Fun Matters. Let’s Plan for It.
I believe in balance. I believe that today and someday are both important. I believe you can work towards your goals and enjoy life along the way if you plan for it. And I believe that FUN should be a line item in every budget.
Budgeting is the source of so much frustration, relational tension, guilt, shame and stress for so many. But it doesn’t have to be. A budget can be a super helpful tool to incorporate balance into your finances and align your spending with your core values if you’re willing to think about it differently.
As a financial expert, you might expect me to say that you need to buck up and cut out everything that falls into the “wants” category (or feel guilty about the ones you keep), and squeeze every penny possible to make progress on your goals. But honestly, that just sounds miserable! Let’s eliminate all the fun from your life so that you can be rich and debt free someday. Nope! I can’t tell you how many times a client or friend tells me about something they want to buy and they expect me to burst their bubble or guilt them into not making the decision. But that’s not how I roll. In fact, my favorite moments are when I get to tell clients to quit the job that’s sucking the life out of them, or go ahead and spend some of their savings on a home remodel, or stop feeling guilty that they can’t save more when they’re in the first few years of parenthood juggling job changes, childcare costs, and college funds.
Strict budgeting is so often short-lived and miserable, like going on a crash diet, and unsuccessful in the end. And “someday” feels like a million years away which makes it so tough to stay motivated. Let me be the voice that tells you there’s another way. And it comes from a really simple place. It sounds something like this...
I want to make progress on my financial goals, but I also want to enjoy my life. I don’t want to wait until I’m old to travel the world. I want to be responsible AND have room to be spontaneous. I want to hold money with an open hand AND be generous AND have fun AND make good choices all at the same time.
Okay, what do you think? Does any of this hit home for you? After 15 years working with clients and talking to thousands more from stage, I’m guessing there’s a good chance that this might resonate with you. This approach takes a willingness to wade into the grey a bit, to push back from the black and white thinking that saving equals good, and that spending and debt equal bad. We need to reset our target from this type of black and white thinking, to one word: BALANCE. Balance is something that so many of us want, but unless we’re intentional about it, it’s virtually impossible to achieve.
BALANCE is the guiding principle for your budget, your goals, and your finances overall. And your core values will help you make the decisions along the way, both big and small.
We’re all wired differently. If you’re into Myers Briggs and the Enneagram, you might be an ENFP and an Enneagram Type 7 who has fun easily and loves to be spontaneous but struggles with saving money. Or maybe you’re an ISTJ and an Enneagram Type 1 who has a ton of self-control and is very goal-oriented but has trouble breaking loose and doing things just for the sake of fun.
If you’re not into that personality type stuff, you might see yourself as a saver who is good at making progress on goals but might find yourself with too much cash in your checking account (yes that’s a thing, spenders!) and uncertain what to do with it. Or, you might be a natural spender (like my husband!) who, well, knows exactly how to have fun, but might struggle with saving money, staying out of debt, and planning long-term.
And you know that whole “opposites attract” thing? That’s real! Did you partner up with your opposite in some ways? Does that impact your finances at all? Does it ever lead to conflict, financial or otherwise? I promise to write more about financial dynamics for couples later, but for now I’ll just say that partnering up with your opposite could actually be the best thing that ever happened to you. You each have different strengths, but both are important. Picture it this way… being on opposite sides of the scale (with fun on one side and responsibility on the other) lands you perfectly in balance!
I married my opposite in many ways, but we made a decision early in our marriage to look at our differences as a benefit, not a burden, and over time and with intention, we found out how to make that work for us and not against us. I fell in love with an indebted rock’n’roller who knew how to live in the moment and oozed optimism, and he fell in love with a nerdy number-lover who held onto money (and lots of other things) with a tight fist instead of an open hand and had trouble having fun. Best thing that ever happened to both of us. ;)
So how do you start to move towards balance in your finances? How do you tangibly plan for balance? A great first step is to open a Fun Account. A Fun Account enables you to work balance into your finances from the ground floor.
Your Fun Account is a separate checking account (separate from your checking, separate from your Emergency Fund) that’s meant to be used to enjoy life, whatever that means for you. Save into your Fun Account regularly, and enjoy spending it when you feel like it. Your fun account is like a built-in release valve that gives you flexibility to spend on things that might not fit into your normal budget. Extra date night? Fun Account! Drinks with a friend? Fun Account! Girls/guys trip coming up in a few months? Fun Account! You get the idea. ;) Your Fun Account gives you the power to stay within your budget knowing that you have a built-in release valve for extra spontaneous spending.
To fund your Fun Account, take a look at your budget and find some dollars to save into your Fun Account on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, or every paycheck) or fund it from extra income that flows in, like tax refunds, bonuses, commissions, side hustles, etc.. Or maybe some of both. For example, you might set up automatic contributions of $100 per paycheck into your Fun Account, plus 10% of all extra income. Or you might decide that 20% of all bonuses and commissions go to your Fun Account. Using percentages can be super helpful especially when putting extra income into your Fun Account. You may want to use part of your bonus to make progress on goals and part of it to splurge, but until you plan for it in advance and set aside the money into separate accounts as soon as you get paid, it is subject to disappearing into the blackhole of your checking account!
Your fun account is not meant to get super big over time like a retirement account, it’s meant to be spent. You might find that you like to splurge less often but in bigger amounts, or maybe you prefer smaller splurges more often. Either way, your Fun Account is there to make it a reality. It’s also a great boundary for you so that you can truly spend it guilt-free, but not go overboard.
Practical Next Steps
Here’s how to figure out whether you’re ready for a Fun Account. If you’re credit card balances continue to grow over time, that’s typically an indicator that you’re spending more than you’re bringing in. If that’s the case, step one is to stop spending on your cards and try to get to breakeven – the point where you’re spending what you bring in, but not any extra. The next step is to find a few extra dollars to put towards paying down debt. Once you’ve been able to readjust your spending and consistently find dollars for your goal(s), you’re ready for a fun account.
Talk to your partner. Decide whether it works best to save into your own personal Fun Accounts, or if you’d like to have a joint Fun Account. If you choose to have a joint Fun Account, make sure you both agree on how and when you’ll use it to splurge.
Open a Fun Account! Remember, it’s NOT your checking account and it’s NOT your Emergency Fund. It’s a separate checking account. (Make sure you choose a bank that won’t charge fees for low balances.)
Decide how you’ll fund it. Determine whether you’ll save into your Fun Account on a regular basis (like a flat dollar amount per paycheck) or whether you’ll use a percentage of extra income to fund it (like a percentage of every bonus). Then, decide how much you’ll save into your Fun Account.
Make it automatic. If you’ve chosen to save on a regular basis, set up automatic transfers to your Fun Account.
Spend money from your Fun Account and enjoy it!
Drop me a line and tell me about your Fun Account at firstname.lastname@example.org!