“Does it spark joy?” is the question declutterers everywhere have been asking themselves as they ransack their closets and clear out their junk corners. Marie Kondo’s hugely popular, super-simple method of deciding what to toss and what to keep is very effective – and also quite cathartic.
But it struck me, as I “Kondoed” my wardrobe, that decluttering doesn’t just apply to paring back your belongings, it also applies to your finances.
While some purchases bring joy, most of us don’t feel joyful about our financial situation.
In fact, the research suggests 83% of us are stressed about it, and that stress is often from lack of progress as opposed to lack of income. So, how do you spark lasting joy from how you manage your money?
Before I get too self-righteous, I need to share a little secret: I am a shopper. While I am financially literate and financially confident, I can write a budget and colour-code a budget – my tendency is simply not to stick to it. That’s because I find it easier to spend rather than save, and if I am going to save, I need to have a reason, otherwise I default to spending. The problem with shoppers is we do find legitimate joy in our purchases, (even though a third of us then feel guilty after the fact!)
The key here is to include the things that truly make you happy, that make all the hard work worth it.
Cutting out all of life’s pleasures is akin to cutting all the delicious things out of your diet – you’ll fall off the wagon eventually. That said, your budget is unlikely to be able to sustain all of life’s hedonistic purchases. So, in the spirit of minimalism, focus on the top three (realistic) things. These become your non-negotiables.
For me it’s an annual family holiday, kids’ activities and it’s a cleaner – because a clean home sparks joy but cleaning it after a long week doesn’t!
My husband’s non-negotiables would be his art supplies, computer games and his motorbike. They do not spark joy for me – but they’re important to him.
Once you know those, it’s time to do a clear out.
Like your home, there is clutter lurking in your budget and finding it presents a real opportunity.
I call this clutter ‘fritter’, it’s usually money you don’t even realise you’re spending or expenses that make you no happier. Late credit card fees, paying too much interest to the bank, memberships you don’t use, or that second or third takeaway coffee that only sparks half as much joy as the first.
I’ve found this sort of spending accounts for 15% people’s incomes. The good news is, not spending it doesn’t make your quality of life any worse, whereas giving yourself a 15% pay rise will spark joy!
Not being in control of your spending is akin to living is a house that’s bursting at the seams with stuff that doesn’t make you happy. It feels suffocating, stressful and overwhelming to deal with.
But clearing out the clutter, getting the right framework in place, making progress, having clarity around where you’re at and where you are going does. When the output of working to a good system is your savings growing, mortgage getting paid off faster or retirement getting sorted – it will definitely spark joy.
Hannah McQueen is a personal finance author, Financial Adviser, Chartered Accountant Fellow and the founder of enable.me – financial strategy & coaching.
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