The key to improving Your Financial Health – Step 3

As promised, here’s the next instalment in my guide to achieving Financial Health.  If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend reading the previous 2 steps, before you continue with this article.

Improving Your Financial Health – Step 1

Improving Your Financial Health – Step 2

Improving Your Financial Health – Step 3

To have choice

In “Step 1″ I mentioned a number of phrases that encapsulate what “Financial Health” or “Freedom” meant to me, I have included them below.

Full awareness – (of my Financial Position)
The ability to be open and honest – (with my family)
To have choice – (where we spend our money)
Ability to handle “surprises”
Guilt Free Spending

In this post, we are looking at the 3rd phrase, To Have Choice – (where we spend our money)

Grasping this idea, is one of the most single most freeing things you can do for yourself and your financial health situation.  Take your “choice” back when it comes to finances & spending.

I have personally found it invaluable and see the amazing effect it has on others, as they get to grips with the concept and implement it over time.  The truth is, you can have most anything you want, but consciously knowing what you REALLY want is key.  The choices you then make come from a more balanced place.

Let’s face it, it is rare, unless you are in the top 1-5% financially, that you can have everything!  Having to make choices is inevitable, what I want to be sure of is that we FEEL we really have a choice.  That’s the freedom side. Having choice is aligned very closely to peoples idea of happiness, for many it’s seen as rite! Often, particularly with financial decisions, we feel bound to take a particular path.  We feel there is no choice!

Some things we want are pure fantasy right ?  Some things are a necessity, I HAVE to have it/do it/spend it.  NO! I want to share with you an example from my own life.  One which shaped a number of decisions I’ve made since, and not just in my financial health planning.

Say hello to your inner child

Children's financial health
Start financial health checks at a young age

I’ll talk about my “inner child” here.  It’s a concept a number of people are familiar with, in this case it’s that little part of you that says “I want xxxxxx“.  I’d always tried to quiet that voice, to shut it up or ignore it, saying, “you can’t have that!”, “don’t be ridiculous!”, “how can we afford that!” etc etc etc.  What I found was that voice just got stronger, “I really want xxxxxx” or “I’ve just got to have xxxxxx“, and on and on, the cycle went.  I would feel dissatisfied, I never had enough, life wasn’t “fair”.  Any of this sound familiar ?  The more I tried to push that voice down the more I would want to do whatever “it” was, and the more dissatisfied I became.  I had to break the cycle.

When it happened for me, it was a revelation, and I’ve been grateful for it every since.  The concept was introduced to me by my Guru, in the UK, about 8 or so years ago.  I kept saying “I really want an Aston Martin DB9”,  I had pictures of it on my computer wallpaper, I knew the stats, I was even upset when I heard they TRASHED 6 or so of them making the remake of the Bond film – Casino Royale.  They could have given me just one of them!  Although I had this dream, it didn’t make me happy, I didn’t believe I would really ever be able to get it.  I DIDN’T HAVE THE CHOICE.

My guru challenged me to fully accept the desires my inner child had.  To “work with it” to help it FULLY investigate the actuality of having an Aston Martin.  I was uncomfortable with this approach at first, but I went with it.  I truly looked into what it would take to have one.  What would it cost, insurance, purchase, lease costs, fuel, maintenance etc.  I got quite excited, I was taking this seriously and you know, it turned out I COULD have an Aston Martin. It did come with some choices. However, even before making any decisions, I noticed something…

My desire to have an Aston Martin had diminished significantly

The more of a possibility it became, the less strongly I felt about getting one.  To this day, I still like the idea of owning the prestigious Aston, but I am totally at peace with whether I have one, or not.  In fact, I would go as far as to say I rarely think about getting one.

Now I had a choice… I could actively choose one thing over another.  Once I was fully aware of all the facts, the need diminished, I could make a decision I would be at peace with.

The other thing that happened at the time, was I realized I no longer resented the things I felt were holding me back.  I was no longer trapped by the life I had, by the restrictions I had felt were placed on me.  It became clear, although I could have had the car, I would have to sell the house & live in the car. The house was our family home, I love my family, therefore (and this is important) as my desire had subsided, I could fully understand and enjoy the life I already had. No resentment, with full ownership for the choices I made.

financial health is freedomI have reminded myself about this example many times in my life, and eventually it becomes an ingrained attitude.  Your car is off the road, you feel like you have no choice but to spend all this money to get it fixed. Do you feel angry? “NOW I have to spend $$$$ getting this car fixed.”  Truth is you don’t.  You can not get the car fixed! You can walk, take public transport, ask friends for a ride.  But you want the convenience of driving yourself… so now you WANT to get the car fixed.  There is a huge difference, a difference in how you feel.

The multi pot budgeting approach, then helps further with this concept.  You put money away for things you need/want and are a priority for you.  Then when they happen, you have ALREADY made the choice to spend the money, after all, you saved specifically for this situation.  Even less stress.

In summary

  1. You always have choice, you just have to be at peace with the outcome
  2. Always pay attention to your inner child, ignore it at your peril
  3. My Multi pot budget approach is built on choice, on understanding what is important to you & then working to provide it

The History and benefits of Reiki explained in five minutes

The History and benefits of Reiki explained in five minutes

get-reiki benefits of reikiA number of people have requested more information about the history and  benefits of Reiki, so I felt it would be useful to include the text I was given when I took my first Reiki class and received my level 1 attunement.  There is a lot of background here, but it gives a really good feel for where Reiki originated from, what it can do, and how it came to its current form.  It also addresses some of the more controversial matters around the cost of Reiki attunements.  These are just facts as I had them delivered to me, so please take them as such.

