There’s a concept in fitness called mind muscle connection. I’m not an expert on it, but it’s basically where someone tries really hard to grow a muscle. But when they flex it, there muscle doesn’t flex enough to grow.
In fact they can’t really feel that muscle.
People who have worked on this are able to feel their muscles at a different level when they exercise. When they do a pull-up, they separately feel all the different muscles working. A professional athlete will talk about a variety of postures, muscles, ligaments etc that a beginner hasn’t even started to feel. And with that mind-muscle connection, they’re able to grow that muscle much faster than others.
And it’s something that can be learned.
So what does that have to do with finance?
When we first started budgeting, we tracked our finances to see where the money was going. Okay, that’s a good first step, but that didn’t change how much or where money was being spent. And that is where a lot of folks stop. Especially when they use automatic systems like Mint or Quicken. I specifically remember thinking, “I still don’t understand how this lowers and controls our spending.”.
Then we started reviewing/discussing our spending regularly and setting a budget each upcoming month. It’s that frequent contact with the information where a Mind Money connection started to happen.
Then we started to put in proven systems of self control. An example is that for certain categories where we knew we had a spending problem, we started using cash. Other categories, like gas, stayed on a debit card. We wrote down our goals, we met weekly (even for 15 minutes), we learned how to negotiate and lower our bills, etc.
Slowly, over time, as we built these habits, processes and systems, we started to establish a Mind Money Connection. We started to realize that spending more on a vacation meant sacrificing our future of plans such as debt pay-off, retirement savings, college savings, etc.
We started looking at other things for contentment that were free or cheap. Exercise, reading, playing board games, spending time with friends. These started to replace the big ticket items that we thought we wanted like a new porch, new car, expensive vacations, expensive gifts for each other. And the cheaper things gave us more contentment, relaxation and rejuvenated us. In fact, one of those past times is writing on this blog! It makes me more articulate, improves my nascent writing skills, and I enjoy it!
Right now we spend approximately 50% of our income. The rest goes towards our future. We don’t obsess about our money, but we rely on the systems and habits we’ve built to control our spending so we can plan for our future. This process took 1-2 years to develop, but it’s now part of our family’s DNA. A legacy, I hope our children take with them.