At first blush the analogy of Money Management and Holiday Meals may make zero sense to you. You may say, “I love the holidays and look forward to those big family dinners and I certainly don’t feel the same about my personal finances.” For many, holiday feasts are full of laughter, relaxation, and creating warm memories, while personal finances can seem more like attending a funeral reception. But stick with me on this comparison and maybe you’ll have that “aha!” moment just like I did:
A Holiday Feast Takes Some Planning, If You Want It To Turn Out Well
If you are the one hosting the grand meal, there’s a lot to preplan if you want to see success. For instance, how many are you providing for? Do you have a menu plan for all parts of the meal (meat, vegetables & dessert - not just your favorites)? How about timing – can you get the turkey cooking early enough so you’re not empty handed come meal time?
With personal finance, it’s not any different. First comes the “who” that you need to provide for. We’re not just talking about a single meal either, but rather 18+ plus years for your kids and an entire lifetime for you and your spouse. Once you know “who’s coming to dinner” it’s time to get at the menu plan - the “what” of things.
You’ll need to pay attention to all parts of your plan (college, weddings, clothing, vehicles, taxes, etc), not just your favorite parts. Putting some thought into making a well-rounded plan will ensure your finances turn out as well as your next big meal! Lastly comes timing. How long you have to save for each goal, and when you actually start, will largely dictate if you end up empty handed when your much-loved child is ready for higher education for instance. See? Meal Planning vs Money Planning – it’s more similar than you may have originally thought.
A Holiday Feast Is A Prime Opportunity To Overindulge
With all the fun and laughter that usually accompanies a large family get together, sometimes you can lose sight of your pre-established goals. Are you counting calories? Tell me how hard that is to do when you walk into the family home and face a banquet table full of delectable choices! The tendency to overwork your appetite during the holidays isn’t any different than overworking our wallet and credit cards when it comes to the dizzying array of consumer choices we see when we walk into a grocery store, a mall or even logon to online stores.
In both circumstances, the trick is to remember your pre-established goals – those things you decided were most important to you before you entered the consumer arena. Keeping those important goals in mind will go a long way toward staying on track and avoiding that sick feeling the next day.
A Holiday Feast Is Fraught With Decisions
“Do I sit next to Aunt Alice who’s bound to ask me (again!) if I’m ever going to get married?” “Do I use the little fork to the right for my salad, or is that supposed to be for my dessert?” “Should I open another bottle of wine or stop now since I may be driving home?” The Holiday Feast can be stressful for many because you may not sure what the right choices may be… or even if they matter at all! You may tend to worry about choices that will end up having little impact on your evening, but tend to ignore the most important decisions, unaware of how crucial they may be down the road. Well, guess what? Personal money management is just the same.
We often fret over decisions that overall have little impact on our financial lives (such as which 401k fund family to choose), while completely underestimating the power of other simple little choices – like having that additional $25 deduction toward an emergency fund. Wouldn’t it be great to have a coach to help us navigate the Holiday Table AND our Money Decisions? Our experience is that – at least when it comes to money - a little bit of guidance from an unbiased, experienced coach goes a long way toward a healthy and happy financial future.
See? Money management is much more like a holiday feast than you ever imagined! Planning, managing consumption, and making wise decisions are all part of a successful outcome whether it’s gathered around the banquet table or pouring over your checkbook. Either way, our wish for you is a happy, stress free holiday season, that includes both physical and financial good health.