Click here to discover my personal Reiki program and how I can help you…

The History and benefits of Reiki

There are two different stories surrounding the history of Reiki. The first story and the one that is mentioned most commonly in the books available on Reiki portray Dr. Mikao Usui as a Christian. The second story claims the Dr. Usui was in fact a Buddhist Monk.


Dr. Mikao Usui

Dr Usui - History of Reiki -benefits of reiki Dr. Mikao Usui was born in Japan on August 15, 1865. The more common story about Dr. Usui states that he was the Principal of Doshisha University, a Christian university near Kyoto in Japan. It says that one of his students asked him about healing and why people could no longer heal the way Jesus could. As he could not answer the question, he resigned from the university and started out on his quest for healing. He is supposed to have travelled to Chicago where he studied for 7 years and received a degree in technology.

A letter from Doshisha University in Japan where Dr. Usui is supposed to have taught and a letter from Chicago University (Divinity School) both show that they have no knowledge of any Mikao Usui having either taught or studied at either establishment. In fact the University of Chicago did not even exist in the time when Dr. Usui was thought to have studied there. It is thought that Mrs. Hawayo Takata believed that if she introduced Dr. Usui as a Buddhist monk during the 1940’s then no-one would be interested in Reiki as the visions of Pearl Harbour were still fresh in the memories of the American people.

The other Story that has been verified to some extent and is more plausible is that Dr. Usui was interested in healing and the life of Buddha. He wondered why Buddha and his disciples could heal physical illness and why this power had been lost.

Dr. Usui made it his life’s work to rediscover how to heal the physical body. He started by visiting various Buddhist temples to ask the monks if they knew how to heal the physical body. Invariably the answer was a negative one. They were concentrating on the mind, as it is the belief of Buddhists that all disease comes from the mind first.

One of the monks of a Zen monastery he approached told Dr. Usui that they no longer knew how to heal the body. They used to, but this had been lost over the years through disuse. The monk was also interested in healing and he invited Dr. Usui to study with them and in so doing, granted him access to their secret library. In order to study these manuscripts Dr. Usui eventually had to learn Sanskrit. It was in the Indian Sutras, written in Sanskrit that he found part of his answer. Dr. Usui discovered a formula that would allow him to contact a higher power in his meditation.

Dr. Usui decided to go to the holy mountain of Kurama to fast and meditate for a period of 21 days. Dr. Usui sat on top of the mountain with 21 stones in front of him. Every day at dawn he would throw another stone away and spend the rest of the day in deep meditation. On the twenty first day he threw the last stone away and shortly afterwards saw a very bright light in the horizon that was coming straight at him. He realised that this light contained a message and he was about to receive what he had been looking for all of his life. The light was incredibly strong and he realised that in order for him to receive the instructions the light would have to strike him, he knew that as the light was so powerful it might even be too much for him and it might have killed him. Dr. Usui had a choice of whether of not he wanted to accept the light. He decided to receive the light and accept whatever may happen to him, he had no idea of the benefits of Reiki that were to come.

The light Struck Dr. Usui on his third eye and knocked him unconscious for some time. During this period of unconsciousness Dr. Usui had an out of body experience and was shown a bubble of light with various symbols in them. He memorised the symbols and as he did so he received an attunement from the light so that he was able to use the symbols. This is how Dr. Usui was initiated to Reiki.

When Dr. Usui regained consciousness he was full of energy even though he had not eaten for the past 21 days. He set off to go back to the monastery and as he came down the mountain he tripped and his toe started to bleed. Instinctively he put his hands around the toe, the bleeding stopped and the pain went away. He knew then that he had received some healing powers with this first experience of the benefits of Reiki. On his way back he had a full meal, which is something you simply cannot do after fasting for 21 days. The meal caused no adverse effects on him whatsoever. During his meal the innkeeper’s daughter who had a very bad toothache was attending him. Dr. Usui felt that he could help her and so placed his hands near her jaw where the pain was. After only a few minutes the pain had gone.

Reiki treatment - History of Reiki -benefits of reikiBack at the monastery, he discovered that the abbot was in bed crippled with Arthritis. He proceeded to relate his experience and at the same time successfully treated his friend’s problem.

Dr. Usui then spent the next 7 years taking care of sick people in the slums of Tokyo. Unfortunately he noticed some of the beggars that, although cured of physical illness, had returned to a life of begging. He spoke to many of these beggars and came to realise that for these people the life here was far easier than the life in the mainstream society where they had the worry of money for paying bills etc. Dr. Usui had realised his mistake and that the person receiving healing must ask for it and that there must be an exchange of energy. This can be money, goods, work or anything really. Without the person asking for healing or exchanging energy he believed the healing would not work.

After this realisation, Dr. Usui went around Japan and looked for people who wanted to be healed. He practiced and taught the benefits of Reiki throughout Japan for the remainder of his life. Before his death on 9 March 1926, he gave the master  Reiki attunement to 16 teachers, one of whom was Dr. Chujiro Hayashi.

The Emperor of Japan heavily decorated Dr. Usui; he is buried at Saihoji temple in the Toyotama district of Tokyo. On the following pages is a translation in English from the inscription on Usui’s Memorial –


“Someone who studies hard (i.e. practices Reiki meditation) and works assiduously to improve body and mind for the sake of becoming a better person is called “a man of great spirit.” People who use that Great Spirit for a social purpose, that is, to teach the right way to many people and do collective good, are called “teachers.” Dr. Usui was one such teacher. He taught the Reiki of the universe (universal energy). Countless people came to him and asked him to teach them the great way of Reiki and to heal them.

