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:

...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?

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Guest's picture
Carl Lassegue

I wish I was but I'm not much of a long term planner. I can do with short term plans but I can never focus enough to sit down and come up with a big long term plan.

Guest's picture

I'm pretty good at making a long term plan. I have it planned out in my head. Problem is getting short term plans to work in their interest.

Guest's picture

A book that really helped my husband and I combined our finances is "Your Money or Your Life." It helps you set goals, talk about plans, and evaluate priorities. It really prompted some good discussions!

Guest's picture

I'm a planner. I live by my calendar because it helps me keep track off all of my responsibilities between work, getting my business going, and helping my parents. Time management is extremely tough without planning ahead.

I do have a hard time adjusting my plans when things change though. I think the problem lies in the fact that a change of plans greatly affects the timing of other events throughout the day, so it makes it hard for me to accept the change. I am learning how to deal with it and try to make sure I use time more wisely, whether it is to relax or get something done.

Guest's picture

Goal-setting is really important in the pursuit of your dreams.