Earning more is challenging, in part because your income gets calcified in your brain. Whether you work for yourself or someone else, it's easy to wander down the path of least resistance—I earn X, therefore I can afford Y—and get stuck.

Instead, put the horse back in front of the cart: I want to afford A, B and C. Therefore I need to earn D. In other words, make an accurate assessment of what your current lifestyle, future goals—and security—will cost. Maximize your earning power to achieve those aims.

This method is sometimes called a reverse budget, but it's really a way to hone your priorities and rev up your earning power.

Here's how it would work for Karen, who earns \$60,000 a year working as a legal secretary. If you are self-employed, this system still applies.

Karen's Current Budget
Gross Income = \$60,000
Monthly take-home = \$3,750
Basic expenses (mortgage, car, utilities, insurance, etc.) = \$2,400
Saving = \$250
401k = \$300
Debt = \$300
Misc. (eating out, clothes, ATM, random expenses) = \$500

Total Spent: \$3750

• But Karen knows she should be saving 10% toward retirement (+\$200 = \$500).
• She wants to double her personal savings so that she can buy a new car and take a vacation (+\$250 = \$500)
• She wants to get out of debt (+200 = \$500).
• Also, she knits beautiful babywear, and she would like to launch her business online (+ \$300 per month for supplies, other costs).

Karen's Reversed Budget
Basic expenses (mortgage, car, utilities, insurance, etc.) = \$2,400
Babywear biz = \$300
Saving = \$500
401k = \$500
Debt = \$500
Misc. (eating out, clothes, ATM, random expenses) = \$500

Total Expenditures = \$4,700
Added Income = \$950 X 12 = \$11,400
Required Income = \$60,000 + \$11,400 = \$71,400 plus taxes = approximately \$75,000

It's daunting to put a pricetag on your dreams. But money helps to make things real. Karen may need to read last week's post, "6 Ways to Earn More" and either negotiate a raise or look for better paying work.