Dr. Usui was born in the first year of the Keio period, called Keio Gunnen, on August 15th (1864). His first name was Mikaomi and his other name is pronounced Gyoho (or Kyoho). He was born in the village of Yago in the Yamagata district of Gifu prefecture. His ancestor’s name is Tsunetane Chiba. His father’s name was Uzaemon. His mother’s family name was Kawaai. From what is known, he was a talented and hard-working student. As an adult he travelled to several Western countries and China to study, worked arduously, but did at point run into some bad luck. However he didn’t give up and trained himself arduously.

One day he went to Mount Kurama on a 21-day retreat to fast and meditate. At the end of this period he suddenly felt the great Reiki energy at the top of his head, which led to the Reiki healing system. He first used Reiki on himself and then tried it on his family. Since it worked well for various ailments, he decided to share this knowledge with the public at large. He opened a clinic in Harajuku, Aoyama Tokyo—in April of the 11th year of the Taisho period (in 1921). He not only gave treatment to countless patients, some of whom had come from far and wide, but he also hosted workshops to spread his knowledge. In September of the twelfth year of the Taisho period (1923), the devastating Kanto earthquake shook Tokyo. Thousands were killed, injured, or became sick in its aftermath. Dr. Usui grieved for his people, but he also took Reiki to the devastated city and used its healing powers on the surviving victims. His clinic soon became too small to handle the throng of patients, so in February of the 14th year of the Taisho period (1924), he built a new one outside Tokyo in Nakano. His fame spread quickly all over Japan and invitations to distant towns and villages started coming in. Once he went to Kure, another time to Hiroshima prefecture, then to Saga prefecture and Fukuyama.

It was during his stay in Fukuyama that he was hit by a fatal stroke on March 9th, of the fifteenth year of the Taisho period (1926). He was 62 years of age. Dr. Usui had a wife named Sadako; her maiden name was Suzuki. They had a son and a daughter. The son, Fuji Usui took over the family business after Dr. Usui’s passing.

Dr. Usui was a very warm, simple and humble person. He was physically healthy and well proportioned. He never showed off and always had a smile on his face; he was also very courageous in the face of adversity. He was, at the same time, a very cautious person. His talents were many. He liked to read, and his knowledge of medicine, psychology, fortune telling and theology of religions around the world was vast. This life-long habit of studying and gathering information certainly helped pave the way to perceiving and understanding Reiki. (I think this refers to his experience on Mount Kurama). Reiki therapy not only heals diseases, but also amplifies innate abilities, balances the spirit, makes the body healthy, and thus helps achieve happiness. To teach this to others you should follow the five principles of the Meiji Emperor and contemplate them in your heart.

They should be spoken daily, once in the morning and once in the evening.

1) Don’t get angry today.
2) Don’t worry today.
3) Be grateful today.
4) Work hard today (meditative practice).
5) Be kind to others today.

The ultimate goal is to understand the ancient secret method for gaining happiness (Reiki) and thereby discover an all-purpose cure for many ailments. If these principles are followed you will achieve the great tranquil mind of the ancient sages. To begin spreading the Reiki system, it is important to start from a place close to you (yourself), don’t start from something distant such as philosophy or logic.

Sit still and in silence every morning and every evening with your hands folded in the “Ghasso” or “Namaste”. Follow the great principles, and be clean and quiet. Work on your heart and do things from the quiet space inside of you. Anyone can access Reiki, because it begins within yourself!

Philosophical paradigms are changing the world round. If  the benefits of Reiki can be spread throughout the world it will touch the human heart and the morals of society. It will be helpful for many people, and will not only heal disease, but also the Earth as a whole. Over 2000 people learned Reiki from Dr. Usui. More learned it from his senior disciples, and they carried Reiki even further. Even now after Dr. Usui’s pass­ing, Reiki will spread far and wide for a long time to come. It is a universal blessing to have received Reiki from Dr. Usui and to be able to pass it on to others. Many of Dr. Usui’s students converged to build this memorial here at Saihoji Temple in the Toyotama district.

I was asked to write these words to help keep his great work alive. I deeply appreciate his work and I would like to say to all of his disciples that 1 am honoured to have been chosen for this task. May many understand what a great service Dr. Usui did to the world.”

Click here to discover my personal Reiki program and how I can help you…


You will probably have noticed a difference in the spelling of Dr. Usui’s forename in the translation – Mikaomi as opposed to Mikao. These are effectively the same name in Japanese; it’s simply the case that Mikaomi is a more literal western translation of Usui’s forename. Everybody has always used Mikao and so this is the most common pronunciation of his name.


Dr. Hayashi

Dr Hayashi - History of Reiki - benefits of reikiDr. Hayashi (1878 – 1941), a retired naval officer, was interested in Dr. Usui’s work. Before his death, Dr. Usui initiated Dr. Hayashi as a Reiki Master in 1925 at the age of 47.

Dr. Hayashi is responsible for breaking Reiki into three degrees and setting up new hand positions. Up to that time, Reiki was given in a series of attunements and could be given in a very short period of time (Dr. Usui himself was given Reiki in one powerful attunement). Dr. Hayashi opened a Reiki clinic in Tokyo, near the Imperial Palace, and kept detailed records of the treatments given. His clinic consisted of a reception room and a large room with 8 couches and 16 practitioners working (2 per patient). The practitioners worked there from 7 to 12.00 and did house calls after this till 7 p.m. Dr. Hayashi designed the system of hand positions taught during the first degree and their initiation procedures.

