Just like people, spending plans (a better way to say budgets) come in all shapes, formats, styles, colors and any other distinguishing feature. They can be online, paper and pencil, a spreadsheet, a Word document, envelopes with cash, or multiple online accounts, to name a few. There isn’t really one that’s “better” than the others — the one that is best for you is the one that you stick with.
A good spending plan is one that seems to “get” you. If you have to work hard to get it, chances are you will lose interest after a few weeks and stop using it. Your spending plan may not be the one your coworker or spouse uses, and that’s OK. One way to narrow down the different ways to manage your spending plan is by knowing your learning style.
Discovering your learning style
My wife, like all good teachers, has the ability to adapt what she is teaching to each student’s learning style — different people learn different ways. If you already know your learning style, that’s great! I don’t, so being the lazy blogger that I am, I asked my wife for some good ways to figure out my learning style. She recommended EducationPlanner.org or Learning-Styles-Online. If you don’t already know your own learning style, try one of these — they are quick, less than 15 minutes to complete.
Matching it to your spending plan
Now to match the spending plan with your learning style. Education Planner categorizes people as Visual, Auditory or Tactile, while Learning-Styles uses Visual, Aural, Verbal, Physical, Logical, Social or Solitary.
If your learning style is Visual: Consider a technology based platform that has visual elements. My favorite online platforms include Mint, Every Dollar or You Need a Budget (YNAB), or your bank’s software (assuming it has visual elements like pie charts.)
If your learning style is Tactile, Logical or Solitary: Try spreadsheets — they are very popular especially with those of us who are a little more hands on; our Easy Spending Plan is an example of one. Your bank or financial institution may also provide a spending plan that works for you. The great news is that the online and bank based software I’ve seen is aware that people learn different ways and allows you to use their platform the way you choose.
If your learning style is Tactile or Physical: Don’t forget the old school way of paying cash as much as possible and keeping receipts (I recommend an accordion file to manage receipts.) Study after study has shown that when we pay in cash, we spend less than when we swipe a card. And despite what my teenager tells me, cash is used by more than just me and drug dealers.
If your learning style is Auditory, Aural, Verbal or Social: Find a partner to work together on your spending plan and talk it out. For privacy, maybe don’t have this conversation in a public place as the folks at the coffee shop don’t need to know your personal business. But having the opportunity to sound it out and socialize could be the missing ticket to budgeting success for you.
For what it’s worth, I scored highest on Visual and lowest on Auditory using Education Planner, while Learning-Styles scored me highest on Physical and Logical and lowest on Aural. (my wife is not surprised to hear that I don’t learn by listening) That is why I use my bank’s online platform, which has graphs and allows me to download into Excel, while I also prefer to pay in cash. I also have a phobia about talking about money in public. If I had found this out before I wrote this blog, maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long to develop a spending plan…
Once you know your learning style, look at different spending plan tools and find one that seems to get you. Then comes the hard part: you need to use it. Try it for 3 months and if it is too much work for you, find another one. Don’t quit – keep experimenting until you find one that “gets” you.
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