Spending Plan

Today we are talking about minimalism, money, and developing a spending plan. For years I was a budget-resister. I wanted nothing to do with having a budget for our family. But now I'm singing a different tune. The reality is, developing a solid spending plan for our family has been one of the most intentional things we've done in our path towards a simpler life.

In this episode I'm also answering a question from an audience member:

How much do you play with your kids?

Hi there and welcome to episode 216. Today, we're talking about minimalism money and the value of a spending plan. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler, more intentional life. In this show we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience raising kids but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.

Hello and thanks for tuning in. If this topic today makes you a little bit nervous or uneasy, then that might be a sign you need to hear it the most. We're talking about minimalism and money and I'm going to share some of the biggest mistakes that I've made getting started in minimalism over the past few years. But before we get into that, here is a 60-second word from the sponsor for this segment. Rebel Girls. You might be familiar with the bestselling book. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. Well, I'm thrilled to share that they also have a podcast. Rebel Girls is currently in season three. If you're looking for stories to inspire your little girl or your little boy to pursue dreams without limits, I highly recommend you check it out right now. I feel like many of us are inundated with screen time and kids.

Podcasts are a great alternative. In this show, you're going to hear awesome stories narrated by inspiring women such as Melinda Gates and Jameela Jamil. The research shows us that only 19% of children's books showcase women with jobs or career ambition and Rebel Girls is trying to change that. So to inspire the rebel girl in your life, go and find Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls on your favorite podcast player. I hope your family enjoys it just as much as mine. Again, the name of the show is Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. All right, I'm ready to move forward talking about money and minimalism and if you're already looking forward to what segment two in this podcast is going to contain, I'm answering a question from Bree in State College, Pennsylvania and she's asking how much do I engage and play with my kids?

So if you want to skip right to that, go to minute 19 and 30 seconds. Okay. Let's talk about minimalism and money and developing a spending plan. I will first off tell you that I have long, long been a budget resistor. I never wanted anything to do with keeping a budget. My husband is a finance professional and keeping a budget is pretty much what he does for a living and he had many times over the years. We've been married 10 years now, encouraged me to get on board with starting a budget. There's something about the idea of a budget that just completely turned me off. It felt restrictive. I wrongfully felt like it was only for people who were really out of control with their spending. And I also wrongfully felt like because I'm a minimalist, I don't buy that much stuff. I don't really need a plan for how I spend my money.

I will tell you that I have shifted my thinking on so much of this and we don't have a budget. We have a spending plan. Is it the same thing? Yes, absolutely. But someone recently introduced me to the idea of calling it a spending plan because there are so many preconceived notions about budgets and I will tell you that developing a solid spending plan for our family has been the number one most intentional change that our family has made over the years. We started moving towards minimalism. Gosh, it's been five years now. We started when my son, my firstborn was about nine months old and I've learned a lot of lessons along the way and I've made a lot of mistakes along the way too. When I first started moving towards minimalism, I was really just moving towards decluttering. I was just getting rid of a lot of junk that I'd been accumulating for years and years and a lot of junk that I was continuing to accumulate because that in and of itself was something I didn't realize.

Marie Kondo's, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up really didn't explain to me that in order to stay decluttered after you've done it, you have to start buying differently. You have to change the way that you're spending your money. So I was a pro skill declutter who was decluttering constantly for a couple of years because I kept bringing stuff back into my home, maybe not at the same pace that the stuff was leaving, but it was still coming back in. I was being slightly more intentional and thoughtful of it, but there was also still a lot of impulse buying and mindless purchasing. So after about two years of decluttering and re cluttering and decluttering and re cluttering, it finally hit me that if I was continuing to bring in the same amount of stuff that was going out, I was never going to be living with less.

Why did this take me so long to realize? I don't know. You can't see the forest for the trees. But once I realized it, I tried to start by focusing on my pain points and my first pain point was Amazon. We lived in Dallas at the time and in our neighborhood, I could order something at 10:00 PM and it would be on my doorstep by 8:00 AM the next day. It made it really easy to impulse buy, one click order and go. So I gave up Amazon for six months, completely gave it up. It made a little bit of extra work in my life because I was in fact having to go to buy more things, but I also had to think more carefully about what I was buying. This really hit me at one point when I was looking to buy colored pencils, I was trying to start a new planner for the year and I was going to color code it.

Something I've never done successfully before. My mind doesn't work that way, but I really wanted it to. So I decided I was going to get colored pencils to color code my brand new planner, and I thought to myself, wouldn't it be easier if I just found one pencil that had all of the colors built in? So I went on Amazon, searched up and down until I found this one pencil. This mechanical pencil that had like 10 different colors built into it. I could switch it off kind of like you do a pen. I was like, yes. I found it and I ordered it and I got it and I realized that Amazon truly makes available to us things that we never dreamed, things that we never knew we needed, things that we probably don't really need. There are solutions for problems we didn't even know we had.

