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171 The often spoken about but very misunderstood fortress for financial freedom

February 17, 202112 min read


Do you resist making a budget? Whilst the words ‘boring’ and ‘time-consuming’ are the ones most commonly associated with budgeting, it is potentially your strongest friend on the road to financial freedom. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s the key to being to live now AND save for the future.

Listen to today’s episode to find out how setting your budget helps you build your fortress for financial freedom.

Show notes:

  • [03.01] How tracking your expenses is part of building your fortress.

  • [07.08] How setting your budget builds your fortress.

  • [11.54] How to use your budget to protect you in the heat of the moment!

  • [14.10] How to use your budget to protect you from money leakages.


“I always say that the biggest factor of wealth is not income, expenses and investment.  It’s mindset.” – Lisa Linfield

“Tracking your expenses increases your mindfulness.” – Lisa Linfield

“What does my spending say about what I REALLY value?” – Lisa Linfield

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The often spoken about but very misunderstood fortress for financial freedom

Hello everyone and welcome to today’s episode of Working Women’s Wealth.  I’m Lisa Linfield and I’m building a community of Women who are committed to the journey of living Financially Free lives – whether they’re just beginning, or nearly there, we support each other through our lessons learnt, good and bad, so ALL may benefit.

I’ve always loved history – I guess because I see things in pictures, I have a very vivid imagination. 

I always loved the picture in my mind of the old cities on a hilltop with amazing views, castles, store towers filled with grain, homes and families living together in community with each other.  I loved the notion of a huge, thick City Wall, wide enough for a flat inside it, with a lookout on the top scanning for danger. 

I imagined myself as a little girl running through the streets with my friends, climbing the stairs up the wall, and racing around the city being shouted at by the guards… but getting an amazing view from up on that wall.  I’d look down at the moat, and feel safe knowing that any danger would have to cross the moat, the wall and get past the guards on the top.

Today I want to talk to you about a little thing has the worst reputation in the world.  But without it, you can’t really build your tower to Financial Freedom.  It’s what protects that tower from attack.

It can be your biggest tool to help you save more.  It can also help you resist spending on things you don’t really need – protecting you from yourself! It also helps you make sure that you can save for those nice little things you love doing – and even the big ones.  And it’s the best money leak detector ever!

In fact, it’s the key to being able to Live Now AND save for the future.

Once you change the way you think about it – from being your enemy that’s boring, time consuming, a pain in the butt, and the worst thing EVER – to thinking of it as these amazing huge city walls that protect this amazing life you want to lead from attack… then, and only then, will you be able to unleash its power.

That’s right.  It’s a budget.

No, no, don’t run away.

It truly is the key to living your Best Life. 

How tracking your expenses is part of building your fortress

OK, so hear me out on this one.

In order to build a budget, you first start with gathering as many records of expenses as you can.  Your bank account, your credit card statement, slips that you’ve paid cash for etc. etc. 

When I do this exercise, I keep a little record in my phone for the month of every single cent that goes out – and I use my card as much as possible as it’s the easiest place to track expenses.

Now here’s the first place the budget acts as a fortress.

I always say that the biggest factor of wealth is not income, expenses and investment.  It’s mindset.  How you think about money will determine how you behave with your income, expenses and investments.

The very act of tracking your expenses triggers a step change in your thinking as for the first time you stop and look at every single thing you spent all together – not in the moment.  And when you step back and think about it all together, that’s where you see patterns developing.

It truly amazes me when people say to me, “Goodness, I didn’t know I spent that much money on eating out.”  Or “I knew groceries were expensive, but I didn’t know it was THAT expensive!”

I track my expenses in a good old-fashioned spreadsheet.  I know that there are beautiful apps that display things… but I find myself just glancing at it going ‘uh-huh’.  When I have to enter and sum up the numbers, I actually have to use my brain and my fingers, which means that I engage at a far deeper level of thinking. 

How many months expenses should you have tracked for a budget?  My view is at least three months expenses… but ideally 12 as that enables you to catch one off events such as vacations, birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tracking your expenses increases your mindfulness – it enables you to get the big picture of your spending, and then, that makes you more mindful the next time you swipe that card.  And changing your thinking about money is the first step to protecting you from yourself in your spending.

And, one of the really insightful questions you need to ask yourself is, “What does my spending say about what I REALLY value?”.  I chatted through that in Episode 147 - The powerful insight of your bank statement and calendar.  The reality is, where you spend your money reflects your REAL values, not the cookie cutter ones we all subscribe to.  And one of the key questions I had to ask is “do I value convenience NOW more than I value my future financial stability?”


 So if you go to this page you can get hold of my free spreadsheet download and video on how to use it.  I’ll take you through the basics of budgeting on it.

How setting your budget builds your fortress

Once you have an average of three months of actuals, you can set a budget for each line item.

Here’s the thing.  Most of us spend more than we earn.  So the first step we take to looking at a budget is to ask, “How do I get my expenses less than my income?”

I love Stephen Covey’s illustration in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” when he talks about the ‘big rocks’ approach.  For those of you who don’t know it, here’s a brief summary. 

A professor is standing in front of his class with a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason Jar on the table.  He carefully puts in 6 fist-sized rocks into the jar.  When the jar is full, he asks his students “Is the jar full?” to which they all reply “YES!”.  He then picks up a sack of gravel and pours it in…. shaking the jar so it works its way down. 

