Category Archives: budgets

Do Budgets Drive You Batty?

The typical answer to that question is an emphatic YES, THEY DO!  Many times in a presentation I have  asked: “How many of you have created a budget?” — most of the hands in the room go up.  Then I ask: “After you created the budget , how many of you actually ever looked at it again?” — almost all of the hands in the room go down!  My guess is that, as one of my ‘followers’, creating and using budgets isn’t your favorite method of managing your money?  Okay, maybe I understated that: You probably think of a budget as a form of torture, right?  You are not alone!

Before I get into exploring that, just in case you are worried that I’m going to end this blog suggesting that you use or create a traditional budget, have no fear!   What I’m actually going to do is explain why budgets don’t work for you, and suggest some other options.

Budgets can and do work… for analytical types.  You know them, they are those “logic first” people, the ones who create spread sheets and data bases for fun.  They are great people.  They are historians.  They like looking at all the data and coming to conclusions.  Good for them.  If you are one of them, you probably already have and enjoy using a budget.

If you aren’t one of those analytical types, all it means is that you are not happy crunching numbers.  You might be more ‘feeling’ oriented, more emotionally based.  Or you might be more ‘in the moment’ than interested in history and trends.  If that’s the case one of the biggest problems with a budget for you is that it’s after the fact.  What I mean is that you don’t have control in the moment.  You do what you do, spend what you spend.  Then you come home and as you load your spending into the budget spreadsheet you have either succeeded or failed.  By then you don’t really remember what your thoughts or emotions were when you were making the purchase, so you feel a bit lost.  Around this point is where most people feel shame, judgement, or even some bit of failure.

And there’s the rub, the thing that makes us batty.  It feels like something happened to you that you just couldn’t control because you are looking at the event before or after, instead of when it’s actually happening.  That’s why it feels so upsetting.  You are judging your action outside of the time when the actual choice was made.  At best you have a memory of what it felt like, not a clear vision of the choice.

If you are more of a big picture, emotional and/or an in the moment person, analysis after the fact won’t actually help you change your behavior.  It may make you feel bad about it, but it doesn’t give you any insights.

What will help you make better money choices is to find a way to be conscious of what you are spending—and why you are spending it—right in the moment that it is happening!  Make a list of things that often motivate your choices in the moment.  Things like:

  • Being tired, hungry
  • Feeling lonely, angry
  • Wanting something new, an emotional lift, some fun
  • Anxious to just get it done, settling for less than what you wanted

There are myriad possibilities, and you know what your go-to ones are.  Write them on a  card or note them on your phone. While you are standing in line to pay for your items, check if any of your purchases hit one of those spots?  and then make a choice to either buy it or not.  Understand what you are up to, make choices that truly work for you both in the moment and the long run.

A system like this, or my GOSH Model (which you can find on other blogs of mine) WILL help you be more conscious of your spending.  That’s what this whole budgeting thing is truly about — being conscious, aware, and purposeful in your spending.

Focus on having your spending and how you use your money reflect what you really care about. Your money will reflect your choices.


Shell Tain, the Untangler

If you’d like to explore just how you can let go of a budget and still have sound money practices give me a call at  503-258-1630 or check out my website at

Looking at Your Money

How do you look at your money?  Let’s untangle how to actually see what money is trying to tell us.

There are many ways to do it.  Some of them are number intense.   Some focus on budgets and spreadsheets.  Some get you tied up in thinking about investments and stocks.  Some use online resources like Mint, while others call for using programs like Quicken.  Some folks even use my GOSH model with their money. (GOSH is a no number-crunching, in the moment, budget substitute…more about it in another blog, soon…I promise!)  Whatever method you use or don’t use there is something more fundamental than the methodology to consider when you look at your money.  It’s your attitude about it.

Your money, how skitched-20120718-232045you earn it, what you choose to do with it, all of that, is really a wealth of information about how you are living your life.  We’ve all seen the “Who done it” where the forensic accountant finds amazing clues on the suspect’s credit card statement.  That information is there, all the time, just waiting for you.  Money reflects your choices.

