The Joy of Budgeting

So, today is the third, again! Not January third, but still, the third. And, just as a month ago, I am sitting here writing, after having made pancakes for breakfast, and then saying goodbye to Anna, for a couple of days. This time with less stress than last month though, which is always nice 🙂 As usual, after the first minutes of shifting into being on my own, I really do enjoy knowing that I now have a few days here, ”uninterrupted” by my dear ”other half”, as one say.

I am right now deep into building a budget tool for us, to assist us in seeing our financial reality in a way that is helping us forward, with ease – rather than giving us stomach ache. And – it’s so much fun! I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy working in excel. Not only for the numbers, but as the tool that really can help bring order in any kind of structural ”mess”. I love it!

Ah, excel. I can be sucked in to it for hours. Just as when writing, or singing, or dancing… Anna was really quite surprised yesterday, coming home from work, seeing me sitting here, basically in the same position as when she left hours before (and, still in my PJ:s, too), happysmiling with excitement and energy. After a whole day in excel world.

Before starting with this project, I admit to feeling a bit…unsettled about it all. Leaving a job, like I did a bit over a year ago, to come here, without knowing what ”to do” next, is a thrilling and super exciting thing. However. Sitting down with the actual numbers of it…can be scary. The ”In” on my side of the budget sheet, is quite short, at the moment. With part of the influx still coming from my savings back home in Sweden – an amount which thereby, as a consequence, is far less than when this whole adventure started. Now, that is no surprise, obviously, and that was part of the whole prerequisite of me coming here, in a way. But still. Numbers can trick you sometimes, and jump off and scare you when you least want them to.

So. A couple of days ago I sat down to start our budget project, that we had been talking about for a while. I hesitated a bit just because of the above…”no fun to be brought down from happy fun places when seeing real life in a sheet like that”, I might have thought. But I started anyway. Because I knew it would be good. And, I did like to have a reason to nerd down into excel again (in addition to my dear old colleagues back there, that is one part I really miss from my ”old life”. A work that let me sit with excel…a lot).

I started out from scratch. I am quite particular in how I want things to work and look, so downloading templates for budgets have turned out being more of a hustle in the past, rather than a help (and equally so, using old templates made by myself “in another time” – naturally, as, like everyone else, I have a forever changing taste, wishes, needs…). I first made a draft of our common monthly budget, the one for our rent, food and so on, and continued from there with our two individual budgets, on the side in the same sheet. Both of our individual budgets have an ”Out” post called ”Household”, which goes to the ”In” part of our common budget. Very easy and “overviewable”.

After that first outline as a place to start from – and I wanted it to be one that is straightforward to use, and easily comprehensible for anyone using it that doesn’t live in my brain (i.e. Anna in this case) – the next steps from there are just…refining, refining and refining. For me, it is important that my sheets are ”nice” to look at. Colors and styles make a huge impact on how I feel when using them – a very important part if you for example work somewhere where looking at those sheets is a big part of how you spend your time. But also here, where the point of the budget is to help us live a fun and more intentional life (sounds big, but it’s true!), not that we will sit and look at the numbers for hours and hours…it’s still so much worth it, to put in the time to make the sheet enjoyable to sit with. Getting rid of all the grids and just adding in the ones needed, or wanted, is always a first step for me, for example. And color coding is an automatic thing I do as well, to see things clearer – might make the sheet look messy at first, but that’s where the “clean up” starts.

While I was at it, I took the work even further than I first would have thought. I still have part of my ”life” in Sweden, in the sense that I have my Swedish bank accounts, and bills I still pay there to not ”cut the cord” completely (which I am no way ready to do, I still want to have my life there, too. For now). And I realized I needed to add in these accounts as well, and differentiate the movements there that are ”real costs of life” here (and there) and now, and other movements that are just ”in – out”, causing movements on the account, but that are not ”my” costs right now (as I am subleasing my apartment, for example).

And, ta-da! Once everything was there, to see in all its colorfulness…the stomach ache actually was more released, rather than aggravated, as I maybe was fearing a bit. It even made me feel very creative and energized around how to increase my In-sources. The red marked lines, which were those posts going out from my Swedish account, but which have started to feel unnecessary to keep (my dear old landline, for example. I’m still paying for it, because I do enjoy having it there…but really. Barely did I use it even when I still lived there, and as I don’t even know when I will live there again, that is one very very unnecessary monthly cost, the red color told me). A couple of the red marked posts (like the phone thing) will require some customer service contacts to resolve, but two of them I could immediately stop from my internet bank, and delete from the sheet (instant gratification – less red rows hurting my eyes!). Those were memberships in organizations I still want to support – however, as easy as that is to do when one has a solid job with monthly paychecks rolling in, a transfer time like this also makes it clear that limiting the ”Outs” is crucial to stay on track. All in all. Getting it all down there ”black on white” (or on red, yellow, green or blue or…), and starting from there now, to move in new directions, is just such a release.

”You’re the Marie Kondo of personal finances” Anna exclaimed admiring, after I showed her the new stuff done during the day. ”This all just feels so much more fun, and possible than before! Like, lots of little sparks of joy, everywhere, instead of…anxiety…”. And maybe that is true. Just as the Kondo-enthusiasts take out ALL their clothes, at once, to start from there, looking for that spark, our personal finances work the same way. We need to bring them all out at once – the numbers, the accounts, the forgotten bills, the debts, the savings… – to really see it, all. And then ”touch” them, one by one. To keep them alive and moving. Money is energy, basically, and nothing we should be ”scared” of. We don’t need to be financial gurus to take a step up and out from the stomach ache. We don’t have to have it all figured out, at all. We can just start by dragging it all out into the light, and move from there. The energy shift just from this first movement, will lead on to the next, and the next. That feels very clear, now. Thank you excel, for making this all a lot easier – and fun!

Excelexcelexcel, more excel love for the people!


PS If you also want to experience this great Joy 🙂 but don’t know how to get started…please reach out, I’d be happy to help!

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