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How to save money sustainably (and break up with money worries for good)

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The faulty assumption at the heart of all popular personal finance solutions

The real reason personal finance prescription don’t work 

The single question at source of all money worries

The only solution for fixing financial anxiety

How to cultivate a mindful money practice 

Seven principles to master the art of money mapping

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References, resources and links

It’s not your fault. You just wanted to save money sustainably. 

So, you read the books, cover to cover. 

You believed their promises of financial peace and prosperity and did everything what you were told.

You renamed your bank accounts ‘buckets’ and followed the ‘plan on a page’.

You even got your orange everyday debit cards and automated everything like they all said.

You got right into it too. And for a while you felt like you were winning.

But that was a while ago.

And now because you struggled to stick to the plan that was supposedly foolproof, you feel like a fool.

I’ll say it again, it’s not your fault.

There’s nothing wrong with you, and you aren’t a fool.

Here’s what happened: the high priests of personal finance mislead you.

The way you were told to save money is wrong. 

Dead wrong.

I’m about to explain why, and when you discover the flawed assumption most popular personal finance prescriptions are all built on, you’ll realise something even more important.

You didn’t fail. The prescription failed you.

You don’t have self-control problem, and you aren’t an irresponsible adult.

You’re human. The solution simply failed to sync with your operating system. It worked against the way you’re wired instead of working with it.

The truth is, there’s only one way to transcend your money worries for good, and it’s got nothing to do with how much you save or have saved.

It’s also not something you’ll learn from a book. It must be cultivated with practice.

That doesn’t mean it must take years though. You can nail this in a few months.

And the best part is you don’t have to have a big bank account or be earning big money. 

You can start where you are right now. 

All you need is a beginner’s mind. A mind that does not carry the baggage of the past.

I know. It’s hard not to be cynical.

Especially if you’ve tried all the tools, and tricks.

But what you’re about to discover isn’t a rigid, cookie cutter solution.

It’s a proven practice that leverages the secrets of neuroscience and positive psychology in order to do one single thing.

Free you from money worries. 

Yes it will also help you save money, but not to maximise your savings rate, and not the way you’re used to.

This method makes managing your money enjoyable, which makes it sustainable. It is a battle tested strategy for using money to find financial freedom now and funding your big life goals.

How do I know?

I know because right now there are free thinking, growth-oriented Aussies from all over the country using this practice to do exactly that.

But before I can share the solution, it’s crucial that we first understand the problem. As Einstein said: we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.

Saving won’t save you

Here’s the problem: most personal finance prescriptions are based on the same faulty assumption.

More savings = less stress.

‘Oh you’re worried about money, ah (chuckles knowingly) that just means you need more of it. Come child just follow my fixed formula and you’ll finally figure out how to save money. Then your problems will be a thing of the past’.

In case it’s not obvious, this is just a different version of a very popular illusion: ‘when you achieve success (as defined by others), then you’ll be happy.’

There’s just one problem with that line of thinking.

It’s backward.

Positive psychologists have been telling us for years that success is not the key to happiness.

It is happiness that is the key to success.

Let me boil decades of important research down into a single stat to prove it.

Less than 10% of your long-term happiness can be predicted by what you have.

Don’t take my word for it though, watch Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor’s hilarious TED talk. 

In my experience helping smart, self-aware people save money sustainably by transforming their relationship to money, I’ve met many people who are rich on the balance sheet but poor in spirit.

One couple we sat down with were actually millionaires, but their life was a stress fueled struggle.

In their minds making ends meet was a battle they were losing every day. In reality the way their financial life was configured was actually creating their anxiety.

This is an extreme example, but in no way is it isolated.

From what I’ve seen, the way most people feel about money is almost always disconnected from reality.

And because we’ve bought the idea that success is a consequence of happiness, we seek out popular prescriptions that promise to help us save more.  

But saving doesn’t necessarily solve our problem…

Here’s the problem with personal finance prescriptions

Solutions that teach you to save money by setting up buckets, allocating your money using percentage-based prescriptions, and automating everything are seductive for two reasons.

