Women and Money

Feeling Mentally Drained? You May Need to Go on a Decision Detox

Decision Detox

If you find it difficult to stick to good habits and are having trouble reaching your goals, it may be the result of decision fatigue. A decision detox can help you get back on track.

We all have those days where we feel like there are just too many choices. Should I go grocery shopping today after work or tomorrow morning? What should I make for dinner tonight? When can I squeeze in a workout?

In fact, it’s estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions per day. And researchers at Cornell University estimate we make roughly 227 decisions each day on food alone!

It may seem like all this decision making is the obvious consequence of a busy life. Unfortunately, it’s draining us of our mental energy, which can have real consequences on our lives—and finances.

What Is Decision Fatigue?

Coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, decision fatigue is the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices. It’s one reason many of us feel exhausted after a stressful day at work even though we were sitting down most of the day.

As your mental energy decreases, you’re more likely to let basic desires take over and make whatever decision seems easiest at the time. For example, you might decide to pick up takeout on your way home rather than cook the healthy dinner you planned.

When decision fatigue sets in, our ability to consider the long-term impact of a decision goes out the window. Meaning, there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re having trouble accomplishing your goals. It just means you may need to go on a decision detox. 

How to Do a Decision Detox

A decision detox doesn’t mean eliminating all decisions from your life altogether. The goal is to make fewer decisions so you can clear mental space for what matters.

Here are five strategies for reducing decision fatigue and boosting your mental energy:

Decision Detox Tip #1: Anticipate Routine Decisions

Do you find yourself wasting time on similar decisions every day? Like what to wear or eat for breakfast? The fewer decisions you make early in the day, the more energy you’ll have for more important decisions later.

The solution is to plan accordingly. For example, you can choose your outfit the night before so you’re not struggling to put something together in the morning. If you have trouble deciding what to eat most days, try prepping your meals for the week on Sunday so you always have healthy options in the fridge.

The same is true for routine financial decisions. Consider automating your monthly bill payments and setting up automatic transfers to your emergency fund and retirement savings.

Decision Detox Tip #2: Set Healthy Boundaries and Learn to Say “No”

Many of us have a hard time saying no, especially if it lets someone we care about down. But people pleasing can be mentally draining. If you tend to agonize over how to respond to invitations or requests for your time, you’re contributing to your decision fatigue.

An effective decision detox includes setting healthy boundaries. It’s not easy, but it can save you valuable mental energy. If you haven’t read it, Essentialism by Greg McKeown is a great book for helping you focus on what matters in your life, so you can confidently say no to everything else.

Decision Detox Tip #3: Avoid Making Decisions When You’re Tired, Hungry, Stressed, etc.

There’s a reason everyone says not to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Or to avoid major decisions when you’re stressed or grieving. When we’re in survival mode, we’re more likely to take the path of least resistance. That may mean buying food that tastes great but isn’t exactly nutritious or making an impulsive decision that we later regret.

If you feel like you’re slipping into survival mode, there are a few things you can do to pull yourself out. Spend a few minutes meditating, go for a walk, or connect with a friend. Adding these types of activities to your decision detox can help you restore your mental energy and make better decisions more consistently.

Decision Detox Tip #4: Designate Times to Check Email, Texts, and Social Media

Most Americans check their phone about 160 times per day, according to a recent study. If this sounds like you, your smartphone habit may be working against you. For example, if you see a new text or email come in, you may feel compelled to respond immediately. Unfortunately, even communication that feels easy—like responding to a friend about where you want to meet for lunch later—can zap your mental energy.

As part of your decision detox, try designating specific times for communication and scrolling your social media feed. You may be surprised how much more you can get done when your phone isn’t constantly distracting you. And how much more energy you have at the end of the day! 

Decision Detox Tip #5: Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate

Lastly, just because you can do it all yourself doesn’t mean you have to. Our time and energy are finite resources. Sometimes reaching your goals means asking for help.

Whether it’s at work, at home, or in your financial life, look for areas where you can delegate decisions to someone else. If delegating allows you to spend more time and energy on things that bring you joy, it’s probably worth it.

At Curtis Financial Planning, our goal is to be a fiduciary financial partner to our clients so they can focus more time and energy on what they love and do best. If you believe we may be a good fit and can help you achieve your financial goals, please schedule a call.

And if you’re ready to go on a decision detox in your financial life, check out The Happiness Spreadsheet—a fresh, inspiring approach to budgeting that aligns your spending with your values.