So giving up Amazon was awesome for me. I learned so many lessons. After six months, I went back to Amazon and I was buying a lot differently. I was being a lot more careful, a lot more intentional. Overall, I was making progress. Things were coming in a lot slower than they had in previous years in particular. I was doing really well with clothing. Once I move towards a capsule wardrobe, I really cautiously brought new items into my home, only things that I loved and that I knew I would wear and keep for a really long time. So clothing in many ways felt easy for me. Toys on the other hand was not so easy. It was really easy for me to justify buying durable, high quality educational toys for my kids. They were educational. It's not like I was buying junk, but it was too much educational stuff.

And again, going on Amazon, the option for toys and educational opportunities for your kids are endless. So that was really my first step in moving closer towards minimalism was realizing that decluttering wasn't the end of it. I actually had to be more intentional about the way that I was bringing things into my home. So I was buying less, but I was still buying relatively randomly. I was at the point where I felt like, well, you know, I'm a minimalist. I don't really buy much stuff. I don't need a budget. Every time my husband brought it up to me, I kind of said the same thing. I don't buy too much stuff. I live within my means. Why do I need a budget? I don't want a budget, but I was so wrong. I finally agreed a few months ago to try it out. It's been about six months now that we have had a very solid spending plan.

And like I said before, it is absolutely been the number one most intentional positive change that we've made in years. Not for me but also for my marriage and absolutely for my kids. There is 100% a direct correlation between how you spend your money and how stuff enters your home and how stuff leaves your home, how much waste your family is creating. It doesn't matter how little or how much money you have, it doesn't matter if you're in debt or if you're rolling and expendable income. Setting boundaries around spending will cut back on arguments and we'll definitely allow you to save more a lot more if you have more than one person in your home that is spending. This is crucial. Why do you think that most businesses have budgets or spending plans? It's because there are multiple individuals that need some structure with the way that they're managing their money.

It's not saying anyone is mismanaging necessarily, it's just to come up with a collaborative plan to work together. Like I said, this has been really good for my marriage because my husband is a finance guy and he loves seeing the numbers and surprisingly, I actually love it too. It's made discussion around money, healthier and also much easier to bring the kids into the conversation because we're talking about the spending plan. Each month we meet very informally and talk about the previous month and make plans for spending in the month and the months to come. What I found is it takes a lot of the taboo nature of talking about money and makes it more approachable for a family when it comes to buying and spending. A lot of the purchases that we make, we weigh out the pros and cons in our head. So if you're going to the store and you're looking at a new toy for your kid, you think to yourself, well, it's $29 I don't really think I have an extra $29 to spend this month, do I?

Don't I? How long is it going to last? How much is it gonna play with it? Yada, yada. You're doing all of that in your head. You're probably not doing it out loud because it's kind of taboo to talk about it, but when you have a spending plan and you have a certain amount of a budget allocated for things like this, it's not an abstract decision. You can look at the numbers. We use an app. You can show the kids the app and say, well, there's just not money for this this month. Let's talk about it maybe next month or later this summer. I'm not afraid to say to my kids, sorry, we don't have the money set aside for that, and if it's something I know that I'm never going to buy them. I'm also not afraid to say, sorry, we're not buying that and we're not going to buy that in the future either. I don't give my kids false hope, especially when it comes to toys. If they're asking or wanting to for some toy that I know that we're never going to bring into our house, I will tell them that upfront. I do think it's important to make money part of the conversation with our kids to talk about it openly and discuss it. Obviously you don't have to give kids all the details but bring them into the decision making.

I've also found that this has opened up a lot of doors to talking about waste. For example, last night, my daughter, who has the unfortunate habit of going crazy with pumps, like pumps of sober pumps of lotion, she just starts pumping and takes like six squirts of soap or 10 squirts of lotion. I stopped her because she had squirted a couple of pumps of soap out on the sink and I didn't shame her and yell at her for wasting it. Well, I did say that she was wasting it, but I calmly said, look, you're squirting the soap out on the counter. We're not gonna be able to use it now. We're wasting it. So I calmly say to her, look, you squirted the soap out on the counter. Now it's wasted. We're not going to be able to use it. What would you like to spend our money on?

Would you like to spend our money on buying more soap or would you like to spend our money on going to the Crayola factory? And I use the Crayola factory example because that was the last fun experience that we had together as a family and my kids had a really awesome time there. So my son was overhearing this too, and they both very quickly answered, well, we definitely want to use the money for the Crayola factory. So introducing a spending plan and helping our kids make decisions around money can also spark conversations like this. Conversations about making choices. We can make choices about how we're spending our money. If we're wasteful and we don't take care of our things and we have to replace a lot of things, then we have to spend a lot of money on that. What are we going to choose to do?