First, they’re damn simple.

They don’t require you to think. In fact, they demand you don’t. Just follow their ‘rules’ and one day you’ll get to heaven.

Sound familiar? 

Simple and mindless is an easy sell. This is largely because we’ve all been taught that money is an evil dirty thing we should shun at all costs.

The second reason we fall for popular prescriptions is that generally they do help us save money. And because we believe that saving more = stressing less we buy into the idea that they’ll solve all our financial problems.

The problem is, they only really solve the saving problem.

And hey if you’ve struggled to save money this will probably make you feel better – in the short term.

Whilst this is useful, it’s often not sufficient. It might even be detrimental. 

If you’re twenty something, single and have a steady decent paying job, most cookie cutter solutions will absolutely help you stack cash and save money. They definitely helped me.

But you’ll soon see that something interesting happens. Almost as soon as you reach your ‘number’ you’ll shift the goal post in pursuit of what the world tells you is most important.


This is an exhausting, unfulfilling game in which you try to speed everything up just to get to what is and always will be a mirage.

It’s called hedonic adaptation, and it’s the time sucking trap that ties us to a treadmill that only ever speeds up.

But the tragedy isn’t that you’ll never really feel successful or fulfilled.

The tragedy is that while you’re caught up in the rat race of your own creation, you’re completely wasting your most precious resource: time.

You’re missing those moments of joy because you’re running too fast to smell the roses.

You’re trading your younger years for a fantasy about how you might spend your older ones.

Sure, you can force your life to fit the prescription, but just know that isn’t freeing yourself financially – it’s enslaving you. 

You’ve just traded one rat race for another.

It seems like almost every financial independence blogger has some sort of crisis of identity as soon as they reach their number. Many wind up in therapy trying to make sense of the malaise.

Others ruin their relationships because they put their pig headed dogma ahead of everything and everyone else.

If you’re not obsessive and dogmatic, this probably won’t happen to you. But you will have to deal with something else.

For most normal, well-functioning adults these prescriptions will break down at some point. Here’s why.

Life doesn’t conform to a one page, one time plan.

It’s not a steady, predictable affair. As we grow and mature, we encounter challenge, change, growth and decay.

A static, one time, one-page plan cannot and will not predict and account for every movement of your incredibly dynamic and unique life.

And when it breaks, most people internalise the failure and recast it as a weakness in their character.

So, like the yoyo dieter most people switch to another sexy system that promises effortless success. This ceaseless transition is tiring and with every failure we accumulate more baggage while slowly losing confidence in ourselves.  

It’s hardly a recipe for financial success if you ask me.

Now, before you rush to defend your personal finance guru and their prescription, let me clarify my point.

I’m not saying saving is not important. Of course it is.

I’m also not saying these personal finance prescriptions are ‘bad’.

I’m saying they aren’t the solution to money worries.

The point I’m making is personal finance prescriptions are about as good as resolving financial stress as anti depressants are at resolving depression. 

They work predictably for a period, but ultimately treat the symptoms and ignore the cause. 

So, what’s the cause?

Glad you asked. Let’s get to the heart of the matter.

The real cause of money worries

The real cause of money worries is not a lack of saving. It’s one insidious question.

If we can’t readily answer this question, it gnaws at us constantly. Robbing us of our personal presence by ripping our attention out of the now and forcing us to live in fear of an uncertain future.

We’re not always consciously aware of this question, but as soon as you see it you’ll recognise it.

It’s the pervasive pest you’ve been dealing with your entire life. Are you ready to meet your nemesis?

Ok, here’s it is: ‘am I going to be ok?’

This one question is at the center of all financial anxiety. And it’s because we tend to project all our hopes, fears and dreams onto money. 

We give money the impossible job of fixing all our problems, and this causes us to fixate on money itself and largely ignore the way we’re interacting with it.

Embedded in that statement is the truth. It’s not how much money we have that causes financial stress but how we use it.

According to the Buddha, doubt is one of the five hindrances to a clear understanding of truth and spiritual progress.

Basically, to dispel doubt is to advance progress.

