Many of us have that recurring nightmare of being in Accounting 101 class in college on the last day of the term for the first time — and it happens to be final-exam day! You suddenly wake up sweating and panicking and realize you have never been that good in your own financial accounting. You feel like the unfaithful servant to whom the master says, “Give an account of yourself!

Dreams have an uncanny way of mirroring life. Perhaps, there is a way to change reality by making our dreams more to our liking. In my friend’s case, he never had an Accounting unit his entire student life; so he went on to change his dreams by reading and studying about Accounting and Finance until he gradually overcame his financial woes.

Here are 5 tips (or principles) he shared to start having a practical and efficient personal financial discipline:

1. Have a budget

This is essential! No matter how little money you have, having a budget is a must. But if you do not have money at all, there seems to be no sense in having a personal budget. Wrong! Zero is the least money you can have. If you do not have a budget, then you will never have practice when you get some money eventually. Truth is, we all have some money, no matter how little; and knowing how to manage your money is a vital habit every person needs to develop.

2. Start with how much you need, not how much you have

For years, my friend made a yearly money plan starting with how much he needed to support himself and to implement his projects. After many years, he finally found enough income to rent a decent apartment, buy appliances, travel more often and start living his dreams (and reduce his nightmares). Being positive, especially during those times we are really down, is not mere pretending but practicing a lifetime of hopeful anticipation. As they say: Dreams are free; so, get dreaming!

3. Next step, obviously, is to have a realistic budget

Having a workable budget can often be depressing. (This is when you really need optimism!) Workable means allocating as much money for all essential expenses. You know you will need some more money to fill in the deficit and sourcing it is part of the Accounting problem. Realistic, ironic as it may sound, means figuring in what you need to overcome your deficit. This may mean a lot of waste of time; but it is an exercise in optimism and practice for the fat years ahead. The next step further explains what realistic means.

4. Every budget must include a deficit budget and a plan for filling the deficit

A plan for sourcing out the money you do not have is the best part of a personal budget. It draws out the creative juices hiding within you. It could be that business plan you have had for years for a small venture that will give you the impetus to go ahead and take out a loan and do it finally. Or, you can take an extra job to raise the funds you need for the needed capital. Work your plan.

5. It is all about discipline

Little or much, money is all about stewardship of something we do not own ultimately. People who presume too much and think they can do whatever they want with money lack the discipline and are not qualified to teach others who need budgetary discipline. And those who do not have enough money and think the same way will have a hard time acquiring the discipline they need to get over their financial problems.

Discipline is ultimately about perseverance and seeing our dreams come to fruition by the day.

Counting money and using it wisely, whatever is there left after all the necessary expenses, is a primary human activity most people still need to handle properly. And even those who have much of it have so many obligations they probably have more nightmares than those who know next to nothing about Accounting.

In the end, losing sleep over money is counterproductive. And so is losing money because you lack sleep. It is always better to be content with what you have and strive to be happy over other things money could not buy for money does not guarantee us happiness or peace.

A happy budget, remember, is one that you make because you are happy to be alive and have enough to last till the next pay day.

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