I always remember one of my friends’ Mums telling us that no matter what salary you achieve as a grown up, it’ll never feel like “enough”. While I can totally relate to what she meant, it doesn’t need to feel this way.

The fact is that generally, those of us who regular jobs that pay an annual salary – i.e. we’re not footballers or big time influencers or movie stars – will always have fleeting feelings that things we really want our out of reach. But, with the right approach to spending, we can optimise our finances to have everything we truly want.

It starts with getting to know yourself and what makes you happy. The world has gone bonkers for a second time around over Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo, after her TV show appropriately hit Netflix on Boxing Day, right at the point we’re all feeling guilty for the gluttony and greed that’s surrounded us for the entire festive period.

While the Kondo method will help you declutter your belongings, the same principals can be applied to your spending. It’s simple really – cut out all spending that doesn’t bring you joy.

What About The Boring Stuff?

Okay, so purchases like Selotape or loo roll probably don’t bring you much joy, but you need them, so you can hardly cut them out of your life entirely.

So when it comes to Marie Kondo-ing your spending, separate your essential expenses from everything else – that’ll be your rent/mortgage, phone bill, transport costs, and saving for the future. Then, split the rest into ‘joy’ funds.

Buying Joy

Finance experts might tell you not to spend any more than a certain percentage of your income on groceries, or coffee, or clothes, or eating out, or alcohol. They might even tell you not to buy those things at all. Maybe you follow some kick-ass savings gurus on Instagram and they’ve saved a fortune by cutting out their expensive pilates classes, or by only spending $50 a week at the supermarket.

But if cooking and creating meals brings you joy, spend more on food shopping! If you get all the warm and fuzzy feels from your pilates classes, keep going! If you get true, enduring joy from having a coffee with your colleague on the way into work, don’t stop! If you have dinner out every Wednesday as a way of catching up with that friend who moved to the other side of town, don’t give that up! If you absolutely love fashion and express yourself through clothes, don’t give up buying new gear!

Only cut out or cut down spending that does not bring you joy. If you’re grabbing takeaway out of laziness or convenience, but you don’t even really enjoy it, that’s a behaviour you can probably change. If you only get a coffee before work out of habit, try making your own at home. If you buy lunch out because you can’t be bothered to meal prep, ditch that spending and put the effort in to making your own lunch.

For example, I don’t really like cooking. So I’ve cut down my grocery shopping and have started eating more basic meals. But I do LOVE getting a coffee in the morning. I adore it. Everything about it. Walking in, choosing my order, paying, hearing my name called by the barista, and walking away clutching a hot cup of possibility. That, to me, is joy. So while it may not be typically ‘savvy’ to spend money on takeaway coffees, it brings me joy, and therefore adds value to my life.

The Joy Budget

To identify which purchases bring you true joy, write down all your transactions for a month, and then go through and give each one a ‘joy ranking’. Score it out of 10 in terms of how much joy it brought you. Using a ranking system helps you work out which purchases you should prioritise, and which you could cut back on. Of course, lots of things bring you joy, but if you’re trying to live within – or below – your means, finding out which things you value the most can prevent overspending.

Then, work through your list and allocate your disposable income to your top ranking joy items, allocating the most budget to the highest ranking, and the least budget to the lowest scorers.

The beauty of budgeting like this, is it accounts for who YOU are as a person. It’s not a cookie cutter approach spat out by a revenue-churning guide book written by someone who saved a bunch of money (and made a shit load more by selling you their book).

Spend your money on things that bring you JOY – whatever that may be. By identifying what brings us joy – and indeed, what doesn’t – we can create a spending plan that we can truly stick to, and actually enjoy every purchase.

That’s real value for money.

Liked this article? My “Be Better With Money” eBook delves deeper into The Joy Budget, and helps you track your spending and set a new cash flow plan in line with your joy spends. Get it now.