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It’s Not About the Money

table of foodAfter recently being reintroduced to the reality of my student loans and how slowly I was chipping away at them—oy, the interest—I came to the conclusion that it was time for a budget revamp. I sat down, mapped everything out and determined the only solution was to relive my college days and go on the all Ramen noodle diet. While I usually pride myself on being a “frugal foodie,” the thought of hot noodles during the hot summer was not appealing, no matter how many variations I could make. Luckily, I travelled down to Philadelphia the following weekend and was reintroduced to the beauty of fresh farmers’ stand produce through a visit to the Italian market.

There’s something about paying with change for almost an entire week’s worth of food that really gets the saving juices flowing—with the growing popularity of charge cards I can’t even pay for my laundry with change anymore. Zipping up and down the crowded street, I actually had to keep myself in check as my bags became heavy with more food than I probably needed. When you can get a grocery bag full of peppers for less than a dollar, it’s hard to resist!

There is one magic ingredient, however, that I can never seem to find enough of: time. No matter how fast I work and how well I prioritize, there are rarely enough hours in the day. And this seems to be a common challenge when it comes to people saving money. For instance, making coffee and daily meals at home is one of the easiest ways to save, but so often the mornings get away from us and our days acquire morning stops for coffee and afternoon breaks to grab lunch. I myself have fallen victim to this. The key, as with many things in life, is to figure out what works for you. For me, it means preparing as much of the week’s food as possible over the weekend so that I can grab and go. For others, having a set time to prepare food everyday may be a staple in their routine.

This same approach is applied time and time again to personal financial education. What helps you stay on track financially? What helps you save? Through the AICPA, state societies and CPAs’ financial literacy outreach efforts, we strive to help people figure out just that. But it’s not always easy. It seems that often people feel so overwhelmed or exasperated when it comes to the topic of finances that they can barely see straight.

Perhaps the best approach is to not make it about money. Maybe we start the conversation about something people enjoy talking about, something they feel they have control over. For me, that topic is food. I take stock of what I have every week, determine what can be allocated to different purposes and identify any gaps. Without blatantly identifying it as budgeting, I applied a similar approach to my finances.

What do you think? Do you see other daily activities and routines that can be applied to finances? How do you broach the topic with clients who tend to see finances as a scary topic? How do you make financial fitness as routine as making a meal?

Claudia Cieslak, AICPA Staff.

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