It took me a long time to fully understand the profound truth that money is not just for spending; it is for managing first and then spending.
It takes courage to believe it, but when you do it will profoundly change the way you think about and manage your money.
Imagine this: It's Friday, a day you have come to know and love as Cake Day. You want cake, you love cake, and doggone it you deserve cake. You stop at the supermarket and pick up the ingredients to bake a chocolate cake.
The most bizarre thing happens on the way home. You can't wait. You are powerless against this overwhelming desire to have your cake and eat it now!
You grab the grocery bag from the back seat (while stopped at a red light, of course) and begin eating the ingredients because you are so hungry for cake. It's there, it's yours and you simply cannot help yourself. You gulp down a couple of eggs; you chew up some butter and sugar. You chew up a big handful of flour followed by a handful of cocoa powder.
You pull into the driveway completely disgusted with yourself. You try to hide the evidence, but it's all over your face and clothes. It looks like a bomb went off inside your car. But the worst part is that eating the "cake" was not nearly as satisfying as you'd dreamed. It was, in fact, horrible. Now you feel ashamed and embarrassed. You conclude there's nothing you can do until the next Cake Day. You suffer and beat yourself up for having been so incredibly foolish.
This is an absurd analogy for sure, but it does illustrate the foolishness of eating food before it has been prepared. The very same ingredients that made you sick could have been used to make a culinary masterpiece. Those cake ingredients were not just for eating; they were for preparing the cake and then eating it.
It is equally foolish and unsatisfying to spend money that you haven't managed. To manage money means to take full possession of it, to put it toward a specific plan and then allocate it accordingly. It is a matter of owning your finances. Managing money is a learned discipline. It is a conscious effort that will give you a sense of gratification.
When money comes into your life, you are responsible for what it's used for, where it goes and how it performs. You are the boss. You can watch it drift away, or you can manage it according to a plan, a specific recipe that you have developed and have made a part of who you are.
It doesn't matter whether you are a single parent struggling to survive or the CEO of a prosperous business. You need to strategically plan exactly how you will manage every dime that comes into your life.
There are certain elements that I believe should be part of your management system, such as giving and saving. When you approach income management in a sane and reasonable manner, any feelings of dissatisfaction, worry and hopelessness lessen. You find yourself looking for ways to use your money to plug the leaks in your life.
So what is the best recipe for managing your money? Here's a simple one: the 10-10-80. Give away 10 percent of your income, save 10 percent of your income and live on 80 percent of your income. It's a formula that works.
No matter if you're single, married, old or young, and no matter if you're deeply in debt, unemployed or at the top of your career, you need a system. Only then will you fully understand why new income is not for frivolous spending; it is for managing first and then spending.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.