The “Magic” Jars

If you’ve never had a budget that worked before, try this. You may like it.

I was shopping with my daughter in Payless when a woman heading towards me pointed at me and said, “I watched you on TV last night, which is why I’m shopping here instead of there,” she laughed as she pointed to the more expensive shoe store across the mall. Her husband who was toting a tot on his shoulders laughed too and said they were living on the jars.

Everyone wants to use the “magic” jars. No matter where I go, people tell me they’re living on the jars and lovin’ it. Wow! Something so simple, eh?

Since I put up the website a week ago, the most questions I’ve had have been about the jars: how much to put in them, how often to refill them, and lots more.

There’s no formula for how much goes in each jar. It really does depend on each individual budget. But you can figure this out for yourself by going to Gail's Guide to Building a Budget and following the instructions, and the link to Gail’s Interactive Budget Worksheet. This worksheet will show you what should go into the jars. It’s a bit of trial-and-error to find the right mix, but keep at the budget until you balance and you’ll have a really good road map to move forward.

The jars aren’t actually the “magic” in making money work; the budget is. The real magic is the fact that people seem to want to use the jars – people hate to budget – and I think it’s because it’s so tangible. You decide how much to put in the jars, you put the money in, you live on it, you can see when the dough’s running out so you have to stop spending, and you get a real kick out of having money left in the jars.

That’s the part that really blows my mind. I cut the budgets of people I work with by 50%, 70% as much as 90% -- what, you didn’t see that show? -- and they still manage to have money left at the end of the month. Whazzup with that?

I’m just working with a couple who had to figure out how much went into the jars as their first challenge. They loved it. Not at first, though.

When I gave them the challenge, they were really disappointed. They had hoped I would balance the budget for them, which is what I usually do. But when I check-up with them this week on how the jars were going, they were very happy – and they had money left!

When I asked why things were going so well, she said she felt empowered being able to figure out the budget and adjust it as their circumstances change. You got it babe!

That’s the beauty – often overlooked – of a budget… it’s your road map so you get to say how much you’re spending in each category. If driving a new car isn’t important to you, you can cut back on your transportation costs and beef up your grocery bill, entertainment, debt repayment or savings. The important thing is that the bottom line balance… YOU CAN’T SPEND MORE MONEY THAT YOU MAKE. If you can’t balance, then maybe you have to find a way to make more money.

As for how often you put money into the jars, again that’s a personal choice. When I worked with my first couple, we put it in monthly. Tasia says she’s still using the jars, but they switched to putting the money in weekly. People find it easier to work with the shorter time frames.

Managing your money isn’t rocket science. And it isn’t magic. It’s discipline. You have to be determined to live on what you make, passionate about getting your consumer debt (credit cards, lines of credit) paid off in three years or less, and convince that it is important to have some money set aside for the future.

If you’ve never had a budget that worked before, try it. You may like it. And it may be the first step to eliminating that sinking feeling in your stomach every time you think about your bank account.

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