I have written before about the power of words in shaping and informing how we think (or put off thinking) about money. In particular I highlight that budgeting and pensions are problematic terms and that we might be better talking about “money tracking” and “investing for your future self”. I’d like to delve a little deeper into money tracking (or budgeting), in particular looking at how we might use colour as a tool to track spending more appropriately. Of course, while it is the case that some people have challenges distinguishing between different colours, for those who are able to use colours creatively I believe they have an interesting role in money tracking. Colour is emotional, money is emotional, so there might well be benefits in creatively combining the two.
In my teaching and money coaching I use excel spreadsheets, as these are readily available, (pretty) easy to use and give each of us the power to shape and change the spreadsheet as we see fit. Typically, one inputs income, then spending and then hopefully at the bottom there is the monthly surplus which serves as the fuel for saving and investing. What I’d like to do is encourage people to be inventive in how they set up their spreadsheet, in particular using colour. Interior designers, architects, therapists and academics have written about the potential role of colour on our psyche. In fact, one academic study by Zena O’Connor found there were 365,000 websites related to “colour psychology” and 284,000 to “colour therapy. So this is a popular topic, with one source arguing that blue has a calming effect, red is intense/angry, green relaxing and yellow invigorating.
How might this impact on tracking monthly spending? Well, colour is already part of the money vocabulary, for example “being in the red” is commonly used to describe businesses or personal accounts which are in debt and “in the black” for those which are in surplus. But perhaps there are interesting ways in which colour could be used in our monthly money tracking to remind and nudge us in particular spending directions. For instance, if you are following the maxim of “pay yourself first” why not make entries for savings and investments a positive colour such as green? One could do the same with health-related expenditure such as gym membership, yoga classes and other aspects of well-being. Red could be used for negatives such as credit card and store card debt while monthly surpluses could be purple indicating success and financial stability.
There is likely to be a trade-off between creativity and making your money tracking spreadsheet overly complex and confusing. But perhaps if we take ownership of crafting our very own spreadsheets, we might take greater ownership of how much – and on what – we spend. If you would like a copy of a monthly money tracking spreadsheet, please drop me an email.