Managing money efficiently may seem like largely a numbers game.
You’ve got to earn a certain amount of income to cover all your expenses. If your income doesn’t stretch, try subtracting from your spending. And don’t forget to save aside a certain percentage for retirement and other goals.
But truly becoming a master over your money requires more than just understanding the math.
“It’s time to look past the numbers, this measurable that we hold in our lives that determines whether we are successful or we are failing,” said Kumiko Love, an Accredited Financial Counselor and founder of The Budget Mom.
In her new book, “My Money My Way,” Love shares the importance of seeking financial fulfillment instead of focusing only on the numbers. Financial fulfillment, she said, includes having clarity about your goals, being confident about your money decisions and operating from a place of financial stability.
A Mindset Shift
On the journey to financial fulfillment, it’s important to shed negative inner thoughts about how you manage your money.
“We have to recognize when we’re talking badly to and about ourselves,” Love said. “We talk to ourselves and about ourselves in ways that we wouldn’t talk to friends or even acquaintances. We really do tear ourselves down.”
Instead of operating from a scarcity mindset — where you believe you’re not good enough — train your brain to adopt an abundance mindset.
“I’m a huge believer that anyone — no matter their income or financial situation — can find financial fulfillment where they are right now,” Love said.
Having debt and not having reached all your financial goals shouldn’t stop you from living your best life, she said.
Harnessing Your Emotions About Money
Too often, financial advisers warn people to leave their emotions out of the equation when managing money, but Love disagrees
“As human beings, we’re always going to be emotional creatures,” she said.
The key is to understand how your emotions impact your finances so you can control them rather than your emotions controlling you.
In fact, Love said she feels that her emotions were one of the best tools she had for making lasting change in her financial life.
It all starts with finding your “why,” your purpose for embarking on the journey to better your finances.
Your “why” can be very emotional at the core. For Love, becoming a mom radically changed the way she viewed her finances.
“For the first time in my life I envisioned and wanted a better future for myself and for my family,” she said.
Tapping into your emotions can also help you figure out what fuels your money habits. Love said asking herself introspective questions helped her realize that she was overspending on clothing, beauty products and hair appointments, because she felt uncomfortable about her appearance.
“Once I recognized it, then [I could] address it,” she said.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Another notable thing to know on your path to financial fulfillment is that what you do with your money won’t look like everyone else — and that’s okay.
“It’s okay to want something else when it comes to your finances,” Love said. “It’s okay if [your] spending doesn’t look like other people’s. It’s okay if [your] financial goals are not the same as everyone else’s.”
For instance, maybe you prefer to spend money on multiple vacations each year rather than to save for a down payment on a house, because traveling is more important to you than homeownership. Or perhaps you’re more interested in pursuing a college degree at age 50 so you can change careers instead of focusing on climbing the ladder at your current company.
Love said you’ll be more successful creating your own plan for your money rather than following a “one-size-fits-all” approach to personal finance. Figure out what you want for yourself in order to take control of your financial life.
“This is a journey of self-discovery,” she said, “not a journey of the numbers.”
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.