Change is hard. It’s even harder to maintain. When life gets tough, we often fall back into old patterns of behavior. We do this even when we know those actions won’t help us. While I don’t have an answer for how to stop that for most issues in life, I do have a way to help stop that from happening with your finances.
I was thinking of this one day as I caught myself eating an off brand Oreo. Who am I kidding, it wasn’t just one. My wife had divided them out into little baggies for the kids to use as snacks. Three to a bag. I was finishing the 4th bag.
I’m not often a reflective person. I don’t have weekly reviews where I look back and try to figure out what went well and what went wrong. It’s just too much work and other than making me feel bad about how little I got done, it’s never led to any lasting change. But this made me think.
Why would I eat that?! I’d just had lunch so I wasn’t hungry. They don’t taste good. They don’t make my body feel any better. It’s not something I get to brag about to my friends. (Unless….maybe if I finish off the whole package? That might be worth it.) So if there are absolutely no benefits to this thing, then why am I doing it without even thinking?!
The fact is, I was having a hard day. So for some reason, back in the stupid part of my brain that is apparently still brainwashed by every advertisement I saw as a child, off brand Oreos was the answer to a hard day. When just one didn’t work, instead of stopping in disgust, that same part of my brain said, “It’s got to work! Just keep going! This is the only possible answer!”
I obviously don’t have the answers to help you have a great relationship with food or for dealing with a hard day. Apparently neither does 80’s marketing. I understand that change is hard. I get it when you suddenly turn on autopilot and find yourself doing dumb stuff, even dumb stuff that makes the situation worse.
What I do know is budgeting. The Happy Giraffe Budget creates a support system for you so that one bad day doesn’t launch you into a spiral to the bottom. It’s something that gives you a quicker wake up call so you can snap out of it faster and have more hope for climbing back out. It has structure, but it’s forgiving.
I don’t blame you if you are just as bad with your finances as I am with food. It isn’t your fault. That’s what marketing and bad schooling handed you as options. I also understand that in order to change that default behavior, you’re going to need something that is easy to do and quick to tell you when you are making a bad choice.
The Happy Giraffe Budget is as simple as you can get. No categories to track, no involved worksheets or highlighters, no big family meetings required to look back over the last month and reflect on who you are and who you want to become. I’ve already admitted I wouldn’t do well with a system like that.
This is just one weekly allowance. It’s powerfully simple. No other limits or details to track. I don’t care what you spend it on or how you use it. It’s just one number to track and one week to deal with.
At the end of the week there is no personal reflection required. Just look forward to getting your full allowance again tomorrow and starting over. Because you start over so frequently, you don’t have so much time to go into a death spiral and fall off track.
If you have ever had the financial equivalent of my off brand Oreo experience, come give this a try. I really believe everyone can find more happiness in budgeting. Yes, even you!