What’s too much money to spend per month? On the Postconsumers team itself, we have members whose monthly cash burn is less than a thousand dollars (yes, it can be done!) and team members who run a monthly cash burn of over thirteen thousand dollars. While both of those examples tend to land in extreme areas of the bell curve of average monthly spend, the point is that you likely judged at least one of them as “in poverty or cheap and too frugal” or “opulent and likely an unfortunate use of money.” Before we get into the heart of this month’s series of articles on controlling your spend, we wanted to talk a little bit about how to determine what your spend should be and why that number will not look the same for each individual situation. And, mildly, we wanted to remind you that your journey is about your personal satisfaction, not about judging others.
Step One: Have a Real Talk With Yourself (and Any Financial Partners) About What Your Goals Are
We don’t want to sound too “project management” about this task, but getting control of your finances certainly requires a level of organization and, not insignificantly, an end-goal. Why is that? Because a goal is required to make you feel like you’re accomplishing something. If there isn’t a sense of accomplishment in what you’re doing, the average (and even the above-average) person will lose motivation and direction quite quickly. So, what’s your goal? Is it to grow your savings account? If so, what’s the target for dollar amount or percentage amount per month? Is it to have more disposable income in general? If so, how much money do you want in the bank at the end of the month? Is it to get out of debt? If so, how much do you want to see your debt reduced by per month? These goals are bigger than the more granular goal of getting control of your finances by letting go of addictive consumerism, but in this case we truly think that you need to start from the big picture and then move backwards. In fact, we think having a consultation with a financial advisor is a great way to jumpstart this process. They have experience in thinking about the financial goals that really make a difference in life and showing you where you may or may not be focused enough.
What You’ll Quickly Realize is That Your Number is Unique to Your Situation
When you’re done going through this exercise, what you’ll quickly realize is that your spend target number is unique to you. It’s going to be based on not only your financial goals but also your financial realities in terms of inbound income, ethical and moral beliefs and personal priorities. It may be a very small number. It may be a very large number. But it will be your number. And if you step back and think about it, there would be plenty of room for others to mistakenly judge you on what your goal number for budget reduction or saving is. Not everybody will be similar to your level of income. People who make less will often think it should be easier for you to save more. People who make more will often think the same thing for different reasons! Many people won’t share the moral and ethical beliefs that drive what you do with money or the personal priorities that direct where you channel money, and they might judge you for your choices based on their own matrix of beliefs and priorities. Here’s the fact: None of these opinions matter because the only level of satisfaction that you need to find is your own. As long as you are setting a goal that will better your life and stay true to what’s important in the non-financial beliefs realm of your life, your goal is just fine. But what’s most important is that you remember that …
Everybody Else’s Number is Just Fine, Too
We’ve guided you through this exercise to help you get jump-started on the tools for gaining control of your finances that we’re going to lead you through throughout the month, but we’ve also had another intended purpose in mind. In the world of learning to let go of stuff and live more, spend more responsibly and find the satisfaction of enough, we’ve encountered a lot of judgment. To a degree, we explained some of the nature of the judgment in the section above. Based on an individual’s own financial realities, beliefs and priorities, where others fall on the definition of “satisfaction” scale can become a point of contention. If you’re the Postconsumer with a monthly cash burn of a thousand dollars, it might be easy for you to think that the Postconsumer with a monthly cash burn of thirteen thousand dollars should be spending less and donating more to worthy causes.
But there’s a reality, and the reality is that we all have different destinations on the road to the satisfaction of enough in a freedom-loving country. A higher number doesn’t mean a lower level of conscious choices about how to use it. We’ve seen this type of judgment in particular when it comes to celebrities, particularly those like Oprah and Angelina Jolie and especially Leonardo DiCaprio in his recent movie Before the Flood. While those celebrities may be doing a great deal of quality work to improve life on this planet, they are still judged for having millionaire lifestyles.
We’re on record as thinking this type of judgment is fundamentally wrong. Finding happiness means owning your individual destination on the journey to satisfaction. And to do that we all need to let go of judging others. When our trend-setting culture encourages each person to fall in love with their own idea of enough for today, the world will be saved.
Most Importantly, Remember That Your Number is Fine!
Go forward now with our budget and spend project knowing that whatever your number landed on, wherever you are in the journey, you are exactly where you need to be (unless of course you don’t have the financial resources everyone needs). It’s about conscious and informed choices, not what others tell you that you need to do. This mindset will reduce stress and make talking about money a lot easier!
As always, we’ll be discussing and updating this goal and topic on our social media channels, which you can follow at the links below.