It’s worth noting here that when the Buddha says ‘progress’ this context, he’s talking not talking about material achievement.

He’s talking about movement toward an inner state of enlightenment.

This gives us an important clue: the way to fix financial anxiety is to interact with money in manner which enables us to answer that question: ‘am I going to be ok?’.

Any action or set of actions that helps us conquer doubt by addressing that question will resolve any fear or anxiety surrounding money.

Remember our mate Shawn Achor: happiness is the key to success. Not the other way around.

Personal finance prescriptions assume that saving money alone addresses the ‘am I going to be ok?’ question and are therefore valid solutions to all money problems. 

I hope by now you can see that they aren’t and they won’t.

So, if saving won’t save us, and personal finance prescriptions aren’t helping – what will?

The only way to save money sustainably and fix financial anxiety

The secret ‘solution’ is not a popular prescription that promises to help you reach some fanciful financial destination.

It’s a mindful money practice that’s designed to dispel doubt by dealing with the crippling question that creates it.

We call it money mapping.

It’s a monthly ritual that can be cultivated to solve money worries at the source, as opposed to merely soothing the symptoms.

Those who have mastered this practiced have managed to transcend money worries without having to have millions in the bank.  

Yes they save money. Quite a lot in fact. But that’s not the important factor.

The important factor is the how this happens and the way they feel about it.

Here’s just a few examples of the kinds of things we hear all the time from those we’ve taught to master the practice of money mapping.

I didn’t think I would ever say this by but we literally felt like we had too much money if that is a thing. Like we literally felt like we splurged in everything and then was like…. crap what now?

Helen W

Zen Money Master

The money mapping has seriously relaxed me alot. For the first time in my life I’m not counting down the days until I get payed

Caitlin H

Zen Money Master

I feel like I’ve been shown the secret to a financially stress free life. I’m only five weeks in and I feel like I’ve learned so much already

alexis M

Zen Money Master

Do these sound like the words of people who are killing themselves to save money?  

This is what distinguishes the Zen money master from the fanatical money hoarder.

They don’t trade todays time for tomorrow’s money, and they don’t tie themselves in knots to form fit their life to a rigid prescription.

They’ve mastered a mindful practice that connects with their vision, aligns with their values and moves with their life.

Because of that, they manage to save money sustainably while also living comfortably.

Want to know how?

BJ Fogg is the Albert Einstein of behavior science. He’s the reason we’re all addicted to Instagram. He’s also the reason that if given a choice you’re ordering an uber before calling a taxi.

Here’s his number one insight: we don’t change by feeling bad. We change by feeling good.

Then, as we accumulate experiences in which we feel like we’re winning, we collect evidence that proves we can win.

It’s this evidence that then begins to form the foundations of a new, evolved identity.

And identity is what automates behavior.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits uses a great example to explain this point. The vegetarian doesn’t have to rely on willpower to resist that juicy T bone steak. But the protein seeking body builder does.

That’s because it’s identity that informs process, and process generates outcomes. 

This is the secret of the Zen money master: by leveraging this sequence they’ve learned to love the journey en route to the destination.

Because of that, saving money and investing is sustainable, which makes progress and success inevitable.

Plenty of would be investors save money obsessively, but still stress incessantly. Often these people are project their fantasy onto investing. Believing that ‘putting my money to work’ will resolve their anxiety.

Many of these types come to us asking for help around investing. Then baulk when we inquire about how they’re managing their money.

They’ll say things like: I’m good with saving. I just want help with learning how to invest.

It’s just another example of hedonic adaptation. We’re forever looking to the horizon instead of finding joy in the present.

The answer is not how much money you have or will have. It’s how you’re using the money you have right now. 

One of molecular biologist John Medina’s 12 Brain rules is ‘a stressed brain doesn’t learn’.

It’s damn hard to think clearly and make good money decisions if your brains’ bandwidth is being chewed up by that incessant question: ‘am I going to be ok?’

So when you master a mindful money practice, you’ll save money sustainably. This is how you’ll be able to invest consistently and intelligently.

