Couple relaxing on a cruise ship

Better Than a Budget: Why You Need a Lifestyle Plan

Budgets are boring–and feel restrictive. It’s no wonder that the average American rebels with a “forget that” and overspends anyway. It’s like going on a diet: They never work in the long run because they make us feel like we’re missing out on a lot of the good stuff.

I would like to propose a much friendlier “lifestyle plan.” This plan gives you a holistic approach to your relationship with money. It also incorporates your hopes and dreams. After all, we can stick to a budget until our bodies give out but will that really make us happy? Without really thinking about how we want to live our lives, we will still feel a sense of failure and loss.

Below are some questions to get you started; dig deep to come up with your answers. (If you’re married, I highly recommend going over these questions with your spouse.) Write them down so you don’t forget:

  • If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Why?
  • If you had the choice of indefinitely living in a home, a luxury condo, a cruise ship, a cabin or a hotel, which one would you pick (assuming each of these living spaces were of equal size and quality)?
  • If you could only choose one, is it more important for you to have a nice space to live in or to do things that are interesting to you?
  • If you could get paid a lot of money to do anything, what would it be?
  • What are some things that you regularly spend your money on that you could live without or cut back on?
  • What are some less expensive alternatives to some of the items you regularly spend money on? Look at everything, including reoccurring bills such as cable, cell service, mortgage/rent, food etc.
  • Who would you like to spend more time with and what would you like to do with them?
  • What do you wish you could fix in your life and would having more money fix it?

Now that you have answered those questions, look at your answers. This is going to give you an outline of your lifestyle plan. Knowing what you like and want to change in your life gives you an idea of where you want to go, which is key. If you don’t know where you want to go, you can’t ever get there. The point of the questions is to give you a vision for what can be your future. And if you want that future, you have to prioritize and focus your spending. You can’t buy everything. It’s better that, when you do spend, it’s on things and people that really matter to you.

A Lifestyle Change Begins With a Vision and a Single Step

For example, if you’re the type of person who loves to travel and be on the go then why are you spending money on cable? Or if you wish you could spend more time with your kids then why are they involved in so many after-school activities? Sometimes we go through the motions or do “what everyone else is doing” without really thinking about if it reflects what truly matters to us. Unless you’re a billionaire, you have to prioritize what you’re spending your money on.

I have this theory that many people overspend because they’re unhappy, and they’re unhappy because they feel that their hopes and dreams have been buried under a heap of bills and other responsibilities. If you have the goal of creating the life you’ve always dreamed of, you’ll become more intentional when it comes to spending. You won’t want to spend money on things you really don’t need because you’ll know that the money would be better spent creating your dream life.

That cost cutting can come in many different shapes and sizes. Maybe you cut back on eating at restaurants so you can pay for the classes that will help you finally get your dream job. Maybe you decide to sell your house because you’re spending too much time on maintaining it and not enough time with the people you love. The beauty of the lifestyle plan is that it’s not just facts and figures; it’s about what matters the most to you—and no cookie cutter budget can tell you that:)