Prioritise and regain control

26 Jun 2013

By Shadforth Financial Group

Most people do not like having to work to a budget. A budget often seems to be a negative – focussing us on what we can't have rather than what we can. The answer to successful budgeting lies in the way we think. When we are told we can't afford something, it can tend to make us feel like a victim and we focus on how unfair the situation is.

One of my earliest memories was going to our local milk bar with my mum seeing all the lolly jars full of treats, only to be told, "No, we can't afford it". A while later I went into the same store with an aunt who told me that, yes I can have a lolly, but I had to choose just one.

The difference between the two experiences was stark. In the first instance there was a feeling of having no control and there was a bitter resentment at the injustice of it all. The second experience meant I was in control and I just had to prioritise.

When we say we can't afford something, subconsciously we can build resentment and feelings of injustice. We can feel like a victim. Despite this, so many people use the phrase, "I can't afford it" in their everyday language. I think what we really mean is that it is not a priority.

By replacing the phrase "I can't afford it" with "it's not a priority", we are empowering ourselves to feel in control instead of being a victim of circumstance. A budget then becomes a 'priority planner' and instead of a budget being a negative thing it gets us to focus on what we have, rather than what we are missing. It is a 'glass half full' kind of situation.

The priority planner focuses us on the reasons we are choosing to spend less and save or pay down debt to be in a financially stronger position. It is remarkable how many things we say we can't afford but really could have if we prioritised differently. Let's say we would like a swimming pool but feel we can't afford it. Instead, if we said to ourselves, "We actually could have a swimming pool but we're not going to get it because it's not a priority. There are other things we want more." That puts a whole new perspective on things.

To get a pool would mean, as a crazy example, I would sell the house and buy an empty block of land and build the pool on it. So yes, I could afford the pool but a house is a much higher priority. Having a 'priority planner' and living within our means can help us to give thanks for what we have and to focus on what is most important to us financially.

It is so much better to be in control of our lives than feeling like a victim about all the things we could have if only they were important enough to be a priority. We should count our blessings!

If you like this article, please feel free to share it with your family and friends.

Educational guides