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Feb 12, 2020

Mel’s Money Minute: The Case Against Budgets

Mel’s Money Minute: The Case Against Budgets

Who am I? Melissa Visbal, CFP ® Candidate, post-grad millennial just trying to figure out life, while helping others accomplish the same goal.

What is Mel’s Money Minute? Here I get to discuss relevant financial topics while providing action steps and hopefully, unlike many other financial-related blog posts, not disinterest you after reading the first paragraph…heck, the first sentence!

How many of you have tried to make a budget? Now, how many of you have failed with that budget plan? Have you ever thought about why it actually failed, or did you just make the excuse that you didn’t have time to keep up with it? Yet, here you are, still trying to make changes to your financial habits.

First off, the term “budget” sucks! I’ve never liked it. It sounds like the word “diet” and no one likes to be constrained. With both of these, you feel restricted and often set yourself up for failure. For diets, you can’t have carbs, sweets, or sodas. For personal expenditures, you should only spend 28% on housing expenses, 10% on savings, 10% on food, blah, blah, blah. Although helpful to an extent, these benchmarks can be misleading. Have you tried living in Atlanta and only spending 28% on housing? The point here is that every person’s medical and financial health is different. If we assign a certain “benchmark” this can cause someone to become immediately discouraged in making changes to better themselves. Instead, you need to find what works for you.

Upon graduating with my master’s in financial planning, I had little idea of what to expect in post-graduation life. That’s right. Just because I had this degree, it did not mean I knew how to handle all the curveballs life throws at you…. e.g., Atlanta’s warmest welcome was the five tires I replaced in my first year as an ATLien.

Experience, along with trial and error, provides us the pathway to change and success. When it comes to “budgeting”, or bettering my financial health, I’ve tried many different websites and apps that just weren’t for me. I would see the breakdown of my expenditures and move on with my life. I wasn’t truly understanding my financial behavior, just observing it.

Then, I had a lightbulb moment after reading a radical book, Your Money or Your Life. Going into it, I thought it would be like any other money book. Boy, was I wrong.

The book starts by listing the following questions:

It goes on to discuss nine actionable steps designed to change your spending habits, not just help you observe them. It has tangibly transformed my relationship with money and even with friends and family! Crazy, right? As I mentioned earlier, I have a strong distaste for the terms “budgeting” and “dieting” because you are just treating the symptoms, not the cause. This technique helps treat the cause. It makes you think twice about buying that coffee at Starbucks, that cute sweater you saw at the store, or that “had to have” item on Amazon. Ultimately, you figure out what is enough for you. Your definition of happiness may evolve throughout the process as well.

In the next few posts, I will discuss some of my key findings from Your Money or Your Life. Specifically, I will discuss how I have taken these findings, along with my knowledge and experience as a planner to better my own money habits. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this book, please feel free to reach out to me, and we will send you one. I am also available to answer any questions or hear any comments you may have. You can contact me at [email protected] or 770.344.0172.

Melissa Dotson, CFP®, CSLP®

Financial Planning Associate

Melissa came to Narwhal in the summer of 2018 following the completion of her master’s degree in financial planning from the University of Georgia, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree in consumer economics. Her interest in the field started with learning about consumer behavior, specifically its relation with complex moneymaking decisions. Melissa recently received her CFP® Certification in January 2021. Working with a CFP® professional can help you find the path to achieving your financial goals. Your goals may evolve over the years as a result of shifts in your lifestyle or circumstances such as an inheritance, career change, marriage, house purchase , or a growing family. Melissa is here to help you through that process. When she’s not working, Melissa enjoys cycling, cooking, and spending time with her beagle and two nieces.

Let’s start the conversation.

At Narwhal Capital Management, you’re more than just a portfolio, and it’s not all about the numbers. Let’s start with a meeting about your needs and future goals.