When he asks the students, Is it full? They reply “probably not!”  He then reaches for some sand and pours that in.

The point of the story is that if you don’t start with the big rocks, you’ll never fit the rest in.  Because if you did it the other way around, the sand and gravel wouldn’t have fitted in the middle.

The same comes to your savings.  If you want to be financially free, the big rock you need to budget for is your investment accounts. 

So, when it comes to setting a monthly budget, always START with setting the number for your Emergency Account savings first, and then your investing (and paying off debt) and lastly your expenses.

It’s amazing how we never TOTALLY rethink anything until the challenge is so unreachable it forces us to completely rethink the problem.  Little tweaks here and there, yes.  Proper, sustainable changes, no.

When I stepped off the corporate ladder, I worked half-day for the year beforehand.  Through that time, we trimmed expenses here and there, and became much more mindful of how we spent our money.  That squeezing did the trick.  But it wasn’t enough when I earned nothing.

That forced us to do an entire rethink of life.  We ended up renting out our second house at the river, having always sworn we would never do that.  It also began a process of re-evaluating the cost of the home we lived in and the wisdom of owning a holiday house… which four years later has resulted in us drastically downsizing from two houses to one, that uses 80% less capital and 80% less monthly expenses.  We could never have executed that in our first year – for many reasons – but the massive squeeze meant we had to completely rethink life.

The question we asked ourselves was ‘do we value financial freedom over stuff?’ and the answer was yes.  And because the answer was yes, we made the changes.  Now, we spend way more money on going on vacations, and way less money on houses.  Spending time with my family and experiencing the world is truly a higher value than money on a house. 

That’s how powerful having a real understanding of your spending is, and a proper budget that says “If I want this, what needs to go”.  The budget becomes the fortress walls that protect your real Best Life, not the life and costs you find yourself having.

So step two is to set a budget that prioritises financial freedom, and your values.

How to use your budget to protect you in the heat of the moment!

Once you (and your partner if you have one) agree on the budget, there are three tricks to sticking to the budget in the heat of the moment:

1.       Return to Cash Envelopes - If you really struggle with money, the best way to make sure you stay in budget is to return to cash envelopes.  One for food, one for petrol or gas, one for kids etc.  One of the real challenges in our society are plastic cards and bank accounts.  For many people who are tactile, concrete thinkers, they operate best in the physical.  Physical contact, physical diaries, physical paper to track expenses and budgets.  If you’re one of these people, the best thing you can do is use physical cash.  It will give you a much bigger appreciation of your money, what you have, and what you’re spending

2.       Prepaid Cards – A similar concept is different prepaid cards or spending wallets on a phone app.  That way, when you’ve spent the money on groceries, you’ve spent the money.  There is no more left.

3.       Spend to Zero – as I mentioned in Episode 91 – The human way to manage your monthly expenses, the way I use is ‘spend to zero’.  Effectively I do an automated payment at the beginning of each month of the money I need to save, and my debit orders go off then, and what’s left I can spend.  So I keep track of the balance on my account, and work within what I have… always making sure you sweep any extra at the end of the month to your Cashflow Savings Account for bigger expense months.  I can ‘spend to zero’ because I have a strong feel for my budget and have been practicing for years.


How to use your budget to protect you from money leakages

As mindful as we can be, and as careful as we can be with our spending, stuff does still happen.

Key to detecting money leaks, and keeping that wall of protection around your financial freedom is to track the money you spend against the budget you should be keeping.

It’s amazing how tracking your money shows up any leakages – either places you’re still over spending, or debit orders that shouldn’t be going off your account.  A friend of mine’s dad had been sold a computer as part of his mobile phone package whilst he was in hospital and doesn’t recall it!

The quicker you pick up money leakages, the quicker you can nail them!

A question I’m often asked is ‘how frequently should I track my money?’  Well, that depends.  At different times in your life you might update it at different frequencies. 

·         When I had money issues in my business, I tracked my expenses daily.  However,

·         At least weekly if you’re in debt, and struggling;

·         Monthly if you’re on track with your money;

·         Quarterly if you have enough money invested to pay for your needs;

·         Half-Yearly if you’re financially free.

Despite being Financially Free, I still track my expenses against my budget in detail at least every 4-6 months.  It keeps me in touch with the costs of life, and it keeps me mindful of my spending, and it guides us as to if there’s creep in our cost of living.


So I’m hoping by now you may at least be open to thinking about it not as enemy, but potentially as your strongest friend on the road to financial freedom.

If need be, say this mantra at least twice a day whilst doing your teeth – My budget is my biggest protection.  My budget is my biggest protection.  My budget is my biggest protection.

If you want access to my Spend tracker and planner (otherwise known as my budget spreadsheet), then head to this page or the show notes of this episode on and pop your email address in and I’ll send it to you, along with the video link that explains how to use it to reach financial freedom.

I’m Lisa Linfield and this is Working Women’s Wealth.  Have a great day friends!

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Lisa Linfield

Lisa Linfield is on a God-given mission to free 1 million women from the weight and stress of money. She's a CFP, founder of a wealth management business, and podcast host of Working Women's Wealth

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