memories. (See also: The Secret to Better Money Management May Be in Your Past)

Envision yourself at your goal

Since you've spent money well in the past, you know what it feels like to invest in something and have it pay off. Whenever you feel frustrated with your budget, or like you want to quit saving, take some time to go back to those feelings. Remember what it felt like to spend well and how satisfied you felt with yourself and your life when you did that.

Then, envision yourself reaching your financial goal and feeling that way again. Think about what it will be like to bask in the sun, or get off the plane in Maui, or wake up in your own home for the first time. Sitting with these feelings will remind you why you made this type of budget in the first place and help you move forward with it even when you're frustrated.

Budgeting doesn't have to be a chore done only out of drudgery. Set up a budget based on the best money you've ever spent, and you'll have a budget you're motivated to keep. (See also: How to Build Your Best Travel Budget)

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