Now, let’s look at how money mapping actually works.

How to Cultivate a Mindful Money Practice

Ok, so by now you know that prescriptions that promise to help you supercharge your savings won’t help you stress less.

You’ve gotten to the heart of the problem, and now have an insight into the solution.

It’s time to get more specific.

The table below shows you exactly how money mapping differs from the afore mentioned personal finance prescriptions. This is the best way to understand how it works.

Personal finance prescriptions

  • Focused on a savings rate
  • Set and forget
  • Based on the ‘average month’
  • Allocates new money
  • Works with percentages
  • Reviewed annually/never
  • Optimises for what you save

Mindful money practice

  • Focused on funding life goals
  • Calibrated monthly
  • Based on the actual month
  • Allocates old money
  • Works with real numbers
  • Reviewed monthly
  • Optimises for how you spend

So now that you know what money mapping is, let’s look at how it can be cultivated and mastered.  And even more importantly, how it works to free us from the throes of money worries for good.

Money mapping is a practice. It’s not a prescription.

It’s built on the careful and deliberate application of universal principles instead of specific instructions.

This is because principles can be adapted to suit many contexts. Instructions often apply to a certain context and conditions.

There are seven foundational principles that underpin the practice of money mapping.

Think of these like a series of money moves that work together in concert to give you the information and insight you need. 

Once you pair this info and insight with the right action, you’ll be able to dispel doubt, and save money sustainably.

Mastering the practice of these seven principles is how you learn to free yourself from money worries for good. 

Let’s walk through each in a bit more detail.  

Seven Principles for Mastering the Practice of Money Mapping

Money mapping principle


Focus on funding life goals,

Not maximising your savings rate

Set a long-term vision for your life. Not a financial target.

Princeton psychologist Emily Pronin showed that when we struggle imagine our future selves, we are less likely to save and invest our money. The reason?

We lack empathy for future us.

You can’t create a future you haven’t imagined. And you won’t care for future you if they feel like a stranger.

So use your imagination to create a reality that compels you to consider how your immediate choices might impact it and an evolved version of you.

Also, think about experiences you want to enjoy along the way. Make these shorter-term milestones that feel reachable and doable right now.

When you have a defined job for your money, you’ll think much more clearly and make much better decisions about spending in the now.

Decision science tells us that we make much better decisions when we think in terms of tradeoffs.

When you have clear jobs for future dollars, every dollar you spend now is a tradeoff against that future.

Do you want those sexy jeans more than you want that tropical winter holiday you’ve got planned? 

Do you want to put 100% of your savings toward the holiday, or 50% toward the holiday and 50% toward your investing portfolio?

It’s not about restriction, It’s about consciously choosing what you want your money to do for you.

The word decision means ‘to cut away’. This means that act of deciding is the act of creating. Every choice leads you down a different path of possibilities.

With an arbitrary savings target it’s a very different choice. To have (the jeans) or not have. To look good or save money?

Can you see how restricting this is?

So by focusing on funding life goals instead of simply saving money, you’ll create a clearer picture of the future you, and find the balance between funding your dreams and fulfilling your desires.

The bottom line? Improved judgement without the need for willpower.

That’s the first step, but don’t stop there. Now we need to connect our bigger picture to a pathway that’s gets us there.

Money mapping principle


Calibrate monthly,

don’t set and forget. 

Set clear and concrete intentions for how you’ll manage your money at the beginning of each month.

Consciously choosing what you want your money to do for you means actively allocating money toward the goals you’re funding (saving), paying the bills and living well now.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘who has time to sit down and do that every month?’

You do.

Do me a favour and take a quick look at your screen time report on your smart phone. If you’re anything like the average ‘user’, you’ll spend around 3 hours and fifteen minutes of your prescious time glued to that thing every day.

That’s more than ninety hours a month. Reckon you could claw back just fifteen minutes to completely obliterate financial stress?

Here’s what will happen if you do.

That fifteen minutes will eliminate all the time you spent worrying about money for the rest of the month. You’ll get all that time back.

Want to know why?