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25 Tips to Get Your Clothes Shopping Habit Under Control

25 Tips to Get Your Shopping Habit Under Control

We originally published this article on June 16, 2018.

If you’re like a lot of Americans, your spending habits may have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. For many of us, staying at home meant spending less and saving more. And with nowhere to go, buying new clothes didn’t feel like a priority.

Now that the economy is reopening, you may feel the urge to make up for lost time—and potentially reignite your shopping habit. Before returning to old habits that are interfering with your financial goals, getting you into trouble with a significant other, causing you to rack up credit card debt, or simply making you feel bad about yourself, consider these strategies to get your clothes shopping habit under control.

First, Face Reality

Compare last year’s credit card and bank statements to 2019 and figure out how much money went to clothing and accessories each year. If your clothes budget decreased significantly over the last 12-15 months, you may not be able to reasonably maintain that level of spending post-pandemic. Instead, set a new goal to cut your 2019 clothes and accessories budget by 20%. (Trying to cut spending too much at first is a recipe for failure, so it’s best to do it in stages.)

Now that you have a new budget, you’ll need some strategies to stick to it.

Consider these tips to get your clothes shopping habit under control:

Notice that many of these tips are as much about the psychology of shopping as they are about the acquiring of new clothing, shoes, and accessories.

  1. Try very hard to intentionally schedule shopping trips instead of spontaneously dropping into your favorite stores just to “take a look at what is new.”
  2. Don’t shop when you are lonely, tired, frustrated, anxious or bored.
  3. Avoid shopping immediately after a setback or a major victory.
  4. When the adrenalin kicks in and you catch yourself in a shopping frenzy, leave the store before buying anything. Focus on centering yourself first.
  5. Don’t let friends, shop-owners or salespeople convince you that something looks great on you when you don’t think it does, or it’s just not your style.
  6. Decide what you need in your wardrobe and make a list. Take the list with you when you go shopping.
  7. Before you buy anything on sale, ask yourself whether you would buy it at full price.
  8. Think quality, not quantity. Not only will the item of clothing last longer, but you are likely to love it longer too.
  9. Stop rationalizing. You don’t need a whole new wardrobe because you got a new job or because you now work at home.
  10. Buy things you’re going to wear now, not for a far-off occasion or event that may never happen.
  11. Buy clothing for the way you live now, not for the way you wish you were living. (For example, buying a fancy dress when you never go to fancy parties.)
  12. Avoid buying one-off pieces of clothing that don’t go with anything in your wardrobe.
  13. Don’t buy clothing in the wrong size thinking you’ll lose weight or have it “taken in.” (Although, having a good tailor is worth its weight in gold.)
  14. Try shopping with cash, not credit cards. It’s easier to set limits.
  15. Limit the number of trendy items you buy to just a small percentage of your wardrobe.
  16. Think #10: everything you buy should be as close to a “10” as possible.
  17. Realize that a new dress, skirt, blouse, or jacket are not going to make you more beautiful or change your life.
  18. To help make better buying decisions, analyze your wardrobe to understand what your favorite go-to pieces are. What are the common themes?
  19. Home in on what colors and styles look best on you to limit choices.
  20. Instead of going shopping with girlfriends, do something else, like going for a hike, to a museum, or out to lunch.
  21. One-in, one-out rule. (If your wardrobe is very large, you may want to release two or two pieces for each that you buy.)
  22. Think like an economist and analyze cost per wear before buying.
  23. Track your clothing and accessories spending to hold yourself accountable.

Kick Your Shopping Habit, Once and for All

If you’re able to stick to your new budget for a few months, set a lower budget for the next month and see how it goes. Tracking your spending not only keeps you honest, but it will also show you if you tend to buy the same items over and over, which is very common. How many pairs of jeans or black tank tops does one need?

It may take several attempts to get your clothes shopping habit under control. But with each small victory, you will get stronger. Just think about all the time and money you will gain by not buying so many clothes and what else you can do with it to make your life better.

P.S. This post is written by someone who loves fashion and who continues to incorporate these tips into her own shopping habits. 🙂

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Life After Lockdown: Creating a Budget Post-Pandemic

Creating a Budget Post-Pandemic

For the past few weeks, I’ve been teaching a personal finance class at Mills College. The first class covered cash flow and budgeting, so I asked my students to create a budget for homework. To help them get started, I suggested reviewing their recent credit card and bank statements to estimate their discretionary spending habits. One of the students brought up a great point: “I wasn’t spending like I normally do during COVID, so the last 14 months may not be representative of my spending from now on.”

