Get a Massage Before Doing Your Budget

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The monthly family budget discussion

“I don’t fear death because I don’t fear anything I don’t understand. When I start to think about it, I order a massage and it goes away.”
–Hedy Lamarr

Boo. Budgets. Boring, right? Who wants to talk about budgets when we can talk about more interesting topics like how to roll around in a bathtub full of dollar bills like Scrooge McDuck?

Yet, budgets are the way that you take steps to turn your priorities into reality. Each month, through budgeting, you make conscious efforts to spend money in a way that aligns with your priorities in life. Making and sticking to budgets enables you to meet you goals.

Or does it?

Recent research from psychologists in Germany shows that increases in stress can prevent you from focusing on your goals. Being stressed out means that Monkey Brain puts his goals ahead of your goals.

You Can Put Monkey Brain to Sleep


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The point of having a goal is that when you reach it, the achievement provides some sort of reward to you. Whether it’s looking better in the mirror or feeling better about having enough money in retirement, you set a goal because there’s some outcome which you want.

In spite of the rewards that goal achievement brings, if you’re stressed, the vision of achieving the reward doesn’t make you feel any better about achieving it. In effect, Monkey Brain is making you think that you don’t care about that reward. Instead, he convinces you that the rewards he wants (a new man cave) are more important than the ones that you want (steady retirement income).

So, if you’re stressed when it comes time to do the budget, Monkey Brain will take over the budget for you. “Who cares about retirement, anyway?” you’ll tell yourself. “I’ll never get there.” Monkey Brain loves scripts like that. It frees up money for things he wants. He’s an expert at creating self-fufilling prophecies.

If you want to make sure that Monkey Brain doesn’t allocate a few bananas for himself when you’re doing your budgets, here are some ideas to distract him and reduce your stress:

  • Get a massage. I’m not talking about going to the spa and having someone pound out the boulders in your back for an hour, although if you can afford it, great. Have your spouse give you a massage. If you don’t have a spouse, here are some tips for how to do a self-massage.
  • Meditate for ten minutes. I know nothing about chakras and enlightenment, but sitting and thinking about nothing for ten minutes will leave you refreshed and relaxed.
  • Go for a run. I do not like running. Unless I’m chasing a ball or the dog, I don’t like to run. However, there are benefits. As the Mayo Clinic describes, running can increase your endorphins and improve your sleep, both of which reduce stress.
  • Turn off the television. A study reported on in the journal Psychological Science showed that people who watch television have an increased amount of stress. This stress plays out particularly strongly in dreams, which are more vivid and negative when people watch television. Don’t negate the benefits of running by getting home and plopping down in front of the boob tube.

What are your favorite ways to relax? Tell us about them in the comments below!

About Jason Hull, CFP®

Jason Hull, CFP®, is the Chief Technology officer of myFinancialAnswers, an online comprehensive financial planning service.

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