Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wading into the Deep End: an Uncommon Approach to Budgeting

As promised yesterday, I am devoting a couple days to budgeting, and I'm kicking off the discussion with a talk about my city's budgeting strategy.  Right off the bat I'll admit that it is quite dorky for me to use municipal planning as an example of good budgeting.  I mean, a) it reveals the fact that I actually know details about my municipality's planning strategy, which is weird, and b) that I know enough to recommend this strategy to you, which is also weird.

I won't go into why I know this information (it was rooted in a rampant curiosity about the town I live in), or even the specifics of the strategy.  But I will tell you the general idea, which is that good budgets start with your values and build from there.

Now, this seems to make common sense.  And in fact it is very close to the way we normally budget, which is to use our goals as a compass to guide us.  But although similar, goals and values are not the same.  For instance, one of my goals is to be able to send my husband to graduate school someday, but the underlying value--meaningful knowledge and work--is deeper and broader.

This budgeting strategy, then, starts not with what do I want to accomplish? (goals), but who do I want to be? (values).  Once you determine who you want to be as an individual (or family if you are married and/or have children), you then assign your dollars accordingly.  Now I'm tempted to jump into a bunch of examples of what this looks like, but I'll save that for tomorrow.  First I want to make a point about the nature of Nesting, and how it synchs with this budgeting strategy.

The truth is that though on the surface Nesting just looks like decorating and preparing for children, beneath that veneer it is actually a process of deciding who we want to be as women and what our values are.  Because the root of our lives--our homes and core relationships--are the first place we express our values and our ambitions.  Putting those spaces (both physical and ideological) into the order that best nurtures who we want to be is part of the DNA of Nesting.  And since money is such a powerful tool in this process, it makes sense that budgeting plan that starts first with values fits well within Nesting.

Now I confess that I waded into the deep end of the pool with this post, perhaps a bit more than I intended.  And the truth is that even I'm a little surprised at some of the turns this series has taken (like going from cork finials to the core of who I am as a person in two days time!).  But if HGTV can get away with "start at home," and make it sound cool, than I figure I can too, even if it does get a little deep!

BTW--this budgeting strategy that I'll talk more about tomorrow helped my town garner an economic surplus during a time when most cities are operating in the red.  Pretty impressive!

Previous Nesting posts:

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