Are we going to choose to spend our money on soap because we felt like pumping out the entire bottle on the side of the sink or are we going to choose to save that money and use it towards a fun experience like the Crayola factory? Examples like that are really tangible for kids. It's kind of a no brainer. Who would waste the soap? I think it's great to introduce waste as an environmental issue to saying don't waste the soap because then we have to buy more and we have wasted the plastic bottles and all of that. But I think that at the age that my kids are, it's not quite as tangible and easy to understand as making choices around experience and spending money. So we do integrate all of that into the conversation too, but sometimes they just like to keep it really simple and straightforward.

So I'm not a finance expert and I definitely recommend talking to one before getting started on any of this. But I'll just give you a little bit of insight on how we got started. So we have a proactive system, so we plan ahead for what we anticipate our spending to be. Hence the name spending plan. This way we aren't to impulse buy, we know exactly how much money we have set aside for everything. Are there surprises? Yes, of course. But for the most part, 95% are things that we can plan for, things that we can anticipate. So an example of this is I budget $120 a month towards kids' stuff. That's kids clothes, shoes, books and toys. So in March, I spent that on summer shoes. My kids each needed casual summer sandals and a nicer pair of summer shoes. So March, that budget went to shoes.

April, my son needed a whole new spring capsule wardrobe. So that pretty much went entirely towards his spring capsule wardrobe. And in May, my kids are ready. They had their shoes and their clothes for this year, for this spring summer season. So the money went towards all-terrain remote control cars. So why all-terrain remote control cars? Because we are trying to get outside as much as possible and sometimes we need a little bit of motivation to get out and go on hikes and go on trails. And what could be more fun than having a remote controlled car to drive down the trail and go across streams with you. So there's definitely room in our spending plan to buy fun stuff and to do fun stuff and knowing how much I have to spend helps me to anticipate and to plan for what is to come. We use what's called a zero based budget.

That means we plan for every dollar, which old me, if that was going to be really tedious and labor intensive and exhausting, but it's really not. It's really doable and it absolutely keeps your spending and saving in check for the future. Part of getting started on this really helps to align your value set and what you want for your family and for your future. When we got started, we weren't in debt, but we also weren't saving as much as we wanted to. We knew that we wanted to be saving for a travel fund and we wanted to be saving more for retirement and we wanted to be saving for private high school because we're hoping to send our kids to a private high school. We already have a really good start on a five to nine plan for our kids, but we want to add to that too.

So yes, developing a spending plan will help to align you and your partner, any other people in your family who are spending money to stay focused on your goals and prioritize the things that are important to you. We use a simple app to track all of our expenses and we enter every cost manually. We don't sync up transactions from our credit cards and debit cards and that kind of thing and I found that entering every cost helps me to keep a really close eye on the way that I'm spending. A couple of examples of apps that are zero based budget friendly, are, YNAB, You Need A Budget, Every Dollar and Mint. So I can't say enough good things about the importance of developing a spending plan for your family and planning out where you're going to be spending your money. Like I said, I really think it's the most intentional thing that you can do.

It's going to help you to buy less, to live lighter, to save more, to reduce stress, to teach your kids about money and when you're buying more intentionally, you're probably going to be wasting less. And reducing your environmental footprint. I hope this has been helpful. If you want to talk more, send me a message over on Instagram. I'd love to hear your questions and your thoughts and what's working for you. Now before I move into Bree's question, which is how much do I play with my kids? I'm going to bring you a one-minute word from the sponsor for this segment.

The sponsor is Causebox. Causebox is a quarterly subscription box that's curated by women for women and it's filled with all sorts of amazing products and brands that are ethical, sustainable and have a positive mission to give back. I'm usually pretty skeptical about subscription boxes because I've had some before that are filled with a bunch of stuff I'm never going to use and I don't even like, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by my experience with Causebox. In my first box, I got a Jade roller, which I was really excited about, a duffel bag, a bento box, some really cute simple earrings and several other things that I actually liked. If I sound surprised, that's because I am. So if you have someone in your life that you need to give a gift to and you don't know what to give, I recommend Causebox. My listeners can get an exclusive discount if they go to causebox.com/simplefamilies and use the code Simple Families, you'll get 30% off your first box.

