I am so thrilled to contribute to the Plan Well Retire Well blog. My name is Camaya Wallace Bechard and I am the new Consumer Economics Educator for Livingston, McLean, and Woodford counties. I love learning about new research and approaches to improve and maintain our well-being.
Recently, I read an article about using mindfulness techniques when managing your finances. I first learned about to this concept five years ago. A very simple way to describe mindfulness is that it focuses on breathing techniques, which over time allows you to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. This increases calmness, reflectiveness, and thoughtfulness. It develops self-awareness and self-observation that helps us to make effective and planned decisions. I did not get far with these techniques five years ago. Being a little older and wiser, I decided to pay closer attention and embody some of these principles in my financial decision-making.
My family's food budget includes bulk household shopping once per month and weekly purchases for fresh fruits and vegetables. A few weeks ago, I decided to get all the groceries I needed over the weekend and that way I didn't need to run to the grocery store during the week for lettuce if I needed to make a sandwich. When I go during the week, I noticed that I would pick up more than I intended to on those grocery trips. Therefore, to stick to my budget, I decided to change things up and get everything I needed by Sunday night. I have a more focused weekend shopping, so it does not take too much time away from doing things with the people in my life.
This switch made my week feel very boring because I liked running to the store during the week! However, that behavior was causing me to overspend. After reading this article, I started with one technique that has helped me:
Pause and Plan: Have you ever bought an item and by the time you got home, you started feeling a sense of regret?
- This approach allows you to carefully think about what you buy and how you spend
- You plan each shopping trip
- It reduces impulsive financial behaviors
- It works for small, medium, and large purchases
- It is deliberate!
Mindful financial techniques also incorporate "readiness to change", which influences our money decisions. I wasn't ready to give up my grocery trips during the week, but by doing so, I was home an hour earlier. I also remembered to bring my shopping bags and some grocery stores reward you for using reusable bags. Best of all I did not overspend!
It takes time, it is a gradual process, but it is achievable! You can start by thinking about some of the taken-for-granted money behavior that you do daily or weekly. For example, your daily coffee purchases, buying soda at the gas station or eating out two or more times weekly. You do not have to be an expert in mindfulness to start following simple strategies:
- Adopt new attitudes that support positive and purposeful financial management
- Believing in your capability to make thoughtful and responsible financial decisions is an important step toward your financial well-being
- Do not let past failures with budgeting or other financial planning prevent you from explore and learning new ways to be a good manager of your money!
As you make plans for Easter or upcoming activities, think about this approach and how it can help you in your decision-making.