As it turns out, her statement is true for most of us. For example, 64% of Americans say their spending habits have changed since the pandemic started, according to a Bank of America survey of more than 2,500 adults. In addition, a separate Bank of America survey found that 46% of affluent Americans have been getting their financial lives in order during the last year and expect to reach key financial milestones sooner than their parents did. That means many of us not only changed how we spend our money, but we also developed more financial discipline during the pandemic.

Indeed, our spending will likely look different as the world reopens and life returns to normal. Of course, just how different depends on the person. It’s tempting to splurge on the things and experiences we missed most in lockdown (for instance, we finally have a reason to buy new clothes again!). However, I think it would be fantastic if some of us could maintain the money habits we developed when we had fewer options. Creating a budget that reflects those habits can be a great way to do that.

How the Pandemic Changed Our Spending Habits

Life in lockdown forced us to reevaluate many aspects of our daily lives. As our circumstances and priorities changed, so did our spending. Gyms and restaurants closed, and travel was all but nonexistent for the first part of the pandemic. So, where did our money go?

Self Magazine surveyed 1,300 Americans to find out how their spending habits changed during the pandemic. Of the female respondents, 62% said they used time in lockdown to cook more creatively and spent a lot more money on groceries as a result. In addition to our growing grocery budgets while at home, a CIT Bank survey conducted by The Harris Poll found that spending on food delivery was also up 25% during the pandemic. 

However, food wasn’t the only thing we spent more on in lockdown. According to data provided by budgeting app Mint last August, consumer spending on investments, pets, education, and home expenses was up significantly year over year.

While some of these trends may continue, others will naturally return to more normal levels in a post-pandemic world. It may be helpful to keep this in mind and adjust accordingly when creating a budget for the future.

Good Habits We Developed in Lockdown

Despite increased spending in certain categories during the pandemic, more than half of Americans said they spent less and saved more than usual overall, according to the same CIT Bank survey. Thanks to government stimulus and new spending habits, many people were able to save more and pay down debt.

Notably, CRS reported that credit card balances declined about $76 billion in the second quarter of 2020, the largest quarterly decline on record. In addition, data from Experian shows that on average, Americans’ credit scores increased and payment habits improved in 2020.

Yet good habits extended beyond those experiencing financial difficulties before the pandemic. Of more than 2,000 affluent adults (households with investable assets between $100,000 and $1 million) surveyed by Bank of America, 81% said they took the money they’d normally spend on entertainment, travel, and dining and set it aside for savings and emergency funds during the pandemic.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Women

These statistics certainly paint a rosy picture, and many of us have been fortunate enough to come out of the pandemic in similar or better financial shape than we started. Unfortunately, however, many women experienced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic, setting them back even further on their path to retirement.

For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported women’s unemployment has increased by 2.9% more than unemployment among men since the start of the pandemic. In addition, data from Washington University in St. Louis showed hours worked by mothers fell four to five times as much as hours worked by fathers. Many women had no choice but to leave the workforce to care for aging parents or children. Female participation in the workforce has not been this low since 1988, according to one NPR analysis.

It’s no secret that women have long been at a disadvantage when preparing for retirement. This is because we tend to invest less and hold more cash than men, contributing to our savings shortfall. However, the main driver behind this shortfall is our lower lifetime earnings due to gender pay gaps and caretaking responsibilities—a trend that only worsened amid the pandemic.

Morningstar reports that 55% of all jobs lost in 2020 (2.3 million jobs total) were lost by women. And 32% of women ages 25-44 say they’re not currently working due to childcare demands, compared to 12% of men in the same age group.

If you’re facing any of these challenges yourself, creating a budget for post-pandemic life might be the last thing on your mind. However, closing the retirement savings gap is more critical than ever. Even one small step in the right direction can help you take control of your financial future.

Creating a Budget for Your Future

My suggestion to the student who spoke up in my class was to look back to 2019 as a spending guide. You may find this advice helpful as you’re creating a budget for yourself post-pandemic. However, if you want to continue the good habits you developed during COVID or create new habits to better prepare yourself for the future, be sure to incorporate these changes into your new spending plan. Remember: small, consistent actions over time often lead to big results.

