How much budgeting information is out there? Well, if you ask Google “how to make a budget” the answer is “About 1,590,000,000 results”. I had to look at that twice, blink a few times, and make my brain confirm that it does say there are over 1.5 BILLION search results to that question. If there are 1.5 BILLION answers out there, why do people still struggle with this topic? Why is it so hard to sit down once a month and make a plan for our money?
1. We lie to ourselves
You’re not going to buy any candy bars this week are you? You’re going to quit smoking right? Are you going to walk by that absolutely FABULOUS sale on that pair of shoes you’ve been dying to slide your feet into for months?
It’s easy to tell ourselves we will be perfect when it comes to what we write down on paper versus what we’re actually going to do. Let’s face it, sometimes we don’t want to cook. Sometimes you’ve been looking for that perfect pair of shoes for months and you know you can’t pass them up. In order to make your budget better and make it work for you, you must be honest with yourself. It’s OK! Just write it down and plan for it!
2. We justify our spending to ourselves
While we’re talking about honesty, justification is a big part of being honest with yourself. If you’re in a financial place where you can afford some extras, then budget them in! However, if you’re trying to get out of debt or really trying to cut back on spending you need to stop making excuses to spend! Sarah, at Life in the Orchard has a great example of this. Do you replace the broken coffee pot with a basic model to get by, or the fancy model you’ve been dying to have? I would go even further and ask if you even need to replace to broken coffee pot right now?
3. Budget every single penny
I’m guilty of this! I budget to the nearest rounded number of our paychecks each week and I round down. My paycheck is usually about $21.00 over the amount I budget for it each pay period. I realized as I was writing this post, if I had just budgeted in that extra $21.00, I could have paid off another small medical bill LAST MONTH or I could have been closer to finishing off our emergency fund. Budget it all. Not only will it hold you accountable to that budget, you won’t randomly spend money because it won’t be there!
4. Write it down
I cannot stress enough how important it is to put your budget IN YOUR FACE. A mental tally is going to leave you in a lot of trouble or wasting opportunities to spend your money in the BEST way possible. If you can look at it regularly it will keep you more in touch with your money and give you constant reminders of due dates and where you’re at with your money. It has also very recently helped me find two banking errors because I knew exactly what I was spending and who I was paying.
5. Don’t Over-analyze
While I do think it’s important to know where every penny is going, I don’t think it’s healthy to spend every waking moment of the day analyzing every financial transaction. You should have a plan and follow your plan, but if life throws you a curve ball, deal with it and move on. It’s not really going to help you to know that an extra $80.00 doctor visit kept you from paying off all your debt 2 weeks earlier. It’s going to become tedious. Roll with the punches and don’t stress yourself to death!
6. Comparing your life and your budget to someone else
I struggle with this! It’s really difficult to look at how someone else is handling money when you know you would have made a better decision. Yes, that’s me from time to time, Captain Judgypants. However, each person has a journey, and we need to learn to trust that we are doing what is best for ourselves, without comparing ourselves to those who live differently. Someone else may be knocking out $1,500 payments towards their debt while you can only pay $150.00 a month and that’s okay! Are you making progress? That’s ALL that matters.
7. Stay prepared!
Mothers Day is in May. Your husband’s birthday is when? Your dog needs shots when? Do you need to tag your vehicle? Personally, I think it’s best to make sure you have the funds in place for these events at least 1 month before they happen. This gives you time to find sales and really enjoy shopping for a gift. It gives you time to mail in your car renewal so you don’t have to stand in a line for an hour at the revenue office. I use a yearly calendar and write down every event I can think of at the beginning of the year. When making our budget, I look at the next month as well to see if there is something coming up. If there is, I budget for it then!
There is nothing out there that will derail a good budget more than not having savings. Pay yourself first. I’m guilty of this too! I’ve made my budget and occasionally out of fear I won’t transfer that extra $50.00 to savings just in case I forgot something. That money almost always disappears! If you pay yourself first it helps you stick to your budget because you don’t see that extra money sitting around. See #1 and #2. Be honest with yourself that you will probably spend it if you leave it in your checking account and move that money!
If you know your electric bill is going to go up in the summer then you may have to cut your clothing budget to compensate. If you budget $75.00 for gasoline and the price jumps up, you may have to skip eating out, or eat someplace less expensive. It’s been helpful to me to sign up online to check as many billing accounts as possible. I make a rough draft of our budget at the beginning of the month. Then, when my billing statements show up online, I go back to my budget and edit the amounts that are due. It takes about 10 minutes to update the information and then I am good to go for the month!
10. Forgetting to have fun
A budget is not some monster hiding under your bed and waiting to attack you in the middle of the night. It’s a tool to help you manage and LIVE your life in the best way possible. Even if you’re trying to get out of debt, it’s OK to set up a date night. It’s OK to go and see that movie you’ve been dying to watch! It’s OK to buy clothes, go on a picnic or spend a beautiful spring day outside of your home. It’s also wise to know some months you’re going for a walk in a park instead of to a fancy dinner because you had to have new tires on the car. Laugh a little, smell the roses, and learn to love your budget. It’s going to give you more freedom than you can imagine!
If you enjoyed this post, please join my email subscriber list! Just look on the right side of the page! I hope to see you again!
Do you have any other tips or tricks to make planning your budget go smoothly?
What did you have to change about your way of thinking to handle your finances better?