We're familiar with the idea of work-life balance -- that miraculous sweet spot where one's out-of-office world is rich and full, and doesn't collide with one's career.
But how about money-life balance? According to J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. (JPM) and the nonprofit advocacy group Consumer Action, a reasonable money-life balance considers the positive emotional benefits that go along with behaving responsibly with money. In other words, you achieve money-life balance if you're not racking up massive credit card bills during late-night online shopping binges on Zappos.com (ahem).
In a newly released survey conducted by Chase and Consumer Action, only one-third of 1,016 adults said they had money-life balance.
The Key to Good Balance
Financial planners point to budgeting as the starting point for achieving money-life balance. Besides the obvious tracking of income and expenses, having a budget means you don't have to spend precious mental energy thinking about whether a purchase is affordable or not.
"Willpower is a strenuous way of controlling your actions .... routines can conserve energy," psychologist and Willpower author Roy Baumeister told DailyFinance in a video interview earlier this fall. "Set your life up so you don't have problems in advance."
Finding the right financial planning method for you is like buying shoes: You have to try on a lot of pairs before you find the right fit. It can be as simple as keeping a spreadsheet on your home computer or using a spreadsheet template from the Google personal finance library.
Another popular way to put the brakes on overspending and excessive borrowing is by using a prepaid debit card. Loading a card with a fixed amount -- like $1,000 for the month -- is an easy way to manage costs and keeping funds you intend to spend separate from the money you have earmarked for saving.
There are also a number of online budgeting apps, such as Mint.com and SmartyPig.com, that can create neat visual graphics of how much you are spending on extras such as restaurants, versus necessities like student loans, as well as helping you set savings goals.
Do you have balance in your financial life? Please share your tips for how you achieved your own money-life serenity below.
Catherine New can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.