The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession negatively affected the mental health of many people. As we struggled with anxiety, isolation, and economic concerns, the impact manifested itself in conflicting ways.
For many people, unemployment, fear, and anxiety due to Covid were factors contributing to negative financial outcomes.
At our house, though, engaging in “retail therapy” was a means to relieve stress. While we should have buckled down and padded our emergency fund, the stream of Amazon packages flowing into our home grew longer than the Mississippi River.
I had zero excuses. I didn’t lose my job. In fact, I was promoted to Chief Financial Officer of my company and given a pay raise in October of 2020. At work, I scored PPP loan funds for my employer, forecasted and budgeted through the crisis, and came out ahead in one of the most challenging years of my career.
At home, it was quite the opposite.
The mindset that caused the retail therapy debacle was influenced by several factors: lack of normalcy in our daily lives, general feelings of isolation, and loss of weekend outings; furthermore, the whole pandemic-driven requirement to avoid human contact took its toll.
At some point I acknowledged that using Covid as an excuse to break every financial rule I’ve made for myself was leading to a disappointing outcome. It was also causing a major setback to meeting the savings requirements to begin our abbreviated retirement.
It was getting away from us, and emergency protocols were needed.
Finding Financial Religion
So I took my desperation for normalcy and stability, and transformed it into a new ritual that I now perform daily, weekly, and monthly. This ritual has not only helped with my anxiety, but it also lead me to regain control of my spending habits.
I found financial religion during Covid by creating a new normal of financial discipline. By going back to the basics.
I started over with new budget, and began tracking my savings, net worth, and investments. By employing a more visceral, hands-on approach, I lavished in the process of financial goal-tracking and number-crunching.
The more time I spent budgeting and planning, the less time I spent online shopping.
Instead of thinking of time spent managing finances as a necessary routine or habit, I started treating my tasks like a ritual.
An incantation that, if spoken enough times, will “magically” manifest the savings we need to sail away.
In essence, I developed a series of steps that when taken regularly, lead directly to the desired financial outcome.
And then I began performing my savings ritual religiously.
I hate that we messed up with our finances this year. We used credit cards to make purchases that we didn’t have cash to pay for. We overspent in every category in our budget.
But I love that it lead me to The Savings Ritual.
The Savings Ritual
The Savings Ritual is a complete process for meeting financial goals. Why call it a ritual?
A ritual is a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. And this solemn process for achieving financial results will absolutely work, if performed consistently.
The steps include budgeting, tracking expenses, analyzing performance based on actual spending, tracking our net worth, tackling credit card debt, analyzing dividend, interest and other income, and creating a plan of action for each paycheck.
The Savings Ritual process begins with the monthly task of budgeting. The budget lays out our plans for spending and saving money for the month. It focuses on the following categories of expenses:
- Housing & Utilities
- Credit Card Debt
- Groceries & Supplies
- Travel & Entertainment
- Other Expenses
First, I total up my expected income for the month. Then I calculate the total for each expense category. The difference between income and expense is the amount of money “available to save”.
If the amount available to save isn’t enough to meet our goals, then I go back over the expense categories and look for ways to trim down spending.
Daily Expense Tracking
After the budget is complete, The Savings Ritual involves tracking expenses on a daily basis. I gather up all receipts, pull transactions from our online bank portal, and make sure we’ve accounted for every dollar spent.
Each expense is assigned a category that matches the same ones used in the budget.
By the end of the month, I have a total of actual spending for each category I used for the budget.
The total for each category from the budget is compared with the total from our actual spending in a succinct format that makes it crystal clear whether we’ve achieved our savings goal for the month.
If we didn’t meet the goal, we identify the three primary areas of over-spending (or under-earning) so it can be corrected the following month.
One of my favorite tools is the paycheck planner. Every payday, we look at the amount of money coming in, how much we have left to spend in each budget category, and decide how much money we can save.
The amount left to save is transferred out of our checking account on payday. It gets transferred into savings, or into our online brokerage account.
Additional tools we use include tracking our net worth monthly, using a debt schedule to monitor our debt-payoff progress, and employing an earnings worksheet to examine non-paycheck earnings like interest income, dividend income, and side-hustle income. Interest income is broken out by account, dividend income by stock, and side-hustle income by category (affiliate sales, advertising, sponsor income, etc.).
Get The Savings Ritual Program
Along the way, I realized that other people besides me could use my new tools. So I started developing professional worksheets that others could use to easily update their finances. The worksheets can be filled out digitally, and are designed to total automatically.
Alternatively, they are also formatted for print, and can be completed manually. The release date for the program is January 1, 2021.
Are you struggling with retail therapy or other challenges? Do you need to find financial religion too?
Pre-order The Savings Ritual program for $4.99 today. Pre-order here.