It’s because you’ve already considered what’s coming and decided how you’ll manage it. There’s no need to worry it about it endlessly.

The only thing to do is enact your plan and deal with what comes up along the way.

This is incredibly freeing and weirdly addictive.

For a long time, I couldn’t work out why, but it turns our science has the answer. 

Dr Alex Korb is a well-respected neuroscientist at UCLA, and author of critically acclaimed book the upward spiral. 

He’s been studying the brain for the last couple decades for the specific purpose of improving the human experience. So he knows a thing or two about how to hack the brains circuitry to maximise human happiness.

Here’s what he wrote about what consciously choosing does to the monkey mind.

The very act of consciously deciding, creating intentions and setting goals engages the prefrontal cortex in a very positive way, immediately reducing worry and anxiety.

But that’s not all.

Did you know that when you actively reduce stress, you are less susceptible to making poor decisions in the moment?

It’s true. Stanford health psychologist Kelly Mcgonigal has shown that a stressed brain is highly prone to seeking relief and reward.

So when you invest just 15 minutes a month to consciously set an intention for this months money, you’ll worry less and live more.

But to do this properly, it’s critical you think about what is likely to happen. Not what often happens.

Money mapping principle


Plan for the actual month,

not the average month. 

Ok, so you’ve got a compelling vision and you’ve avoided the set and forget approach. Here’s how to set your monthly money intention.

Grab last month’s numbers and have them ready for referencing (if you don’t have this readily accessible through tracking tools or tech just download your bank statements).

Then, get your calendar out and look at what’s coming up within the next thirty days.

Are there birthdays, weddings?

Is car registration due this month?

Are you getting your taxes done?

Cross reference your past spending patterns for variable costs with what’s coming up.

Then decide what you want to pay yourself (save for funding your life goals), before paying others (taking care of the bills) and living your life (spending in line with your values). 

This is where that fifteen minutes a month is spent: proactively planning how to use your money.

You don’t have to get this right, close enough is good enough.

Herbert Simon was a smart fella. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for economics for coming up with the idea of satisficing.

Here’s his main insight: when making decisions with incomplete information, we can do one of two things:

  • Find optimum solutions for a simplified reality (personal finance prescriptions)
  • Find satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world (mindful money practice)

Here’s why we advocate the second approach over the first when it comes to managing your money.

When you plan ahead thinking about the actual month, you can anticipate upcoming costs.

This massively reduces your financial stress because you’re not surprised when that $800 car rego bill drops into your inbox. You’ve already accounted for it and you know how you’ll work it into this month’s spending plan.

This sounds like a small point but it’s not.

When we act like life doesn’t change and should conform to our one time set and forget plan, we set ourselves up for disappointment and a feeling of failure.

Eventually our expectations will be violated (say hello new car tyres or house maintenance bill). When this happens, we experience a sudden drop in our sense of control.

This makes us feel more vulnerable and insecure.

Plus, we often internalise and recharacterise the event as a problem relating to our self-control. We begin to accumulate evidence that ‘I just can’t seem to control my spending’.

Remember BJ Fogg’s insight? We don’t change by feeling bad, we change by feeling good.

Now, let’s look at how mapping ‘old money’ is the best way to supercharge that winning feeling.

Money mapping principle


Allocate old money,

not new money.  

Ok so now you’ve created clear and compelling goals that give your money a job. And you’re mapping your money to the upcoming month.

Let’s talk about how to do that in a way that helps you eliminate that feeling that you’re ‘living pay to pay’.

Old money is money you earned and kept from past efforts. It’s your savings.

When you map old money, you allocate money you already have to execute the plan you layed out at the start of the month.

Using old money to enact your monthly intention, allows you to effectively decouple incomings from outgoings.

Jesse Mecham wrote the book on budgeting. No really, it’s called You Need a Budget. I highly recommend it.

He also came up with a great way to illustrate the difference between old money and new money. Just think of one of those cereal dispensers you see at a hotel continental breakfast. 

The cereal (money) that gets poured in the top of the dispenser is new money.

