One of the first tasks we assign to anyone we work with is to write down ten things that bring them joy. In terms of providing a clear picture of an ideal financial future, we believe this assignment is the most important to be able to understand what motivates a person to both trade their time for money as well as stick to a financial plan. When we are able to understand what brings someone joy, it becomes much easier to narrow down where someone’s spending should be allocated, what financial goals should be set, and where someone’s money is not being utilized to its fullest potential.
As the “numbers” half of the Mindful Cents duo, I will reluctantly admit that successful budgeting stems much less from figuring out specific numbers. Rather, successful budgeting occurs when you spend less than you make and spend in ways that bring joy and value to your life, no matter the specific numbers. A successful budget will succeed when you do not feel restricted or lacking in any area because you have aligned your spending to the important things.
As a result, we believe that when setting up a budget that you must first “begin with the end in mind” to quote Stephen Covey. Once the WHY of setting up a budget is figured out, it will be much easier to structure the budget and stick to a spending plan. I have provided a list of ten things that bring me joy below, and how I have optimized my budget around these items. I hope this can be used as an example for you as you set up and/or re-evaluate your budget to make sure you are getting the most value and joy from your money.
- Physical Fitness
I began working out at a gym in the eighth grade and have not stopped since. Although there are periods where I fall off of a normal workout routine, I notice big improvements in my mood and productivity when I am feeling healthy and confident with how I look. Before COVID-19 we were very happy with Crunch Fitness at a miniscule $11 per month, and now we have discovered even more free options and have been using workouts from Peloton, Hoffman’s Fitness, and re-discovering our half-marathon training runs. For other free options you can consider biking, swimming, kayaking/paddleboarding, and sports like tennis and basketball.
- The Beach
As someone who grew up near the water in Florida, it was not until I moved to a land-locked college town and later a northeastern metropolis to gain perspective of how much I loved being near the water, specifically the beach. In terms of the beach itself there is no cost of access in Florida, and we are fortunate to be able to live in an affordable beach town that we never feel like we need to escape from.
Some of my best life experiences and growth as a person have resulted from immersing myself in places where the people, weather, food and culture are different from that which I am accustomed to being around. With the magic of credit card rewards, there are systems in place where these growth experiences can become much more affordable and less reliant on a large savings goal to undertake. We were fortunate to obtain the Southwest Companion Pass (a buy-one-get-one-free fare perk) for 2020 (extended out through part of 2021 now due to COVID-19) and look forward to being able to utilize the reward again soon. We will be covering our credit card reward experiences more in depth in the future, but for some resources now see here for a course of how you can utilize travel rewards and an article of how one of our favorite podcast hosts saved over $4,000 to take his family to Disney World for free.
- Watching Sports & Attending Sporting Events
From the time I was a kid I have been drawn to sports. On one side, there is a beauty and artistry to human athletic ability that is amazing to watch. On the other side, there is a magical feeling of thousands of people uniting behind a cause and going through a roller coaster of emotions together as fans stemming from the un-scripted entertainment that at times could never be replicated in a Hollywood writers’ room.
Sporting events are one of the big splurges in my annual budget, and I get immense value out of every penny. We don’t have season tickets for any of my favorite teams, as I’ve learned that I get the most value and cherish the few live experiences we plan for and can be flexible around, and we don’t need to worry about the hassle of disposing tickets any time something else arises. We also get value from watching sports at home or at a sports bar where we can get together with friends and still have a fun time.
- Food Experiences
This includes dining out at interesting places and creating wonderful food experiences at home. I always loved the shows hosted by the late, great Anthony Bourdain who illustrated that you can learn so much about people and places through food. We always make it a point to sample as much indigenous food as possible during our travels, but even more so try to explore the food culture in our own city. We both love to cook and enjoy sharing our meals with others, and continue to try to bond with our community around us with our love of food.
- Personal Finance
As is reflected in our Mindful Cents mission, I am passionate about personal finance because I believe everyone should feel in control of their finances and never be stressed or anxious about whether or not someone has enough money to live a meaningful life. By its nature, having a better grasp on my finances has tremendous financial value to me and allows me to figure out how to allocate money to the things that bring me joy and reallocate money away from the things that do not.
This item could be included in food experiences but as it is a bit more nuanced I mentioned it separately. I have always enjoyed using a grill to prepare meals ever since my dad taught me the finer points of a Weber grill, and he now has a Big Green Egg that allows for all sorts of barbecue concoctions that could be produced.
My interest in barbecue peaked after a recent visit to Central Texas. I fell in love with how the simplicity of the preparation and cooking process brought out amazing flavors from the meat, and how small tweaks to the process can yield very different results. I have since become interested in replicating these barbecuing processes back home, being able to indulge my creative side while making delicious meals for friends and family.
- Time With Family
I try to plan my budget and time around maximizing time spent with family as it is so important to me. I count myself as so fortunate to have grown up in a place that neither my family nor I have any interest in leaving. I feel so much joy when I am able to spend time with my family on a regular basis and cherish the times I get to spend with non-immediate family throughout the year. I also am grateful for the time spent with Amanda’s family and all they do for the two of us.
- Time With Amanda & Bailey
This item is somewhat built into the other items on this list. However, I feel that I must single out the down time I spend with Amanda and our dog Bailey as among the best parts of my day, especially when we are doing things that cost nothing. Whether it be lazing around on the couch with them or the three of us going for a walk, I always get the feeling that I am “home” with the two of them. I find myself reflecting many times on how lucky I am when I’m with them, and I feel like they best illustrate the saying “the best things in life are free”.
- Challenging Myself & Working to Achieve Measurable Goals
My biggest realization that I find joy working toward a measurable goal occurred after I passed the last section of the CPA exam. With the process of passing the CPA exams taking over a year of intense focus and time dedication, I had a feeling that I would need to come up with another goal to begin working toward in order to avoid a major letdown once that last exam was finished. That is when I decided that I would begin training for a half marathon. I previously hated running and knew that this would be a huge mental challenge for me. It ended up being a seamless transition from the year of intense studying and I was fortunate to have Amanda as a training partner to share in the struggle. I now continue to set physical and business goals that allow me to track my growth, and it feels so good to look back at all the progress that I have made and reflect on what I can achieve with the right mindset.