9 Money Strategies for Creative Thinkers

If you’re a visual person, standard financial strategies probably don’t work for you.


When financial adviser Paula Ann Monroe first developed the idea for her personal finance book, she ran a draft by her sister, a first-grade teacher. After looking it over, her sister put the draft down and said, "I don't read anything that doesn't have pictures!" That's what gave Monroe the idea that she should create a different kind of book about money management—one focused on visual references instead of words alone. That book turned into Left-Brain Finance for Right-Brain People, which was first published in 1998.

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"Right-brain people need to see the whole before you start explaining the details," says Monroe. That's why she relies heavily on charts to explain financial concepts such as compound interest. Instead of advocating for traditional budgeting, Monroe suggests thinking more generally about how much money is coming in and going out.

In the decade since Monroe's book came out, more books, websites, and programs have been offering additional ways for right-brained people to manage their money. Here are nine ideas for creatively-oriented people:

1. Create a video. Lee Silber, author of No Brown M&M's!, which is about business lessons from rock stars, recommends running a Google Image search on phrases and terms that inspire you, then adding music to those images to create a mini-movie. He did just that to create a visual representation of his own goals. "You can watch your movie over coffee in the morning to remind you, 'What do I want to do today to get to my goals?'" That way, he says, right-brainers can make better financial choices throughout their day.

"[Right-brainers] are not great with the details. We're good at the big picture," he says, and that's why right-brained financial planning should start with the big picture.

2. Draw your progress. "Numbers do not get us going. We need to know what that number means," says Silber. That's why he recommends creating a visual representation of progress, such as income earned. "Color it in as you go. It's a visual way to see the benchmarks you reach," he says. He does just that, using the image of a rocket ship.

3. Make a "moola map." That's what Jennifer Lee, author of The Right-Brain Business Plan, calls her idea for how creative entrepreneurs can best track their finances. She suggests taping a large, blank piece of paper to the wall, drawing a line down the middle, and using sticky notes to describe "money flowing out" on one side and "money flowing in" on the other. That way, you can capture income and expenses in a visual way. (Then, she adds, if you eventually transfer the information to a spreadsheet for easier tracking, you've already done most of the hard work.)

4. Use a vision board. Lee also urges entrepreneurs to create vision boards to help hone business ideas, but the same concept can apply to money management as well. "What is your big vision for your life, and how does money support that? ... It's not about the money, but about what the money will give me," she says. To create a vision board, Lee suggests simply collecting appealing images from magazines or catalogues and pasting them onto a piece of paper or cardboard.

5. Think of money like a relationship. In her book 20 Something, 20 Everything, Christine Hassler encourages readers to think about "their relationship with George," referring to President George Washington's face on one dollar bills. She suggests reflecting back on your relationship with money and the role it currently plays in your life before getting into the nitty-gritty details of budgeting.

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6. Sign up for online assistance. Mint.com uses visual graphs, colors, and pie charts to help users meet their money goals; Learnvest also offers free, interactive boot camps on its website. Taking a close look at finances can be hard for people who don't enjoy perusing financial statements, says Lee, which is why she uses Mint.com. "You can set up budgets and have it be visual," she says.