The cereal (money) that is close to the valve is old money.

The more old money you have, the easier it is to smooth out cashflow fluctuations.

If you can get to the equivalent of two months expenses set aside as old money, you can effectively set up a one-month float. You’ll also have a nice cash cushion that can absorb any unexpected costs that fall well outside the norm.

This one simple concept is one of the most impactful ways you can reduce your financial stress. Here’s why.

Regardless of how much you have saved, spending money as it comes in makes you feel poor.

It’s like trying to clutch at sand as it slips through your fingers. You never quite feel like you have a handle on things.

Harvard economist Sendhill Mullainathan showed that feeling poor puts a ‘tax’ on our cognition. This actually causes our IQ to drop by up to 10 points!!

Remember the millionaires I mentioned earlier who thought they were poor? Well this is why.

Spending new money is the number one reason why people who are mostly doing ok in terms of their earning capacity come into our program saying things like: 

 ‘I don’t know where it all goes’

‘I just don’t feel like we’re getting ahead’

Embedding in those two statements is the clue to solving money worries at the source. You need to ‘know’ because if you rely on how you ‘feel’ your lizard brain is likely to lead you astray.

The only way to know for sure is to map old money and then work with real numbers.

Money mapping principle


Work with real numbers,

not arbitrary percentages.  

When you’re mapping the money you already have to the month that’s about to begin, don’t think in terms of arbitrary percentages. Look at the costs you’ll incur and match the money you allocate to the actual amounts you expect to spend.

Don’t mindlessly set and forget an automated prescription of 50% for expenses, 30% for discretionary spending and 20% for saving.

Each month, look at how your fixed costs (things like rent/mortgage, child care etc) are likely to interact with your variable costs (electricity, travel, upcoming events etc) and come up with a specific dollar amount you intend to save, pay the bills with, and use to live the good life.

Then, deliberately shift these exact amounts into the various accounts you’ve marked for each of these purposes.

I know I know. You’ve been told that automating is supposed to improve self control and make it easier to manage your money.

But how could that be?

If you’ve automated your finances you haven’t controlled yourself, you’ve ignored yourself.

You’ve ignored reality too.

Using percentages creates a kind of cognitive distance between you and your behaviour. It’s called abstraction.

You already know how abstraction works. Just scroll through your Facebook feed to the next venom fueled political argument and observe the obscenities ‘friends’ hurl at each other so readily.

Basically, the more psychological distance between you and the reality of your decisions and actions, the more likely you are to deceive yourself.

More distance also means you’re less likely to take responsibility for your decisions and actions.

It’s called ethical fading and it’s a dangerous tendency in all of us. Want proof?

Ethical fading explains how Heinrich Himler of Nazi fame dreamed up ‘the final solution’

The more you work with real numbers, the more you’ll deal with reality.

Many people who come into our program are shocked at how much things that are either unimportant ($30 café brekkies on the reg) or detrimental (alcohol) to their health, wealth and happiness.

Working with real numbers allows us to confront reality and deal with it constructively.

Working with real numbers also ensures your personal finances flex and adapt to your actual life. Not the fictional one you created when you adopted the set and forget approach.

That’s important because it allows you to increase the gap between what you earn and spend during the good times, while protecting you from the feeling of failure during leaner times.

Think about it. If you’ve automated 20% of your income to savings, then whenever your income rises in any meaningful way so will your spending. It has to.

It’s the law of induced demand. It’s the reason you eat more when the fridge is full. Money is no different. More money in the account designated for spending means more money will be spent.

This robs you of easily increasing your savings rate when times are good and creates the conditions for lifestyle creep as you increase your income over time.

And when things go bad, working with real numbers allows you to move with the times and maintain a sense of control and choice.

That feeling of being on top of things is best felt by verifying what actually happened at the end of each month.

Money mapping principle


Review progress monthly,

not annually or never.  

So, you’re working with old money and real numbers when you map your money. You’re on a roll. The next step is closing the loop.

At the end of every month, reflect on how you did. This is just about answering one simple question: how closely did reality match your intention?

