Conscious spending: The finance approach that's both smart and fun

This financial approach involves intention, rather than mindlessly swiping your card and regretting it later.

(CNN)When you think of money, do you feel like living in the moment and being responsible are mutually exclusive? Does guilt eat at you when you go out for lunch or a $7 oat milk latte?

You don't have to think or feel this way, thanks to a flexible personal finance approach called conscious spending.
"Unlike a budget, which looks backward, a conscious spending plan allows you to look forward," said Ramit Sethi, author of best-selling "I Will Teach You To Be Rich" and CEO of the eponymous blog. "Conscious spending is all about spending extravagantly on the things you love, as long as you cut costs mercilessly on the things you don't. It's not about restriction. It's about being intentional with your money, and then spending on the things you love guilt-free."
    That doesn't mean that some age-old, general guidelines for saving aren't valid -- such as saving 5% to 10% of your income and having a three- to six-month emergency fund, Sethi said.
      But a conscious spending plan allows you to say, "Yes, I want to go on vacation. Yes, I like nice clothes. Yes, I'm going to spend on these things guilt-free. I'm also going to invest, save, and make sure I can cover my rent," Sethi said.
      Whether wanting to save money, squash debts or have a little more fun is making you want to try conscious spending, you can apply this approach as soon as today. Here's how.

      Rewiring your spending habits

        The term "conscious spending" implies that people experience unconscious spending, said Bradley Klontz, a financial psychologist and associate professor of practice at Creighton University's Heider College of Business in Omaha, Nebraska.
        "It's almost like unconscious eating," he said. "We're just without a plan, we're not really paying much attention, especially using credit cards."
        What's most important in undoing unconscious spending is asking yourself specific questions about your financial goals and life desires: Where has my money been going? What do I love spending money on and why? How much do I need for fixed expenses, such as bills and rent? How much do I want to invest and save, and why? How much do I want to set aside for impulse buys or charges, such as drinks with a friend or a parking ticket?
        Your answers need to be very clear, Klontz and Sethi said. Saying you want to be able to do what you want when you want is abstract. But stating that you and your partner want to fly to Italy with extended legroom, visit for three weeks and watch the sun set over Rome while drinking wine? Now that's a vision that's vivid, specific, emotional and meaningful, Sethi said. "What's not meaningful is just some spreadsheet with numbers in it. Truthfully, nobody cares."
        Answering these questions can help you feel excitement and clarity about your finances, identify what you care less about and live in alignment with what's important to you. "Then, it's a lot easier to cut in areas that don't matter as much," Klontz said.
        Your answers to these questions make u