If you’d like to work with a fiduciary financial planner to help you feel better about your money and prepare for the future, please schedule a call to see if we’re a good fit. In addition, you can check out The Happiness Spreadsheet, a fresh, inspiring approach to budgeting that can help you maintain good money habits and develop new ones.

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Why Do We Procrastinate about Finances?

personal finance

This article was originally published January 25, 2018.

Personal finance is something that’s easy to put on the back burner. I hear it from clients all the time:

I only have $200,000 saved for retirement and I’m already 62 years old!

I’m co-signing all of my child’s student loans, and I realized I’m nowhere near as close to paying off my existing debt as I thought I was!

Let’s face it: life gets busy. Between our professional and personal lives, we often have very little time left over to work toward big-picture goals. Inevitably, some important things end up getting neglected.

Many people think about working with a financial planner for years before they take the leap. In reality, it often takes a crisis or a large life change to shift them to a place where they’re ready to set up a consultation.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

If the above description sounds like you, don’t worry! You’re in good company. It turns out procrastination is a big part of most people’s lives. When it comes to personal finances, there are a few main reasons we put off planning:

  • The task is unpleasant.
  • Our finances cause us anxiety.
  • We’re not sure where to start.

Let’s take a look at these procrastination-causes, and how we can work through them to get a jump on your financial planning.

Viewing Finances as Unpleasant

It’s no secret there’s a taboo that exists around money. In general, people don’t love talking about it—or even thinking about it. Oddly enough, though, this taboo primarily exists in the United States. Elsewhere in the world, discussing money is seen as anything but gauche. It’s a part of life!

To change this view of money and motivate yourself to start working on your finances, it’s smart to purposefully alter your perception. When you view money as an entity that shouldn’t be discussed, you give it power.

Instead, try viewing money as a tool to help you live the life you want—whether that’s traveling more, giving more to your favorite charity, or retiring comfortably around family. As soon as you take the power away from money, you realize it’s not unpleasant to try and create a financial plan. It’s actually kind of exciting!

Money Causes Anxiety

If you’re like most people I speak to, you know the value of financial planning. But too often it takes a personal crisis to move you toward dealing with your finances. This is often because, to put it simply, money stresses us out.

The idea that there isn’t enough money—or that we aren’t moving closer to our money-related goals—is enough to send most people into an anxiety spiral. To avoid these negative feelings, we avoid financial planning altogether.

The crazy thing is that if we were to face our fears and create a financial plan that helped us get on track, our money anxiety would dissipate significantly. But because we continue to avoid it, we continue to feel anxious, and the guilt cycle goes on and on.

If money anxiety is what’s stopping you from starting your financial planning journey, there are several things you can do to ease the stress:

  • Try making a to-do list with bite-sized tasks (like calling a financial advisor for a consultation, checking your account balances, or writing down upcoming financial goals).
  • Set a spending budget.
  • Focus on what you’re doing right. Not everything’s bad news! Rather than always beating yourself up about financial mistakes, focus on the big and little financial wins you experience, too!

Not Knowing Where to Start

Often times, it’s a lack of confidence that prevents us from getting started with financial planning. We’re not sure where to begin, and the information that’s available online is daunting—to say the least!

Luckily, this financial hang-up is the easiest to fix. Working with a fiduciary CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ can help. As a fiduciary advisor, I have a duty to my clients to provide financial advice that’s always in their best interest. Years of practice and education make a financial planner your best ally when it comes to financial planning.

At the end of the day, you are busy. Carving out time to handle your financial planning alone can be incredibly intimidating. I’d like to help. We’ll work together to get you started on the right financial path, set meaningful goals together, and strive for success. Contact me today to set up an introductory phone call. I’m excited to hear from you!

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Women: Take Control of Your Financial Future

Take Control of Your Financial Future

Recently, Business and Tech asked me to participate in a panel of experts for an article called “Taking Control of Your Financial Future.” Below are some of the key points I shared during our discussion, which focus on the specific personal finance issues women often face.

I think all women can benefit from working with a trusted financial advisor if they need help managing their personal finances. A fiduciary financial partner can help you set financial goals, allocate and invest your money, and develop strategies to grow and preserve your wealth. However, there are certain things all women can do to take control of your financial future, whether you choose to work with an advisor or not.

#1: Take Ownership of Your Finances

My first piece of advice for women is to take ownership of your finances. Don’t depend on a relative, significant other, or spouse to make financial decisions on your behalf. 

