As the year comes to a close most people reflect on the past months and begin thinking about the new year. Traditionally, we pull out pen and paper to write our New Year’s resolutions. It feels good to set new weight loss, business, relationship, or financial goals. We are gung-ho from January 1 to February 28 but then the momentum fizzles out.
Honestly, I stopped doing New Year resolutions years ago. It was not a good use of my time and I did not commit to it enough to sustain it the entire year. Maybe it was because my resolutions were too general, i.e. save money, lose weight, go back to school, etc. I did not set S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related), I did not have an accountability partner, and I did not have a good enough reason to adhere to the resolution other than it sounded good.
I soon replaced the resolution habit with creating a vision board. I set aside time to gather my materials, get together with my girlfriends, then cut, arrange, and paste my images on my board. The vision board was hung on my door or wall after I completed it but soon it became invisible.
Finally, I pulled out my calendar and began to write my personal and financial goals on paper and the calendar with a reason for wanting to reach the goal and tasks to complete weekly. So far this method works for me and I believe it can work for you when we frame it as a Money Master Plan. We essentially capture two goals in one beautiful net; setting strategic goals and efficiently managing your money.
What difference in your life would it make if you created a Money Master Plan at the beginning of the year?
Keep in mind that a Money Master Plan is more than a budget. It is a strategic plan for the year to manage and grow your money. You make projections about how much money you will earn, how much you will spend, how much you will save, and how much you will share. It includes a debt repayment plan, an emergency fund, improvement plans, vacation and education plans, and anything else you want to accomplish. Your plan can be a 1, 5, and/or 10-year projection.
The great thing about a money master plan is you know what will happen, giving your life has more structure. You know what you will say yes to and what you will say no to. You will be more proactive than reactive with emergencies. You may be able to avoid emergencies all together because you will have a preventive maintenance plan in place. A $10 hose replacement for the washing machine cost far less than a flooded home. A $50 handyman charge to clean the coils on the refrigerator is much less than replacing the entire unit because the motor overheated.
To create a Money Master Plan the first step is to first look back. What I mean when I say look back is you want to look at your past money habits. Your past money habits include how much you earned, spent and saved over the last year. To see where all your money went look at your paper or online bank statements.
Ask yourself the question, Where did my money go? When you look at your bank statements, categorize your spending to see how much you spent on housing, food, entertainment, etc. An easy way to see these categories is by signing up for a service like Mint.com, then connect your bank account. When all the transactions are loaded you can see the categories broken down for you. This tool will give you a snapshot of every place your money went in various categories and this is a great way to find out how your money was spent during a certain time. Whether it was three, six, or twelve months in the past.
Once you have your numbers you can begin to see see the big picture of how you typically spend your money. The next thing you want to do was ask yourself is this the best use of my money? Is this the way I intended to spend my money? Were my purchases driven by necessity or emotions? When you have those answers you will be able to make a decision to change how you spent your money in the past and how to manage your money in the future.
The next step is to look at how you are currently spending money. The time frame can be for the last three months up to today. How are you spending your money and what is your thought process behind it. If you’re currently spending money to just as you have all year, make a decision about whether you want to continue in this pattern or change it. If you currently spend your money on coffee, clothes, or entertainment but still have a huge debt or are not able to pay your bills it’s time to reevaluate how you’re spending money.
The final step is to take all the data you collected and paint a picture of where your finances are now. You may have to do some soul-searching and make decisions about where you want to go. If your money seems to be disappearing all the time and is out of your control, this is the perfect time to gain control by creating a new money story.
This new money story will inspire you your Money Master Plan. Your new plan could include all the things that you want to do in the coming year with your money. This may mean creating an emergency plan, vacation plan, new car plan, debt repayment plan or anything that creates a healthy financial life for you. This money master plan can be broken into quadrants that represent your life.
On a blank piece of paper, divide and create four sections and then label each section. For example, your labels could include “Me”, “Kids”, “Home”, “Helping”. Write a list of what you want for each section in the coming year. Do you want a vacation, complete a certification course, get a manicure regularly? Put it in the “Me” section. Do you want new clothes and shoes for the kids? Do the kids need braces? Put it in the “Kids” section. Do you want to move to a better place or redecorate the one you are already in? Put it in the “Home” section. Want to give to a charity or church? Put it in the “Helping” section. Is a family member or a friend facing hard times and you want to help? Yep, it goes under the “Help” section.
Now that you have the sections filled in the next step is to put a money values next to it. The amount is up to you but I suggest you review what you spent in the past and/or research how much it cost to have the things on your list.
Finally, put dates next to your items. These dates are when you would like to have these items checked off. However, the dates may change depending on the circumstances. I suggest putting the items in Google, a planner, or on a wall calendar so you remember your objectives.
Your Money Master Plan is a method to regain control of your money. You will still want a regular budget to handle your household expenses but now you know what your priorities are. Your money master plan will drive your purchase decisions and prevent money from leaking out of your life. Instead of spending from an emotionally charged place, you will feel empowered to spend from a plan. By the end of the next year, you will look back over your plan and see that you have accomplished everything on the list. This is more satisfying than feeling regret over a New Year’s resolution list you forgot about ten months earlier.
Can you see why a Money Master Plan is much better than a New Years resolution? The prep work and process of creating a plan shifts you into an active money mindset rather than a passive, wish-making mindset. Putting it all on paper lets your subconscious mind know you are serious about the plan so it goes to work to make sure everything on that plan happens.
Now that you have your Money Master Plan completed, here is a bonus tip to make it real for you. Find images that represent the items on the plan and create a collage, photo book, or wallpaper for your computer or phone. These images, along with your calendar entries will keep the plan in the forefront of your mind during the day and your subconscious mind at night so the plans become a reality for you!
Want a jumpstart on creating a money master plan? Here are some tools and templates to get you started:
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