This article, entitled "Keys to Creating a Budget," comes from partner site SavingsAngel.com.
When you think about a budget, do you have visceral reaction? Many people do. They cringe. They frown. They tighten up inside. Why is that? Because starting and keeping a budget has about the same appeal as going to jail. For life.
There you sit. In budget jail. You’re held captive by your finances. You can’t do anything fun. You eat nothing but Ramen and drink nothing but water. Day in, day out, week after week, month after month, with no hope of parole.
Do you want to be free? I know the escape route, and it is actually unbelievably easy. It’s all in understanding this simple, but extremely powerful, truth: Budget jail doesn’t exist. That’s right. It’s all in your head. You created budget jail, and you put yourself there.
You might be thinking, “What?? It does exist! I tried budgeting, and I felt completely trapped. I constantly had to say ‘I can’t afford it’ – to practically… everything. I had no fun. No life. How can you say that I put myself in budget jail?“
That answer is just as simple, and as life changing. You set up a budget based on someone else’s life. Yep. I guarantee that’s what you did. That’s why it didn’t work. You see, a proper, personalized budget is actually one of the most freeing financial things you can do. It never controls you – YOU control it.
Now you might be thinking, “But I did it the way everyone says I should. I put in my bills, and I set money aside for all the things they said I should. By the time I was done, I had no money and no life.”
Exactly. The freedom a budget gives comes from this: Setting it up for how you really live. When you create a budget from a mindset of how things “ought to be”, you put yourself in budget jail. Instead, you need a budget that reflects you: how you actually live life, including your goals and priorities right now. So not only do you need to focus on your reality, you absolutely must be honest with yourself in how you live and spend your money. When you’re not honest in setting up your budget, it will fail. Every time.
You can’t approach a budget with the mindset that you “have to” do certain things. For example, it is advisable to set aside 10-15% of your income for retirement. But if you cannot even meet your bills right now, and every month you’re going further and further into debt, the reality is that you can’t do that at this point in your life.
You also can’t approach a budget with the mindset that by simply making a budget, it will automatically change your habits. That’s not going to happen. For example, after looking at your numbers, you might declare that you’re never going to go out to eat again, or go shopping , or maintain a hobby. Really? In an effort to “follow your budget”, you just put yourself in budget jail. And you are miserable. For about a week. Then you abandon your budget and go out, shop, or enjoy your hobby anyway.
So what’s the upshot of all this? You must create a budget, where every dollar has a job – also known as zero-based budgeting – and those jobs are ones that make sense in your real life, right now. Without every dollar having a job you’ve assigned it, dollars tend to disappear mysteriously. You have no idea where they all went. There seemed to be so many on payday, then a week later… crickets. That must stop.
Fortunately, creating a realistic, ‘every dollar has a job’ budget isn’t as overwhelming as it seems. YNAB.com (You Need A Budget) is a tool I started using for 2016 – and is the first that I’ve ever used that follows this superior method of budgeting.
Helping people create honest, personalized budgets is what they do. They are all about the freedom a proper budget provides. Other budgeting tools rely on the monthly post-mortem method – which isn’t as effective – particularly if you have variable income.
Keys to creating a budget that gives you financial FREEDOM:
– Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t input what you wish amounts were for your spending. If you spend $500 a month on groceries, you spend $500 a month on groceries. Don’t try to budget only $400. Until you can cut your grocery bill down, and I’d be happy to help with that on SavingsAngel.com, you’re going to spend $500. Pretending you won’t, just because you want it to be so, only puts you in budget jail.
– Face the honest facts on how you spend your money. You might find yourself shocked that you’re even making it every month because things are way out of balance. But at least you’ll know. And you can make small adjusts until new habits form.
– Try an ‘every dollar has a job’ budgeting tool like YNAB. With their mobile app availability, you can live your budget in the real world. It’s always as close as your devices, so you can see where you’re at financially, and make wise choices every single day.