If you’re married, consider taking a team approach to managing the household finances. Ultimately, being looped into these key financial decisions will give you peace of mind, especially if you lose your spouse.

#2: Seek Feedback from Other Women

Another way to take control of your financial future is to talk to other women about how they handle their money. Find trusted friends or create a money circle to talk about money issues and financial topics. Or there are money coaches that you can hire to work through your money issues.

#3: Be Your Own Advocate

Women need to be our own advocates. Despite the progress we’ve made, we still earn less than men, on average. In addition, we often must choose between being a caretaker and pursuing a career. These factors can significantly impact your ability to retire on your own terms, especially if you’re the primary earner in your household.

To ensure your compensation is fair, ask for more benefits or a pay raise when you feel you’ve earned it. Keep a record of your contributions and any metrics that demonstrate the value of your work.

And most importantly, don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary and benefits when accepting a new job. In many cases, negotiating your starting salary is your best opportunity to meaningfully increase your income.

#4: Find the Right Balance

If you have a family, juggling your home life and work life can feel like a never-ending challenge. To ensure your financial future doesn’t suffer as a result, you need to find a healthy balance.

First and foremost, seek out employers who have family-friendly employee benefits. Look for organizations that have good gender diversity among management and employees. These types of employers typically offer work-from-home, tele-commuting, family leave benefits, and even daycare. In some cases, they may even offer part-time work to support working parents.

In addition, talk to your spouse or partner about sharing childcare and household duties. Set up systems and schedules so each person knows their role to keep things working smoothly. If possible, ask local family members if they are willing to help.

It’s often helpful to set strict boundaries for your time at work and set expectations accordingly. Let your employers know it’s important for you to attend certain family events, which will keep you from working overtime. And be sure to stick to these boundaries yourself, even if you’d love to work just one more hour on that project.

#5: Invest in Your Future

Lastly, educate yourself about investing and be willing to invest to secure your financial future. Keeping cash in a bank will not beat inflation over the long run but buying stocks will. You don’t have to invest beyond your comfort level. However, it’s critical to find the right mix of investments to stay on track towards your financial goals.

For more personal finance tips, you can read the full Business and Tech article here.

Curtis Financial Planning specializes in the unique financial planning needs of independent women and women who take the lead in their household finances. If we can help you develop a plan to take control of your financial future, please schedule a call.

In the meantime, check out our personal finance resources, including The Happiness Spreadsheet, a fresh, inspiring approach to budgeting for women.

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Why We Should Talk About Women’s Financial Empowerment Now More than Ever

Women's Financial Empowerment

This article was originally published June 16, 2018. In celebration of National Financial Literacy Month and our ongoing commitment to women’s financial empowerment, we thought we’d give it a refresh for 2021.

Millions of women worldwide took to the streets on January 21, 2017, one day after former President Trump’s inauguration. The Women’s March, now regarded as the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, was primarily aimed at the threat the Trump administration represented to hard-won reproductive, civil, and human rights.

The energy of the first Women’s March was contagious. I was thrilled to be a part of the sea of knitted pink hats and hand-made signs in San Francisco with clever slogans such as, “Tweet women with respect,” “Without Hermione, Harry Potter would have died in book 1,” and, “I’m a girl, what’s your superpower?”

In 2018, women marched again on the first anniversary of the original Women’s March. But this time, the marches were fueled by the anti-sexual assault and women’s empowerment movements #MeToo and Time’s Up.

The Women’s March has since become an annual tradition, with protestors assembling every January in various parts of the world around critical issues. This year, which would have marked the fifth annual protest, the movement went virtual. Not even a pandemic could stop it.

A Big Step Towards Women’s Empowerment

These coordinated protests have elevated the global consciousness surrounding women’s obstacles to success, both personal and professional. Women desperately want to be empowered—not diminished—in the workplace and in their own lives.

The definition of empowerment is compelling: the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. As a financial advisor who works with many women, my greatest satisfaction is watching a client go from feeling anxious and confused about her finances to clear and confident about her future. Taking responsibility and control of your money is a big step towards feeling empowered.

Taking Control of Your Financial Future

Recently I met with a young woman in her early 20s who wanted to get her finances on track. She started working full-time a couple of years ago and made enough money to know she needed to get educated and set up a savings plan.

We sat down for an hour and a half and quickly decided the first steps:

1. Increase her student loan payments,
2. Open a Roth account, 
3. Boost her contribution to her 401(k) plan.

After she fully funded her emergency savings account, she planned to begin saving in a taxable account toward future goals, such as buying a home.