That's a box worth over $250 for less than $39 so go to causebox.com/simplefamilies. All right. Moving on to my question for today. This is coming from Bree in State College, Pennsylvania and she wrote, how often do you engage in play with your children, like pretend play and such, or do you just tell them to play while you monitor and get things done? I play with my kids a lot, which I love to do, but I worry it may be too much when I try to back off or try to give them more time to independently play. They want me to play. Any suggestions? Okay. Bree, I'm going to read into your question a little bit. You say that you worry, it might be too much that you play with your kids and you're trying to back off a little bit, but they still want you to play. It sounds like you enjoy playing with your kids, but you also would probably enjoy playing with them a little bit less and you're trying to find the balance

of how much you should and how much you really want to. So I don't actually get down and engage in pretend play for any length of time with my kids. Now, I do kind of pop in and out of it with them. My daughter is in a stage right now where she's pretending to be wonder woman and she'll run into the room and I can very easily tell that she's in wonder woman mode and I will maybe quickly say something like, quick wonder woman. There's a mission, there's a lost dog. Can you find her? And then she'll run around her house trying to look for our dog. But that's about the extent of it. I'll pause, participate, and then go back to doing whatever I'm going to do. I get this question and forms of this question all the time. The reality is that as parents, it's hard for us to authentically engage in pretend play because our brains are just in a different point of development in early childhood.

Our kids have a hard time seeing the boundary between real and fantasy and that allows them to very easily slip in and out of these fantasy worlds. But as adults, we see that line really clearly and it's not as easy for us to get into. So if you don't enjoy, pretend playing or you don't enjoy really playing with your kids, don't feel guilty. It's actually not your job. Back in episode 139 at simplefamilies.com/episode139, I talked about how to get your kids to play independently. And one of the things I emphasized was it's not easy to get every kid to play independently. Some kids come to it much easier than other kids. So if you have a kid who doesn't want to play independently and once you're around a lot, don't blame yourself. It's not necessarily something that you did wrong, but there are things that we can do to encourage our kids. You've got to believe in your kids. Believe that they are capable of playing by themselves. Your confidence in them communicates their competence.

They're looking for you to play with them, but they're also looking for you to give a nod of encouragement that they can play alone. If we fall into a pattern where we do feel like we are our children's entertainers, it can be painful to transition away from that. Our kids can put up quite a fight. They can whine a lot if they're forced to play by themselves or left to play them by themselves, I should say. That's why I say you've got to be confident. You've got to believe that your kids are going to figure it out, that they're going to learn how to do better and if there is a little bit of crying and whining in the process of learning how to manage boredom, it's okay. A child who cries that they're bored or cries for you to play with them and you have other things that you need to take care of is a child who will eventually start to figure out new alternatives.

Even as adults, we deal with change in similar ways. My husband is usually the one that takes the garbage out and if he just decided one day that he was no longer taking the garbage out and I was going to have to start doing it myself, there would be a lot of, maybe even some crying, but I'd figure it out. I'd be able to take the garbage out. I actually might even start to enjoy it a little bit of outside time in the evening when everything's quiet listening for owls and crickets, who knows? Maybe I'd find a lot of joy in taking out the garbage. That's debatable, but one thing's for sure there would be a lot of whining and crying. It can be a normal part of change and adjustment, especially when we perceive things as hard. Something I do do with my kids is sometimes I'll set up play invitations where I'll set up some simple toys for them to get started with.

For example, today I set up some of our wooden unit blocks into the shape of a little city, so I lined them up and I made a little area for the cars, a little area for a zoo, which I threw a few animals in, and then a couple of really simple houses. It took me about two minutes and my kids were really excited to see it and they jumped right in and started playing. Depending on the day, depending on the mood, depending on the child, they might need a little nudge. They might need some ideas to get started, but they also might need some practice, some practice being bored, some practice tolerating, figuring out how to play by themselves. So don't feel guilty. Don't feel guilty if this process is an easy, don't feel guilty if you don't feel like playing with your kids all the time.

Find the balance that works for you. But on the other hand, if you do love playing with your kids all the time, go ahead and do it. Does it make you a better parent for doing that? No, not necessarily. Not at all. But I would never tell you not to do something that you love. I don't think it's bad for your kids. If you do choose to do a lot of playing with your kids, make sure that you let them take the lead and set the play script or the theme for the play most often. But at the end of the day, your kids are going to be just fine. Whether you play with them a little bit or a lot, as long as you're finding time to connect and to listen and to tune into your kids, you're building that relationship in more ways than you know. I hope you've enjoyed this episode and as always, I thank you for tuning into Simple Families. If you have a moment, leave a rating or review on iTunes. That helps the show to reach more people. Thanks again and have a good one.

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Denaye Barahona

Dr. Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She partners with families to tackle the challenges of raising children. Denaye is a minimalist who claims to be a decluttering expert (don't let her near your closet). She loves to travel, talk health-and-wellness, and give unsolicited advice. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Minimalists, Motherly, Becoming Minimalist, and numerous other media outlets. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Clinical Social Worker with a specialty in child and family practice.