One of Hayashi’s students was a lady called Hawayo Takata. Hayashi forced his own death by mentally rupturing the arteries to his heart on May 10, 1941. During his life, Dr. Hayashi initiated 13 masters (including his wife).


Click here to discover my personal Reiki program and how I can help you…


Hawayo Takata

Hawayo Takata - History of Reiki -benefits of reikiHawayo Takata was born on 24 December 1900 in Kauai, one of the Hawaii islands. She was of Japanese origin and her father worked in a local sugar plantation. She married Saichi Takata who was the bookkeeper of the sugar plantation, where she eventually worked herself. Her husband died in October 1930 at the age of thirty-four leaving his wife and two children. Takata took over the keeping of the family and eventually suffered from a nervous breakdown, abdominal pains and lung problems.

When her sister died, she went to Japan where her parents lived, to inform them of the loss of their daughter. Whilst there, she went to hospital and was diagnosed with a terminal illness and rushed for surgery.

Whilst waiting for the surgeon, she is supposed to have heard a voice that said, “The operation is not necessary.” She wondered if she was dreaming but realised that she was fully awake. The voice once again repeated, “The operation is not necessary.” Not knowing what to do, she decided to ask the doctor if there was another way. To the surprise of the staff in the operating theatre, she got off the operating table and looked for the surgeon and asked him if he thought there might be another way to get rid of her problems rather than operate on them. The doctor told her about Hayashi’s clinic.

She underwent a course of treatments at Hayashi’s clinic. Just by laying their hands on her, the Reiki practitioners described her symptoms accurately. This impressed Takata and gave her the confidence to go ahead with the treatment. She was curious about the heat she received whilst the two practitioners were treating her and thought that they may be using some heating apparatus. She looked under the couch for it and found nothing. Then she grabbed one of the practitioners’ sleeves thinking that some heating equipment was hidden there. The startled practitioner laughed at her when she explained what she was looking for. He told her about Reiki and how it worked.

As she progressed with her daily treatment, her condition got progressively better. She decided that she also would like to learn Reiki. In a country where man was king and Japanese pride was high, she was told that Reiki should stay in Japan and that she could not be initiated. Takata was a stubborn person who did not take no for an answer. She went to her surgeon and asked him for a letter confirming that she was sick and needed Reiki daily. Eventually Dr. Hayashi was impressed with Takata’s persistence and initiated her in First Degree Reiki in the spring of 1936. She was initiated in the Second Degree in 1937.

She went back to Hawaii in the summer of 1937 and invited Dr. Hayashi’s daughter over. She knew that Dr. Hayashi would never permit his daughter to travel alone and that there was a good chance that he would come with her and possibly initiate her into a Grand Master. She was initiated as a Master on February 21, 1938. Hayashi registered her Masters’ Certificate at Honolulu and gave her the rights to practice and teach in the United States (only). Her Reiki Masters’ certificate shows her as being a Master (not a Grand Master).

Between 1970 and her death on 11 December 1980, Mrs. Takata initiated twenty-two Reiki Masters. These twenty-two are listed below –

George ArakiDorothy Baba (deceased)
Barbara McCulloughMary McFadyen
Beth GrayJohn Gray
Ursula BaylowRick Bockner
Paul MitchellIris Ishikura (deceased)
Barbara Weber RayBethel Phaigh (deceased)
Ethel LombardHarry Kuboi
Wanja TwanPatricia Ewing
Virginia SamdahlShinobu Saito
Takata’s SisterBarbara Brown
Phyllis FurumotoFran Brown


benefits of reikiPhyllis Furumoto

Phyllis Furumoto is Takata’s granddaughter. Prior to her death, Takata asked Phyllis if she wanted to become the new Grand Master. Phyllis at the time turned the offer down. Takata then asked Barbara Ray to become the new Grand Master. Barbara accepted. Phyllis subsequently changed her mind and Takata also initiated her as the new Grand Master without telling Barbara Ray. As you can imagine, this has caused some friction over the years.


Barbara Ray and the Radiance Technique

Barbara Ray has since then formed her own system of healing and benefits of Reiki. This was originally called the A.I.R.A (American International Reiki Association”. This has since been renamed to “The Radiance Technique”. Barbara has added 4 new degrees to the Reiki natural system of healing, taking the benefits of Reiki to another level.


Virginia Samdahl

Virginia Samdahl was the first Occidental Reiki master. Takata initiated her in 1974.


The Reiki Alliance

The Alliance was formed by a group of Reiki Masters in May 1983. It has a set of guidelines on how Reiki should be taught. Any Reiki Master can apply for membership. The Alliance itself does not teach Reiki. It recognises independent Reiki Masters.


Usui Shiki Ryoho – The Usui System of Natural Healing

The word Reiki in Japan is used to describe any system of healing. Dr. Usui’s method of healing is called “The Usui System of Natural Healing” or “Usui Shiki Ryoho”.

Since Dr. Usui, Dr. Hayashi or Takata did not leave any written records; we rely on what was passed on from Master to students as being the way Reiki was always taught. Reiki originally did not used to be so structured. Dr. Usui himself received Reiki in one powerful attunement and initiated his students to the benefits of Reiki over a short period of time. The length of time that you now have to wait between each level has been introduced by the Alliance. Mrs. Takata herself often initiated her students to Reiki 1 and 2 during the same day.

Dr. Usui after his experience with the beggars in the slums of Tokyo added the idea that one needs to give something in exchange for the benefits of  Reiki. This could be money, work or whatever depending on the means of the person receiving. Dr. Hayashi introduced the hand position and Takata added the fee structure.