Did you end up saving what you planned to save? Or did you have to pull from savings?

Did you end up spending what you thought you’d spend on bills?

Did you end up spending what you thought you’d spend on living the good life?

Answering these questions is just a matter of tracking your money. Today’s tech tools and internet banking makes this insanely easy and efficient.

In fact, many tools now actually do this for you, you just need to check how accurate it was at the end of each month. For me, this takes about 5 minutes at the end of each month.

Investing that five minutes will give you an accurate picture of reality, which optimises behavior and speeds up learning and progress.

Ever used a smartwatch or your smart phone to track your steps?

Notice how after a few days you’ll start looking for opportunities to ‘get some steps in’? 

That’s because of something called the Hawthorne effect. It’s the tendency for humans to improve any behavior we shine a light on.

So when we track spending and use the data to create a feedback loop, our behavior tends to better reflect our best intentions.

Tracking and reporting on results also makes our progress much more visible.

If there is one motivation hack that really works, it’s working to make progress visible. The brain is cybernetic, which just means it’s a problem solving, goal seeking machine.

So when we make progress visible, it’s like feeding Tony Robbins speed: there’s just no stopping us.

Tracking and reporting on a monthly basis also breaks our big effort (funding our dream life) down into smaller more discrete projects (monthly money missions)

This actually makes it fun.

How? Well it turns every month into a game.

According to Dr Jason Fox, Global thought leader in motivation science and game design: there are three components in every game: a goal, scoreboard and rules.

By setting intentions for how we’ll save and spend each month we create clear goals. By tracking and collating the results we create a scoreboard. By not robbing anyone of money or goods to hit our targets we play within the rules.

Remember, what is enjoyable becomes sustainable because we don’t change by feeling bad. We change by feeling good.

Tracking and reporting monthly turns your infinite game (the dream life you’re building) into a finite game.

Finite games allow us to set and reset our approach more easily.

If for some reason your spending plan blew out this month, you’ve always got next month to look forward to.

This means you’re much less likely to internalise failure and attribute the result to your character. This creates a healthy level of detachment which dramatically improves our ability to be consistent.

If you’re tracking and reporting monthly, there is only one way to fail: quit.

See timely, relevant feedback speeds up learning – which powers progress.

But it’s not all about dollars in dollars out and progress toward goals, it’s also about finding fulfilment in the process.

Money mapping principle


Focus on how you spent,

not what you saved.  


After you’ve reviewed the results of the monthly money mission. Check your progress against the bigger picture goals. Then, inquire within.

In our program we ask our members to rate themselves on two simple scales: alignment and fulfilment.

To assess each, plot your spending on a five-point scale.

For alignment, a score of 1 would indicate your spending was influenced heavily by your desires and as a result you felt like you made little progress toward your dreams.

A score of five would indicate you felt like you spent in a way that best reflected your dreams and supercharged your progress. 

For fulfilment, a score of 1 would indicate that you felt like you scrimped too hard and deprived yourself of the things you care about.

A score of 5 would indicate you felt you were spending in line with your values.

For example: If you can’t already tell, I love reading. So if I deprive myself of buying books I instantly feel unfulfilled.   

However, I have little interest in fashion. So (much to Ryan’s disgust) I basically wear three sets of clothes for summer and winter.

If I spent 3k on books in a month, I’d struggle to fund my life goals. I might feel a sense of fulfilment, but that would be tempered by the obvious impact on my progress. 

If I focused on funnelling every spare cent into my investing portfolio, then I’m likely to feel good about my progress, but that too would be tempered by what I sacrificed to get it.

Are you getting it?

Consistently cross referencing your external results with your internal experience is how you find your sweet spot.

Finding your sweet spot for spending is what makes saving enjoyable and sustainable. When saving becomes sustainable, longer-term financial success is inevitable.

This is because it’s the way we spend that dictates whether or not we wind up saving.

The more aimless we are with our spending, the less likely we’ll be saving.

The more intentional we are with our spending, the more likely it is we’ll be saving.

The way we spend is lead action that determines the lag outcome of saving.