There are two basic things to consider as you begin the exploration of decoding what money is trying to tell you.  One is how you want to look at it.  I’ve listed a bunch of ways above.  They fall into the categories of “historical” and “in the moment”.  All the “crunchy” ones (requiring 10 key, columns or computers) are “historical”.  They show you what you have done.  They are fascinating in many ways, but frequently cause analytical overload.  The “in the moment” ones are generally more philosophical.  They are based on actively noticing what you are doing with your money in the moment.  What is that expense really about?  Does it have some underlying meaning?

Now hold on, I know it may seem that I’ve gone over an edge here.  AND we often have sly meanings behind how we use money.  I say “sly” because we aren’t likely to be conscious of them ourselves.  Money and how we use it can mean love, it can mean revenge, it can have fear behind it, or even hope.  Money can represent all sorts of things.  Your money and your life can be very different if you just get clear about what you are doing with money.  As you get clear about those hidden meanings behind the purchases, you can find other more effective ways to fulfill those desires.

We each have values that we care deeply about: fundamental tenets.  We seek a life that honors those values and yet often spend time and money doing things that are in opposition to our values.  It’s part of what’s going on when you spend a bunch of money on something and then later just feel hollow around it.  You weren’t really honoring what was important to you.  The solution is to get clear on what you are doing with your money and then change those actions and choices to ones that actually foster and support your values.

And there is an additional second crucial thing to consider as you look at your money.  It’s your “come from” or attitude.  For a variety of reasons (which are another blog) we mostly approach analyzing or exploring our choices from the perspective of Judgement.  There are those mental wagging fingers and critical comments.  The “should’s”, “ought to’s”, and “got to’s”.  NONE, not a one, of those are helpful.  They simply distract you from getting clarity with a cloud of emotion.

The most important thing to practice as you try to learn what your money has to teach you is to look at it from a neutral, non-judgmental sense of curiosity.  It’s simple.  Just notice what you are doing.  Imagine yourself saying “Hmm, isn’t that interesting.  I somehow make up that having more shoes (or purses, or cars, etc.) means I’m a more successful person.  Hmmm”.  Imagine discovering the meanings hidden in plain sight in your spending.

Noticing is the first step.  Do it with numbers or not.  Just do it. As you get clear, you get out of auto-pilot and have a choice.  A different choice is really all that is needed to get different results.

I’m here to help you untangle your money knots.  Just give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Growing Money

The Money Knot this month explores a book from 1926, The New Mathematics, by John C. Stone.  (If you would like to sign up for the Money Knot and get a copy of this month’s issue, “The Good Ole Days” click here)

 I was so intrigued by this book because, even though it’s a “Math” book, it has extensive sections on how to deal with money.  Good things like the basics of banking and budgeting.

I was tickled by this table.  Who knows, it may be the original table for the concept of “Dollar Cost Averaging” since it’s actually about saving a dollar a year!  

The idea was then, and still is now, that if you sock away even a small amount and it grows by some percentage of interest, then that small amount becomes big.  Just a little bit makes a difference over time.  Our table shows that $1 invested over 40 years becomes between $61 or $164 dollars, depending on how much annual interest you are getting (2 – 6 %).  Note: this chart and our numbers are “compounding” once a year.  Most places do it more often than that, but we are keeping it relatively simple here.

The problem these days is that scale.  Somehow we scoff at the chart.  40 years!  Who can wait 40 years!  And only $100?

To see the value of this concept for yourself, bring it closer to home.  Don’t think of how much money Barbra Streisand’s Malibu house is worth ($12 million)…okay, now you’ve thought of it.  Bring it back home.

How much do you make an hour?  If you put what you make an hour in a conservative investment at say 4% for 40 years you would have 100 hours of savings.  Stated another way saving 1 hours gives you about 2.5 weeks of pay.  Yes, I know inflation will erode some of that, and does that circumstance make it less of a smart thing to do to take an hour a YEAR and save it?  What if you took an hour of pay a week? That’s like 50 or 52 hours a year.  Now take that at 4% for 20 years.  That comes out to 1,600 hours or about 40 weeks of pay, over 9 months of pay.

So the real question is would if be worthwhile for you to work an hour a week for your long term savings?  It can add up!  Start now…!