A few days later, she sent me an email and told me that she had completed the to-do list we put together before she left my office. This young woman is empowered, and her financial future is assuredly going to be bright.

Financial Empowerment is Available to Everyone

The people marching each January are diverse. For many, it’s a family affair—multi-generational mothers, daughters, and grandmothers channeling determination and commitment, with supportive husbands and male friends in tow. I tell my clients that financial empowerment is attainable at any age, especially with that same commitment and determination to become financially literate, independent, and secure.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Want to feel more financially empowered?

Download The Happiness Spreadsheet, a fresh, inspiring approach to budgeting that aligns your spending with your value

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5 Ways to Boost Your Financial Confidence

Boost Your Financial Confidence

In many aspects of life, confidence is key. But if there’s one category where that emotion is often lacking, it’s financial. Fortunately, April is National Financial Literacy Month. To celebrate, this month’s podcast episode features Jennifer Barrett, author of Think Like a Breadwinner. In addition, I’m sharing some tips of my own for how you can boost your financial confidence to shift your money mindset.

Five steps you can take right now to boost your financial confidence:

1. Face Your Finances

Regularly revisiting your budget, checking in on your accounts, and tracking your net worth are three tasks that any financial advisor would recommend. And for good reason. These tasks may seem simplistic, but they provide you with a solid financial foundation. Moreover, getting a routine down for the basics will also help boost your financial confidence when it comes to tackling larger tasks.

2. Educate Yourself

There is an incredible number of ways to improve your financial literacy. And with the rise of personal finance blogs, podcasts, books, and courses, it’s easier than ever to get your hands on the information you need.

For instance, Curtis Financial Planning’s website contains the Of Independent Means blog and the Financial Finesse podcast, as well as several free downloads and other resources. In addition, the Balance has compiled a handy list of the 10 best personal finance books of 2021.

3. Know Your Worth

Have you gone a year or more without a cost-of-living raise? Or have you recently changed positions, taken on more responsibilities, or spent time honing your skills? If so, it’s time to negotiate a higher salary. Indeed, growing the gap between your expenses and your income will boost your financial confidence. However, it can also help you meet many common financial goals.

Just be sure to do your research to find out how much others in your position are making. For example, websites like Glassdoor will give you the average salary for your position and location. In addition, you can add in your years of experience to get a more specific answer.

4. Set Financial Goals

Two common financial goals are putting together a budget or spending plan and paying down debt. These two tasks go hand-in-hand, and they’re vital for a healthy financial future. Other examples of financial goals include:

• Starting an emergency fund
• Saving for retirement
• Paying off your mortgage
• Funding a dream vacation

Setting financial goals offers a daily reminder of what matters more than emotional spending or convenience purchases. No matter your financial goals, facing your finances, increasing your knowledge, and knowing what you’re worth can help you get there.

5. Partner With a Financial Advisor

Nothing offers a bigger, better, or faster financial confidence boost than partnering with a knowledgeable financial advisor. To get started and cross one thing off your financial to-do list, download The Happiness Spreadsheet. This incredible free resource offers a unique approach to budgeting by aligning your spending plan with your values.

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Budgeting For Happiness: Your New Spending Plan

New Spending Plan

Many women resist traditional budgeting because it feels so restrictive. Your new spending plan prioritizes what’s most important to you.

At the mention of the word “budget,” many people cringe. Like the word “diet,” it brings about a sense of dread, thoughts of deprivation, and the possibility of failure. Instead of focusing on the long-term rewards of effective budgeting, you start to focus on what you can’t have right now. When that deprivation mentality kicks in, it makes mindless shopping or impulse purchases harder to resist. But don’t fret; this mindset is fixable if you take a different approach with your spending plan.

The Psychology of Budgeting

There’s a psychological side to budgeting. It involves motivation, discipline, and often a bit of creativity. The idea of budgeting creates an emotional response in your brain, and it’s not always a good one. Creating and sticking to a budget can feel like yet another task on your already endless to-do list, not to mention the fact that this task also involves math, which most of us tend to avoid. But stick with me here because you do need a budget, just not the kind that fills you with an impending sense of doom. 

Why You Need a Budget 

As challenging as it can be, budgeting is a necessary not-so-evil. For starters, identifying where your money is going every month can help you find ways to cut back, increase your savings, and work toward your financial goals. A recent U.S. Bank study revealed that only 41% of Americans use a budget, even though it’s one of the most effective ways to keep track of our finances. 