Many new Masters have made changes to the way they teach Reiki. Some of these changes are beneficial some are not. Barbara Ray for example introduced 4 new levels to Reiki. Her students are no longer given the name of the secret symbols during their initiations. She changed the name Reiki to Radiance techniques.


The Origin and further benefits of Reiki

Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is a form of healing that comes to us from Tibet. “The Healing Buddha” is a 2500-year-old book that describes a form of healing very similar to Reiki. The benefits of Reiki are passed on from Master to student. Unless it is passed on it will be lost, this unfortunately is what happened. It was not until late 1800 that Dr. Mikao Usui rediscovered Reiki. Reiki is a very simple technique that may be learnt by anybody.

reiki-kangi3 - History of Reiki -benefits of reikiREI – Spiritual Wisdom

The direct translation of Rei from a Japanese dictionary is “Ghost”.

The word Reiki comes from two Japanese words best translated as ‘Sharp or Clever spirit’ REI means ‘The higher intelligence that guides the creation and functioning of the universe’.

Rei is sometimes translated into Universal. The meaning of Universal in this context signifies Supernatural Knowledge or Spiritual Consciousness. This wisdom comes from the Higher Self. Rei is intelligent it understands everything. It knows the cause of problems and has the knowledge to deal with them.

KI – The Life Force

The direct translation of KI from a Japanese dictionary is Vapour or Mist.

Ki is the Japanese word for Chi in Chinese, Prana in Sanskrit and Mana in Hawaiian. It has also been called, Odic force, Orgone, and Bioplasma etc.

Ki is the life energy often called Universal Life Force. It is a force that animates all things. All creatures, objects or living things have this life force. The life force flows inside and outside all living things. This is what allows us to get up in the morning and work, play and function as human beings. When this life force becomes low, we feel run down and illness may set in. When this life force flows freely, we are much less likely to get sick. Ki animates everything we do; it is responsible for our emotions, dreams and daily performance.

Practitioners of Martial arts understand this life force. It has been recognised for at least 4,000 years as it was mentioned in the ‘Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine’, which lists thirty-two different kinds of Chi. Perhaps the most popular and well-known Martial Art to employ the use of Ki is Aikido with literally means ‘The way of coming into harmony using the forces of nature and the universe.’

Spiritually Guided Life Force Energy

Reiki is intelligent. It is guided by the consciousness called Rei. The practitioner can do very little to influence this energy.


The $10,000.00 Fee

As previously mentioned, Mrs Takata introduced this around 1970. She believed that Japanese people have different values from ours. They work for the same company most of their lives and have a very high set of values that may not be present in the Western mindset. She wondered how to create this respect from would be Western Reiki Masters. She decided that one thing Westerners respected was money and fixed a fee of $300 for Reiki 1, $800 for Reiki 2 and $10,000 for Reiki 3.

These fees are still charged by Alliance Reiki Masters. Independent teachers are not bound by this code of conduct and can charge lower fees. This in turn will mean more Masters become available. This will contribute to more people learning Reiki and a healthier planet with more people taking their health into their own hands.

Click here to discover my personal Reiki program and how I can help you…


Budgeting and Forecasting: Dealing with Nasty Surprises

Budget and Forecasting: Dealing with Nasty Surprises

This article follows on from some questions that arose out of my article on Multi-Pot Budgeting, and what to do when something turns up that I DON’T have a budget category for  ?

Today, I’m going to share what has worked best for me. This approach has single handedly given me the greatest financial stress relief.  It’s enabled me to move from feeling

like this…man-budgeting and forecasting

to this…  budgeting and forecasting

Welcome to My “Oh Sh!t” pot for Budgeting and Forecasting for nasty surprises

Simply put, create a separate budget category just for this type of situation.  In our family we’ve affectionately dubbed it the “Oh Sh!t” pot.  You are planning for when you don’t have a plan 🙂 sneaky huh!  Makes sense right ?

This new forecasting pot follows the same rules as ANY other budget pot, set the goal, putting money in each month until you reach your goal amount, track deposits/spending for the pot.

It’s not your savings!!

IMPORTANT.  I do not class the “Oh Sh!t” pot as savings of any kind.  It is a specific pot, with a specific purpose.  Any savings for any other purpose should have its own category.

Budgeting and Forecasting a ‘goal’ amount

To start, I recommend guesstimating the kind of amount that could hit you out of the blue within a 12 month period, You can always increase it year on year as you get used to the approach…. for me in the 1st year this was $500.  I’ve increased it over several years to now stand at $2000. It should be a figure you are comfortable will cover a few unknowns. The bigger the goal amount the greater the peace of mind.

When the storm hits

relaxation budgeting and forecastingThe power to budgeting and forecasting, as always, is in the execution of the approach.  What you do when a situation comes up or in this case AFTER we’ve settled the bill/situation.  The key is to learn from each circumstance that presents itself and take action based upon what we have learned.  Here’s my recommended approach.

  1. Pay the bill from our buffer pot
  2. Create a new budget category for the situation that has just occurred.
    Understand that this situation can happen again, it’s now no longer unexpected, even if you think it could only happen once every 2,5,10 years etc.  PLAN FOR IT

    1. Set the goal amount at the level you have just encountered
    2. Start saving monthly to this new category for when/if it happens again

At the end of the year

  1. Adjust the goal level of the “Oh Sh!t” pot to match the demands from the year.  (usually only move the goal upwards)
  2. Ensure you have new categories for all the spend you made from this pot for the year
  3. Allocate the appropriate budget to these new categories

Peace of mind

The buffer the “Oh Sh!t” pot provides, means you are far less likely to have to dip into some of your less critical pots to pay unexpected bills. Because of this, the pot gives me one of the greatest stress buffers.  I know that if I get a unexpected bill, or problem occurs, I can handle some or all of it without affecting any of my other plans/pots.

