On today’s “Money In Your Life” radio show (link attached), Dr. Tim Kasser talked about his work studying the link between materialistic values and self esteem. He has done studies across the age spectrum, but important work with tweens and teens that have shown that, not only can you not buy happiness but that focus on status/image/money have a deep affect on a child’s self-esteem and on how that child shows up and functions in society. Listen to the show – and watch the short Youtube – to sort out what you can do, what your child can do and what advertisers can do.
The most straightforward definition of “budget” (n) is: “a plan for the coordination of resources and expenditures”. Hmmm. Coordination. What a great word – sounds so logical. And yet, the word “budget” tends to evoke the same emotions as “diet” (whose simplest definition is “food and drink regularly consumed”): feelings of deprivation and constraint. And the very thing you tell yourself you are cutting back on is the thing you can’t live without at that moment. So what if you don’t call it a “budget” at all? What if you make up a word or phrase that shifts whatever you feel when you say “budget” to something you like – “travel plan” – or make up a word that makes you laugh or feel good (“mugwump”?). Great. Now you have the label out of the way – what next? What is “normal” for a budget? Well, “normal” is having expenses that are less than income. But to really get at it, you can start with your income and the “50/30/20” split: 50 percent of your income is for housing and related bills (maintenance/utilities/insurance/rent or mortgage), 30 percent is for personal expenses (education/clothes/kids/entertainment) and 20 percent is for savings (emergency fund/debt repayment/retirement). And please note, I said START – the percentages can change depending on your values: maybe your housing costs are low and you choose to spend more on personal expenses – so you look more like “30/50/20” – or maybe you are focusing on paying down debt and saving as much as possible right now, so you look more like “30/30/40”. Wherever you are, just start somewhere and make a plan, and review it every month to see if it’s working for you The whole point of a budget or a mugwump or whatever you want to call it is to give yourself choices: you want to be proactive in your choices instead of reacting. Don’t take your cue from the government battles – “budget” IS a fighting word in that context. But in your house it doesn’t have to be.
Last week, I heard a news story about the return of the grey fox to Yellowstone National Park (with the government shutdown, the foxes returned in time to have the park free of human visitors for a time. But I digress.). The foxes had been in danger of extinction, and because of that the deer population growth was unchecked – causing all kinds of problems. So the fox was put on the Protected Species list, and the foxes have bred, which has increased the population – and decreased the deer population (deer being the natural prey of the grey fox). But here’s what got my attention: with fewer deer grazing at the riverbanks, plants are holding the soil in place on the banks – less erosion – and the river has changed course.
I was thinking about this event this morning as my co-host and I were talking to our guest, Dr. Lee Hausner, about family communication. There are times when it is tempting to give up or think “I don’t have time to talk about this now” or “how can I possibly fit a family meeting into all that I have to do” or even to think “we’ve gone too far to change anything now”. But here’s the thing – as long as you are breathing there is a possibility for change. Start with something small – a small win – to build your confidence. And another. And another. And before you know it, the big shift will happen.
The river will change course.
I’ve only been at this radio co-hosting for a month – “Money In Your Life” on VoiceAmerica radio at 7 am PT Fridays – or stream from the site or iTunes – but after every show, I want to know who listened and what you thought. What I thought when I started this was: this is a great way to have a conversation that’s tough for people to have. And we hope that’s true. And what IS the conversation??? Money is on our minds every day: having it, getting it, saving it, spending it and, sometimes it is used for making suits…
And yet TALKING about money is, as most people tell me, harder than talking about, say, sex. Why is that? Is it because we’re just supposed to KNOW what to do with it – how to earn it, how to spend it, how to make it last all of our lives? I have a hunch (which of course I’ll share), but I’d love to hear from you.
And here’s my hunch: we don’t talk about it because there are a lot of people out there telling us that they can’t believe what we’re doing with our money, and if we’d only do THIS, we’d be set for life – and so we say to ourselves “Everyone else got the memo on how to deal with money – and I didn’t. So I’m not going to look stupid by asking.”
And then we get busy and things come up and time goes by and – well, you know the story.
But here’s the thing: we HAVE to talk about money and pay attention and ask questions – because we are being asked to make MORE decisions – with less REAL information.
So come back – and let’s talk about money in your life.