It’s time to try a better way. Budgeting can help you improve your financial security, limit unaligned spending, and avoid debt and financial stress. It’s one of the quickest and easiest ways to increase your financial control and sense of financial fulfillment. 

What If There Were a Better Way? 

The key to better budgeting is to make it feel less like deprivation and more like prioritization. Understanding your core values, financial and otherwise, and aligning your spending with them can be very motivating. And when you feel more aligned, it tends to lead to greater fulfillment and better habits. 

Here are some suggestions for aligning your new budget spending plan with your values: 

  • Create a financial plan that emphasizes your goals, whether that’s early retirement, real estate investments, or that long-awaited vacation  
  • If you’re estimating costs, it’s always better to be conservative (i.e., overestimate rather than underestimate)
  • Link your spending to things that you value—this may require some self-reflection work, but it will be worth it 
  • Use visuals to maintain your motivation (pop pictures on the wall over your desk or create a vision board on Pinterest), and revisit your goals regularly  
  • Give yourself grace and a chance to rework the numbers or try again if you fall off track 

Your New Spending Plan

To implement these ideas in your own budget, download The Happiness Spreadsheet for a fresh, inspiring approach to budgeting that aligns your spending plan with your values.

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12 Simple Steps to Financial Success

12 Simple Steps to Financial Success

This article was originally published December 29, 2011. In the spirit of ongoing financial wellness, we thought we’d give 12 Simple Steps to Financial Success a refresh for 2021 and repost. Happy new year!

The new year is upon us, and January is always a good time to look towards the future and recommit to past personal finance goals or create new ones. Just in time to round out your new year’s resolutions, here are some simple steps all independent women can take for a more financially successful 2021.

12 Simple Steps to Financial Success This Year:

  1. Develop a habit of saving. It’s never too early or too late to start.
  2. Build a budget that aligns with your values. Think about what makes you happy and then allocate your money accordingly.
  3. Create a financial plan that reflects your most cherished goals. Think of it as a roadmap to happiness.
  4. Invest the maximum amount you can for retirement. You will need more money than you think.
  5. Build and maintain a diversified investment portfolio. Don’t worry about finding the “best” investment.
  6. Review your spending periodically to keep yourself on track. It’s the key to living within your means.
  7. When it comes to investing, avoid the crowd—and tips from well-meaning friends and relatives.
  8. Understand that volatility is a normal occurrence when investing in stocks. Keep a cool head and stick to your plan.
  9. Know what your money is doing. They say ignorance is bliss, but that’s not the case when it comes to your finances.
  10. Insurance protects you from the unexpected. It’s just smart to have the right coverage.
  11. Choose your advisors wisely: Find people you like, trust, and who will listen to you.
  12. Spend on the things and experiences that make you happy. They make life worth living!

Your New Year’s Challenge

Choose one of these 12 simple steps to financial success as your new year’s resolution for your finances and write a short (200–250 word) journal entry describing how you’ll put it into action. Studies show that just writing down your goals increases the likelihood that you’ll achieve them. Then, review your plan routinely throughout the year so your resolution is always front-of-mind.

If you’d like to work on any or all of these steps with a trusted financial partner, please get in touch. We are here to help!  

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January Financial Clean-Up

January financial clean-up

January is as good a month as any to dig into your financial files and purge what you don’t need to keep any longer. I like to start the year organized; it not only cleans up my hard drive or my file cabinets, it makes me feel on top of things. Similar to the great feeling I get when I clean out my closets – like I did something good for myself.

But, if you are like most of us, you’ll start the project with good intentions and then get frustrated because you’re not sure what documents to keep and for how long. You worry that you may need that legal-sized file stuffed with records from a home you sold six years ago, or you’ll get audited right after your shred your old tax returns. To stretch the closet analogy a bit – it’s like when you start auditing your closet, and you can’t seem to part with anything. So instead, you put everything back on their hangars and shut the door in disgust.

Fortunately, there are guidelines and best practices for how long to keep financial documents on file. I’ll guess that you aren’t emotionally attached to your paperwork like you are to the clothes in your closet, so it will be a lot easier to purge once you learn what to keep and what to toss. Help is on the way.

Enter your name and email below to download a comprehensive two-page checklist that will act as your guide to the big clean up.

Download your Financial Document Checklist!

Financial Document Checklist

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Curtis Financial Planning