Are you ready to feel on top of your budget, with reduced stress and importantly successful in your budgeting plans? After all it is, as always, All Just Choice.

Thanks for reading in, I’m really looking forward to hearing your comments and experiences on how you have implemented this approach.

Who Else Wants To Eat Chocolate and Lose Weight?

Seriously, eat chocolate and lose weight?

eat chocolate and lose weight
Get Your Daily Recommended Dose

There is scientific evidence to prove the statement ‘eat chocolate and lose weight’. Now before you rush to the cupboard or the store, there are a few clarifying facts you should know. This isn’t a bait and switch, you just need to ensure you have the right recipe to achieve the maximum benefits from this glorious antioxidant rich food. Yes, I classify it as a food. First, it’s not just ANY chocolate. Dark chocolate (look for 65-70% cocao) has proven health benefits. Cocao, has one of the highest levels of antioxidants loaded with flavonoids. It actually contains 5X more flavonoids then an apple! It enhances metabolism through the effect it has on the absorption and digestion of fats and carbohydrates making you feel fuller faster. In addition, it will lesson your cravings for sweet, salty, fatty foods. As if that wasn’t enough, and for most people, you may want to stop right here, but I insist you must read on.  A word of caution before we proceed. Cocao is the hero here. It does have a bitter taste, so the butter and sugar often added to cocao to sweeten the flavor is what you need to watch out for. You still need to practice moderation. Suggested dosage, don’t you just love that term, is 7 ounces of dark chocolate a week or one once per day.


Seriously, eat chocolate and lose weight? Click To Tweet

So, what do you look for?

According to the University of Michigan School of Integrative Nutrition you can eat chocolate and lose weight – who by the way, has dark chocolate listed in their “healing foods pyramid”

Use the following guidance:

  • > 60% cocoa
  • Made from cocoa butter instead of fats such as palm and coconut oils. Although cocoa butter does contain significant amounts of saturated fat in the form of stearic acid, it has been shown to have a neutral effect on cholesterol unlike the saturated fat in both palm and coconut oils.
  • Made without the use of ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oils, which are known to negatively impact cholesterol
  • Darker is better: phytochemicals, like flavonoids, contribute to pigment. More flavonoids means darker chocolate and potentially greater health benefits.
  • Chocolate is only as good as its ingredients; look for dark chocolate made from organic or fairly traded cocoa beans (Find a list of fair trade certified chocolate producers at:

Also, worthy to note that milk acts as an inhibitor. In multiple studies, caseins (the protein found in milk) binds to polyphenals negating the positive antioxidant effects. Apparently the same is true for other antioxidant rich items such as tea and blueberries. Use dairy free milk alternatives instead such as almond milk, hemp, or coconut milk.

Another word of caution, cocao is high in oxalates. People who experience kidney issues and are susceptible to kidney stones should avoid oxalate producing foods. Cocao does contain caffeine and although research is inconclusive, it has been linked as a trigger for migraines in some people. Eating chocolate and losing weight may not be possible for those who should suffer from the issues mentioned and it is best to seek medical advice if you are unsure.

The  Mayans considered it a cure-all

Reduce stress: A finnish study showed that women who ate chocolate during pregnancies, experienced less stress and their babies were happier and smiled more. Keep in mind this is because stress itself can leave an imprint on the fetus, although I suggest you do your own research and may want to continue to have your daily dosage to relieve stress over the next 18 years. Just a thought. Chocolate was also found in a Swiss study to reduce stress hormone levels in subjects who were very anxious.

Helps control insulin levels: An Italian study: “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production,” says lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L’Aquila in Italy. “And that helps control insulin sensitivity.” Again, before taking any supplements (I’m referring to the chocolate here) please consult with your health care professional.

Improved alertness and brain activity: Researches at Oxford University, Norway and the University of Nottingham found that drinking cocoa rich in flavanols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain for 2 to 3 hours. Next time you have a big test, presentation or an interview don’t forget your dose of dark chocolate. Make it peppermint dark chocolate and you’ll get a double bonus.

Sun protection: Yes, I didn’t see this one coming. According to London researchers chocolate flavanols’ sun-protecting capabilities. Subjects who ate chocolate with high levels of flavanols took twice as long for their skin to develop the reddening effect that indicates the beginning of a burn. So in addition what we’ve learned in the article on sunscreen, you can prepare for your next sunny holiday by adding dark chocolate to the list.

Cough suppressant: One study found that chocolate quieted coughs almost as well as codeine without the side effects of feeling sleepy and foggy. This may be due to theobromine, found in chocolate which may suppress the vagus nerve in the brain. Chocolate vs codeine, natural remedies are not only healthier, they can be tastier too.

Don’t forget your daily dose

So, there you have it. A metabolism booster so you can eat chocolate and lose weight and so much more. It’s no wonder this rich and creamy commodity has been coveted by people for thousands of the years. The Aztecs even used it as money. Just be sure to watch out for added sugars and take note of the list above of what to look out for when reading labels. I typically reserve my dose for the weekends for items like chocolate chip vegan cookiesguilt free chocolate mousse or to add to our Paleo Thai pancakes. Enjoy!





