Budgeting = Awareness

Carl Richards is a Certified Financial Planner™ and creator of the Sketch Guy column, appearing weekly in The New York Times since 2010.  The following article is reproduced with permission from his weekly newsletter and his website can be found here.

Greetings, Carl here.

You want to achieve enlightenment? The key is not in down dogs and green smoothies. The key is budgeting.

I know that sounds crazy. But take it from Thich Nhat Hanh, “Budgeting leads to enlightenment.”

I’m just kidding, Thich Nhat Hanh didn’t say that.

But as any good scholar of Buddhism knows, awareness is the key to enlightenment. And it just so happens that budgeting is an incredible path to greater self-awareness. In fact, that’s really all budgeting is! It’s simply being aware of our spending.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many people who love to budget. And when it comes to co-budgeting with a spouse or partner, there’s a good chance at least one of you will actually hate the idea.

But just think about it. Don’t you think spending money in a way that’s more aligned with your values will bring you more happiness? You can toss budgeting on a list with meditation, brushing your teeth, exercising, and eating healthy, and call it “Things Nobody Wants To Do But Really Should.”

I know it’s not fun. I know you think you already know where your money is going (I promise, you don’t!). I know you don’t want to know.

But just give it a shot.

Try tracking your spending for 30 days. Don’t stress about what app to use; just carry a pen and a little notebook, and each time you make a purchase, write down what you spent and how it made you feel. At the end of the month, go back through your notebook and just notice. Become aware.

That’s it.

If you hate it, you can always quit. If it revolutionizes how you live, you’ll be glad you tried.


P.S. As always, if you want to use this week’s sketch, you can buy it here.