Acting on the lead measures is the way to change the lag outcomes, so it makes sense to focus on what we can control (the way we spend) rather than what results (whether or not we save).

Obsessively focusing on savings can easily lead us astray. It’s like obsessively weighing yourself while ignoring what you’re eating, and refusing to exercise. 

Saving is the result. Spending is the process.

Like every good coach says: focus on the process and the result will take care of itself.

Remember, without action there can be no transformation

Ok we’re here. You now know everything you need to know to crack the code. 

Seriously, this is all you need to know to be able to save money sustainably and free yourself from money worries. 

But whether or not this makes a difference in your life doesn’t depend on this information.

It depends on how you put this information into action.

To enact this information you have two choices.

You can go it alone and cut your own path through the jungle.

There are good reasons why you might want to do this. We often value skills differently if we acquired them ourselves.

Think about how you felt when you finally figured out how to tied your shoe laces. 

It can be immensely satisfying to figure things out for yourself. crafting the tools and techniques that enable our members to master this practice in 3 months has been a labour of love.

But it also took us about two years of research and development. 

So if you’re more interested in the result and would rather not spend time figuring out what’s already been figured out, the best thing to do is collapse time by piggybacking off our blood sweat and tears. 

If you’re in that latter group, we’ve created the 12 week money mentorship just for you.

We’ve baked these seven principles into a 12 week personal development program that is specifically designed to do one thing.

Help you master the practice of money mapping – fast.

It’s as reliable as clockwork and it is changing lives.

To find out more, just click here.


Terry Condon

Terry is the co founder of Cashflow Co and chief education officer. His super power is breaking big ideas down into bite sized chunks and his secret pleasure is watching members transcend their money stories and transform their personal finances. 

Resources and links

Happiness is the key to success, not the other way round.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. and Diener, E., 2005. The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?. Psychological Bulletin, [online] 131(6), pp.803-855. Available at: <>.

We tend to shift the goal posts on ourselves. 

We don’t change by feeling bad. We change by feeling good. 

Identity shapes behaviour and leads to outcomes. 

A stressed brain doesn’t learn

When we struggle to imagine our future selves, we’re less likely to save and invest.

Lyubomirsky, S., King, L. and Diener, E., 2005. The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?. Psychological Bulletin, [online] 131(6), pp.803-855. Available at: <>.

Tradeoffs improve decision making. 

Parrish, S., 2020. Tradeoffs: The Currency Of Decision Making. [online] Farnam Street. Available at: <>.

A stressed brain seeks reward and relief.

Chun, H., V.M. Patrick, and D.J. MacInnis. 2007. Making Prudent vs Impulsive Choices: The role of Anticipated Shame and Guilt on Consumer Self Control. Advances in Consumer Research (34), pp. 715-719

Making decisions reduces stress and anxiety. 

Feeling poor makes us dumber. 

Poverty Impedes Cognitive FunctionAnandi Mani, Sendhil Mullainathan, Eldar Shafir, and Jiaying Zhao, Science 30 August 2013, Vol. 341 no. 6149 pp. 969-970, DOI: 10.1126/science.1244172

Shining a light on our behaviour tends to improve it via the Hawthorne Effect.

Abstraction makes us less likely to take responsibility for our actions.

Tenbrunsel, A. and Messick, D., 2004. Ethical Fading: The Role of Self-Deception in Unethical Behavior. Social Justice Research, 17(2), pp.223-236.

Satisficing helps us make decisions in the face of irreducible uncertainty. 

English, A., 2016. Understanding Bounded Rationality And Satisficing. [online] Medium. Available at: <>.

Making progress visible is the most potent motivator for humans.

Amabile, T. and Kramer, S., 2011. The Power Of Small Wins. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: <> [Accessed 2020].

Games increase motivation and are comprised of goals, rules and a scoreboard.

Feedback speeds up learning and improves performance. 

Ericsson, K., Krampe, R. and Tesch-Römer, C., 1993. The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, [online] 100(3), pp.363-406. Available at <>.

To get results, focus on the lead actions.