Types of Budgeting: The Multi-Pot Approach

Forget Other complex Types of Budgeting and keep it simple

I mentioned on Facebook, that I would put together a post on my Multi-pot Budgeting approach, so here it is.

This approach is one of the cornerstones of the budgeting system I have put in place for myself, my family and others over the last 7-8 years.  It requires a some thought, some discipline and is how I ensure I have money for when non-monthly bills hit.

Some groundwork

Budgeting 1-0-1

Budgeting is pretty standard and straight forward right ?  It’s a well known approach.

  1. Know what you have (see my post on Improving Your Financial Health – Step 1)
  2. Know what you need
  3. Allocate a weekly/monthly amount for those category,
  4. Either save it until you need it, or spend it if its in the “living expenses” budget
  5. Stick to your budget!

piggy-bank-Types of budgetingI like to split budgeting into 2 different types.

The first budget type, is the standard monthly “living expenses”, stuff that you KNOW you will spend every month. Gas, Groceries, Utility Bills, Snacks, Drinks, Eating out etc.   This takes up a large chunk of most incomes.

The second budget type, my “budget pots” are the items you need to budget for on a 2 to 12 month or longer basis.  Categories that don’t come up each month.  Some will have known dates/intervals, others will occur randomly depending on other factors, but you know they will happen.  For example, car maintenance, household repairs/maintenance, education etc.

The latter, is the area that you can more easily implement the multi-pot approach.  It’s the budget type that I will focus on here for my examples.  It can be applied to “living expenses” but not as easily.

Lets get started….

We’ll use an example to take us through the key principles.  We’ll just use 3 budget categories for illustration…

  1. Car Maintenance
  2. Household Maintenance
  3. Birthdays/Gifts

I will also use easy numbers for the budget, so the actual values are unlikely to be realistic for your budgetary needs.

We’ll begin by looking at each category, how much we need for a year, and how much we need to put into the pots each month to achieve that goal.

Annual Budget
Multipot-1-Types of budgeting

For our purposes, lets say that we have an account that has a Zero balance to begin with.

On month 1, we deposit our monthly budget amount of $225.00, the same on month 2, 3 etc

That money builds up, and after month 3 we have a total in our account of $675 and it keeps going up (provided we don’t need to spend it).

Rolling Budget Totals
Multipot-2 copy-Types of budgeting
Nothing new about that, so what am going on about ?

My big focus on budgeting is reducing stress, for better health.  Having money allocated, knowing what its for is all part of reducing that stress, as is how to spend it and the mentality around doing that.

Time for some expense

Types of budgetingWhat happens when you need to spend money on one of the categories… back to our example.

We get to month 2 (we have $450 in our account), and we have a leak in the bathroom.  Plumbers are expensive, but it’s got to be fixed.

  • Plumber comes and goes, leak fixed but we had a $300 bill.
  • Good news, we have a household maintenance budget.
  • Bad news, the home maintenance budget pot only has $150 in it
  • Good new, overall we have $450 in the budget account, so at least we can pay the plumber

Now we have paid the plumber, lets take a look at our budget “sheet”…

Post Plumbing Payment Budget Sheet
Multipot-3 copy-Types of budgeting

In the table above, our household maintenance, shows as $150 over budget. Overall the total of our budget pots is still $150 to the positive.  For many people this image is where we feel we have failed, we are over budget, even in just one pot, often it makes us feel like giving up.  But not for me, not when you change your thinking.

If we look at the overall Annual Budget in the image below.

Annual Budget Sheet
Multipot-4 copy-Types of budgeting

The annual budget for Household spend showing $600 still available.  When we are looking at our budget “pots”, we need to consider what we have available in our account now, and, this is IMPORTANT, our annual budget.

There is the issue that if everything hits at once, you may not have enough in the budget pot to cover off the immediate bill, but once you have been running the system for around 6 months, it will start to really come into its own.

I want to fast forward 6 months, and add some expenses to the pot so you can see the overall effect.

Multipot-5 copy-Types of budgeting


In Summary

8 Months in and the budget pot is performing as planned (no surprise for an example right), we have paid the expenses that we have needed and have some left over.  We see a scary moment in month 4, where our budget pot was wiped out, and that can be stressful.  Although I have a secret weapon for that kind of situation, but that’s the subject of another blog post to come.

You can see that pots effectively “borrow” from the overall budget if they need to, as its unlikely that all your budget pots will have a major expense at the same time.  The more budget pots you have, and the larger the amount you save each month, the less the chance of you getting to the month 4 situation.

There are times, as is shown in month four, where we had a spend of $600 in one month, which wiped out the budget account.  Ultimately the overall budget WAS able to cope.  In his post about our programs (link to Joe’s post) and his take on them, as my son says his experience when starting up the budget pots was pretty difficult.  For the 1st 3 months, every time Joe put some money into his account, he would have something crop up that would wipe it out.  He does say that at least he could pay for the expenses he had.  Wa are 12 months in, and Joe has a VERY healthy budget account, that can now afford almost anything that could hit him.  He’s 18 and has an exceptional financial start.

Some notes on the example, its much more simplified that the full budget approach I have in place, but the principle is the same.
Just for reference, we now have built up to around 60 “budget pots”, this gives incredible flexibility, but starting with around 10-15 is a good beginning, you can add as you have more money available for allocating.

