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So you’ve finally decided to change your life, your finances, and your spare time to achieve your new goals. Where to begin?

In order to reach your goals, it is essential to learn how to budget. Now don’t run for the hills, it’s not as boring nor as difficult as you might think. If anything, it can strike fear in the hearts of many – seeing that you may have to face some harsh realities. For instance, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, The typical household headed by those age 35 and older was $30,000 in debt in 2010.”

Does that sound like you? Are you juggling debts and yearning for a new life? Let’s focus on the fact that changing your lifestyle is not just result-based. Changing your lifestyle is about every day actions or habits that need to be changed – like making time for exercise or shopping for healthier foods. The outcomes or end results are the bonus – the weight loss and the smaller jeans. But as is commonly mentioned, the journey is just as valuable as the destination.

Budgeting is about looking at what you have, where you can make changes, and how to achieve your goals in a way that doesn’t break the bank, max out the credit cards, or leave your relationships floundering.

Mapping Out Your Life

Lifestyle is about many different aspects of your life. Try outlining the different areas of your life so that you can begin to focus on each of them individually? Remember a chain breaks at the weakest link, so lets get all your links as strong as possible. What exactly is keeping you down?  A bad relationship?  Poor health? Depression? Job status?  Consider the positive and negative aspects of all the different parts of your life. To help you out in face of this daunting task, here are some areas you might want to cover:

  • Finances
  • Relationships
  • Employment/Career
  • Health
  • Spirituality
  • Family
  • Home
  • Hobbies
  • Recreation

Each one of these needs to be worked into your budgeting plan because each one of these areas takes either time or money or both. Of course, not all plans come to fruition and sometimes they have to be changed or adapted, but the end results should be an approximate of what you want. What you are aiming for is a sense of balance from which you can begin to make the changes necessary.

Step 1: Goals

What will your new lifestyle look like once it’s in place? Perhaps you see yourself playing sports every week or socializing every weekend. Take time to think long and hard about what you want before you set your plan in motion. Then once you have your idea firmly set, write down what you need in order to achieve these goals.  If your idea is to hire a housekeeper once a month so you can spend more time with your family, figure out how much it will cost you.

photo courtesy of 401(K)2013

Step 2: Spending & Saving 

For each of life’s areas you have identified, list how much time you spend per day or per week on these areas and how much money it costs you. Compare the list of real situation with the goals list you made in step one. Once you have done this for everything, ask yourself – where can savings be made? Or perhaps you are asking yourself – what needs more time to make it work? If you want to include going to the playing sports in your new lifestyle, then make sure you include the time it takes to and from the location. Budgeting is about looking at what you have, where you can make changes, and how to achieve your goals in a way that doesn’t break the bank, max out the credit cards, or leave your relationships floundering.

Step 3: Expert Help

It’s wonderful if you have enough disposable income to employ a life coach or a financial coach or a fitness coach to attend to the different areas you are trying to change. However, not everyone can afford this option, so here’s what you do. If you are a member of a church, ask there if anyone can help you for free. If you have friends who seem to be living the life you want, ask them how they plan and prioritise.

Step 4: Accountability

At the end of every day, or every week, or even on the first of each month, make some time to write down what you have achieved and how you spent your time and money.  This will keep you current in your own life and facilitate a greater sense of control.  If you find you’re writing down that you spent 3 hours watching TV and you didn’t exercise or you ate fast food – here’s where you can make some change. When you realize that you have spent $50 a week parking, for the sake of saving a little time and avoiding a parking spot further away, you suddenly find a way to save enough money at the end of the year to take that vacation you’ve been needing.

The Bottom Line

It may be time consuming and at times daunting, but budgeting for change does not have to be difficult. When looking at new lifestyle choices, remember that it’s unlikely that everything in your life needs changing. Keep things just as they are if they’re working for you. Take time to examine each of the areas in your life that do need adapting and be logical about how to change them. If you can’t see a way out, ask someone for advice. We all face similar challenges

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