Chris Narbone is creator of Amplify, a blog focused on empowering people through technology. You can find him at http://amplifytoday.com.
Mad scientists get a bad rap. Just because they’re “mad” doesn’t make them evil, right? For every Dr. Frankenstein, there’s a Doc Brown.
Those of us who budget also get a bad rap for our approach to money. We’re living within our means to either get out of debt or save — unfortunately that’s still not as accepted as it should be. Methods for keeping a budget might be perceived as a little mad or eccentric. In some ways, we’re also mad scientists. That’s not a bad thing and here’s how to embrace that mad scientist approach to budgeting:
If you’re serious about a budget, what does your lab look like? Is it as simple as a spreadsheet? Consider something a little more sophisticated. What makes a mad scientist is their curiosity in emerging technologies. By empowering them through technology it allows them to do great things.
One of the tools in my lab is Mint.com (no affiliation) where I can run experiments to see how spending in certain categories affects my budget. The advantage of this type of technology is that you’re able to import transactions and not have to deal with the minutia of recording – every – single – purchase. Also, I can create subcategories and control the flow of information to get the most out of my analysis.
The other advantage of online tools like Mint, is that you can easily present your budget. In Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, he reanimated a corpse; Doc Brown built a time-machine out of a DeLorean. Which would you rather present?
Budgets are not fun and usually involve tough choices. Personal finance tools also allow you to present your budget to the family without them reaching for pitchforks or torches. By providing this information in a different light other than cold, hard numbers, it makes for better conversation with your assistant (see below).
Other tools you’ll find in my lab:
- Automating bill pay: Best way to deal with static bill amounts and it’s one less thing to remember.
- Going paperless for bills and statements: I try to convert as many notifications as I can to my email in order to stay organized.
Do you have someone to share your work with and help you out? My assistant happens to be a pretty red head (my wife) with a penchant for common sense. Without my assistant, I’d go on a budgeting rampage and make decisions like, “We need to save money — we can go without diapers and ride our bikes everywhere!”
A fresh set of eyes provides perspective. When I’m immersed in my lab for too long, I miss things or can get delusional. While I’m in charge of the budget, my wife oversees a lot things that the budget impacts. Having regular conversations about the budget provides harmony and balance in the family.
If you don’t have an assistant to share your work with, find a friend or a family member for a reality check. You don’t want to turn into a Dr. Moreau. He conducted surgeries to create part-human, part-animal creatures on his own island. He probably could’ve benefitted from a reality check or two.
This kind of crosses over to evil, mad scientist territory, but it’s worth exploring. Who’s going to do your bidding? Hopefully, it’s good bidding. Most mad scientists have a network to carry out plans or bring back information in an effort to achieve their goals.
For the budget minded, this could be a friend helping you coupon or aware you of hot deals. Maybe it’s a deal-of-the day website like Groupon or Living Social. Develop and utilize a network that is aware of your interests. Just be sure to reciprocate because angry henchmen can easily turn on you.
The mad scientist approach to budgeting embraces the use of technology while leveraging relationships to create a sound budget that’ll get you to your goals.
What kind things are in your lab? How does your assistant help you? What kind of information does your henchman bring you?