I hate shopping. With so many choices, I’m hesitant to make a selection without reviewing every last option – lest I make a subpar decision. When I do purchase something, it often leads me to feel I need to buy something else. Shopping to me is a constant battle with “enough-ism.” (I call this dilemma Lifestyle Creep).

I’m also fashion challenged. So, I recently hired a stylist to help me make smarter choices for my keynote speaking and TV appearances. Our first step was to set a clear budget. And then… all joy broke lose. The simple act of setting the boundary of a budget helped me feel confident that with a deliberately limited option set, I’d do a better job of optimizing my happiness.

My experience of feeling free, while shopping within a strict budget, caused me to reflect on how this can apply to other forms of financial boundaries. Below I share a few ways in which I’ve come to believe setting boundaries can sometimes be just what you need to have real financial freedom.

Think of these as “money mantras.” Use the ones you like to help you craft a personal mental framework that enables you to maximize your life joy. After all, real financial freedom is living in alignment with the truth of who you are.

  1.  View financial planning as a form of self-care. Ignoring the truth of our financial situation is a form of self-sabotage. It opens the door to the temptations of instant gratification and the accumulation of debt that can compromise our capacity to take care of ourselves financially.
  2. Embrace financial limits to feel authentic joy. Paradoxically, setting limits shows us we have the power to create what we truly desire instead of being subject to the spin of consumer addiction. Proactive financial limits create a stark contrast to the artificial sense of freedom felt when we live beyond our means, only to ultimately end up enslaved to debt.
  3. View personalized boundaries as a path to your financial freedom. Without boundaries – in what we eat, how much we sleep, how much we work, how much we play, we cannot live a healthy, fulfilling life. Boundaries, even financial ones, help us create the personal balance needed to maximize our quality of life.

How can you take these potentially esoteric ideals and translate them into some practical action steps? Well, according to a Federal Reserve Board study, 43% of Americans spend more than they earn each year. As I travel around the country talking about financial literacy I’ve come to believe one reason for this is people not knowing what healthy spending looks like.

My favorite definition of balanced spending comes from Elizabeth & Amelia Warren’s book ALL YOUR WORTH.  They suggest a healthy after-tax spending allocation is: 50% needs, 30% wants, 20% savings. (Note: In today’s tough times I adjust that 20% savings slightly to include consumer debt pay down).

So today, consider defining your personal spending boundaries, and let them honor how you want to spend you life’s energy.