How to Be Happier Using Your Financial Planning Software and Budgeting Tools

Like most people, there are often times when I stop and ask myself, what do I want more of in my life? What specifically would bring me greater joy, more peace, increased security or simply more fun? What can I do to make a change?

During one of these more recent moments of self-reflection, I realized I was missing my dad. I love my dad, but at this time we weren’t seeing each other enough, and I knew if I wanted to change that I would have to make a conscious effort. In order to restore our relationship, I took action: I called him up and proposed that we plan a monthly dinner date that we could count on. He loved this idea.

To make it permanent, I knew I needed to set a reminder. A Post-it wouldn’t do it, and neither would a reminder on my phone. I needed to seamlessly infuse this new monthly activity into my life, but how would I do that? Well, I could turn to the program I use to pretty much plan and organize almost everything else that I do — and believe it or not, that was my money-minding software.

I know what you’re thinking. “Since when does planning one’s spending have anything to do with spending time with family and having more fun in life?” But hear me out. I use to plan and track my spending (big surprise since I co-founded the company!) — you can do this with whichever program you use. In the software, I went into my categories and I created a subcategory under “Food,” called “Night Out with Dad.” No, this wasn’t about tracking the money that would be spent, although I did also plan financially for the meal (and luckily my dad usually foots the bill during our nights out). I knew when creating my spending plan each month, it would remind me to look at the calendar and call my dad to plan a night out. I do my monthly plan, I see that category and it makes me stop and pick up the phone. Sweet trick, huh?

Here’s another example: Last January I was thinking about my goals for the year. There were, predictably, financial goals on my list, but there were also goals involving my time. Basically, I wanted more time to play. I live in a very cool city, but if I don’t plan ahead — financially and mentally — I won’t make the time to go out and do something fun, let alone look at all our marvelous event calendars.

So once again, I went to my money-minding software and this time I created a new subcategory under “Entertainment,” called “Mikelann’s Adventure Day.” Now, when I do my spending plan for every month, I pause in this category and plan how much I will spend for that occasion. And now, it’s my favorite part of the month to plan.

Again, it’s not really about the money. I can amuse myself all day at Seattle’s Pike Place Market for 30 bucks — a latte, some crazy snacks from vendors, maybe a hum bao from my favorite Asian street deli. I stop and sit and watch the street musicians. I debate trying new recipes at a store called The Spanish Table, maybe buy an ingredient or spice I can’t find at Safeway. The point is, if I wasn’t prompted to plan the finances for “Mikelann’s Adventure Day,” I wouldn’t remember to make time for myself.

Simply giving something a label or title will help it come to life. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that working on your personal finances is just about money and numbers. You can use your money-minding software to bring more happiness and joy to your life. Take my lead and you’ll never dread planning your finances again.

Do you want more girls’ nights out, date nights, tennis lessons, etc.? You could just put it in your calendar, but if you put it in your money-minding software, you are also making that task more enjoyable, killing two birds with one stone! Ultimately, how we plan our time and use our energy is just as important as how we plan our money. And sometimes when we plan our money, we even raise our happiness quotient.

Karen McCall & Mikelann Valterra are members of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.