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts/comments on this approach, and would be happy to answer any questions you have on it and other areas, so please drop me a comment in the section below

Improving Your Financial Health – Step 1

Improving Your Financial Health – Step 1

Before I really start, I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Mark, I’m originally from the United Kingdom, but now living in Florida.  I’m husband, tomark profile pic for financial health my wonderful wife Margie and the father of 4 great kids, all teenagers, and yes I still say great!   I’m an engaged father, that has worked hard on taking a very different approach to the way our whole family budgets. The transformation has left me with the passion to share this approach with as many people as I am able. I find helping others gain a healthy control over their financial lives to be fulfilling and rewarding.

 Financial Health

“Financial Health” or “Financial Health Check” is a phrase that I’ve heard and read about many times, along with “financial freedom”. Both of which are usually associated with the balance of your bank account and having large amounts of money available, with which to purchase what we want and believe will give us a sense of being “free”.

I have a different view these days, and I’m really passionate about it. That’s whats made me want to tackle this as my first article in this series on our site.  I can’t emphasize enough how much of a “life changer” it has been. For Margie and I it was a total revelation, but to be able to influence the financial health of our 4 teenage children, (at the time of writing this, they range from 17-19 years old) gives us even more joy.  We started introducing them to our approach from the ages of about 14 upwards, ideally I think 10-12 would have been even better. Having our children be able to begin their financial life this way has given them the head start that I could only dream of.

upset over financial healthThe words budget or budgeting, what do they mean to you?  For me, it used to bring up feelings of restriction and fear.  Fear of not being able to afford to live how i wanted, and that restriction would have to be put in place and I would miss out on things I wanted to do.

My view has been transformed over the last 10 years.  The approach we now have as a family, and that has me so excited, has taught me something very different. There can be a different mindset to budgeting and financial analysis.  I no longer have fear of my finances, or confusion over what I can and cannot afford, or guilt over spending money on myself or my family.

What does financial health or freedom mean to me now?

Here’s some phrases that help to define my thoughts on the subject, each one will spawn a separate article in the near future, but provides a taste of what it means to me.

Full awareness – (of my Financial Position)
The ability to be open and honest – (with my family)
To have choice – (where we spend our money)
Ability to handle “surprises”
Guilt Free Spending

youth happy about financial healthCan you imagine, knowing what money you have; the purpose it has, not adding to your debt, having money for when things just hit you out of the blue?  If that sounds like something you would like, read on…

Step 1 – Full Awareness

This is the 1st key concept and although it’s a very simple one, it’s actually probably the hardest to achieve.  It requires an open mind and complete honesty, something that is very useful for when we get into the the subject surrounding the second phrase on my list above.

Many of us live our lives wanting to believe that we are in a place different from our reality. We crave distraction and diversion from our day to day lives.  This is no different when it comes to financial planning help, wanting to project the financial image we want, rather that the reality.

The first real step to financial health requires us to take a real, open and honest look at the truth about our monetary position or a financial health check.

dollar-is financial healthfinancial-crisis or financial health1. What money do I/we have coming in ?
2. Where is my/our money going ?

These are two questions we have all been faced with many times and are, on the surface, pretty simple.

Usually people have a fairly good idea of how much money is coming in, although depending on your income stream, it will need some level of exploration.

For now, we’ll let that one slide by, and tackle the second one, the one that is not so easy to answer….

Where does it all go ?

When most people budget or think of budgeting, they consider the “big ticket” items, mortgage/rent payments, car loan payments, utility bills, insurance payments etc. These are vital starting points to any budget and are the things that give us a base sense of security. If we can’t afford those, we all struggle with our sense of freedom.  Its the other section of our outgoings that I’m most concerned within this article.

What tends to happen, once the critical items are ticked off as having been accounted for in the budget, is that any money “left over” is considered disposable income.  Its the disposable income that’s the key, this is the thing people miss when talking about budgeting. I refer to this as “Stealth” spending.

What is “Stealth” Spending ?

coffee-beans for financial health Let’s “grab a coffee”. A significant proportion of us have membership/loyalty cards, membership cards that are auto refilled from our bank accounts, bypassing almost any conscious thought of the amount we are spending.  Even if you don’t have a membership card, the principle still stands. Many of us will spend on a regular basis, with the “its only a couple of bucks” mentality, or just through unconscious habit that damages our financial health.

The question is, how much will we spend at our favorite coffee house each week or month, and what does that mean for a whole year ?

Lets run the figures…

If a cup of coffee is around $4.00, and we go 3 times a week consistently throughout the year, that’s

achievement-is financial health$12 a week (doesn’t sound too bad)

$52 per month (still not that bad?)

$624 per year  (Ah!)

and that is just one spend category.   Imagine another 10 categories, all spending something similar.

Over $6,000 per year, and the truth is usually much much more than that.  Stacks up fast doesn’t it ?

This is “stealth spending”, I love the phrase. It represents all the things we spend money on, that we don’t think about when considering our outgoings. In many cases, its more that we don’t want to think about it, or to budget for it, as there is uncomfortable feeling of restriction when budget or financial analysis is mentioned.  In some cases we may not consider that a budget is required, or even be conscious that a spending category or habit exists.

Understanding un-mapped spending is the 1st key focus for our financial health program.  It does take work, similar to that first work out at the gym. Like working out, when you have a picture or goal you want to achieve, it can become more and more rewarding with every step.

fear of financial healthThe goal of understanding the balance of income & expense, in our program, is NOT to say you shouldn’t/can’t spend your money on what you want.  It is abolutely about giving you the power to CHOOSE where to spend your money, how you want your money to work for you, and to reduce the fear around budgeting.

Whether your are single, in a relationship or have a family, you can make a difference to your financial health and reduce stress.  It can start now, and really is all just choice.