Some of you are new to the world of budgeting.
Perhaps it was a New Year’s Resolution of yours. We’re about two weeks into January so by now you’ve either nailed it, completely forgotten about it, or crashed and burned hard.
No matter where you are with budgeting, I want to share with you five ways you’ll be thrown off course as you learn how to make it a habit in your life.
1. Pretend You’re a Pro
You will mess up your first few budgets. If you walk into budgeting acting like a pro and expect perfection, you are setting yourself up for failure.
How can you be excellent at something you’ve never done before? You can’t. We’re all human. Do your best and give budgeting all the effort it deserves…but inevitably as you discover you underfunded/overfunded/totally forgot certain items to budget for you need to cut yourself some slack. You can get back on the saddle and get it more right the next round.
And the next round.
And the next…until you are a true budgeting pro.
2. Forget About Tracking
If you are one of those people who plans to mentally keep track of your budget as you go through the month, you’re crazy.
You won’t do it.
Especially if you are married and you not only have to keep track of your own spending but that of another spouse’s spending.
Not. Gonna. Happen.
You need a way to track how you are spending money from your budget each month. I don’t care how you do it but you need something other than your fleeting memory. Paper and pen. Budgeting Apps. Dave Ramsey Gazelle Budget website. YNAB – You Need a Budget software.
In the beginning we were pen and paper people. We tracked on the back of every envelope how much was spent from it and the various purchases. This worked but man did it get old. We then switched to Dave Ramsey’s Gazelle Budget but it was a pain in the rear to have to save receipts from the day and then enter them one by one into the budget every evening. That’s when we got YNAB software and we’ve never looked back. Jonathan and I can spend from the budget and track it throughout the day on our phones. It then auto syncs in the cloud so our budget is up to date at all moments. Love it!
3. Don’t Consult it Before Purchasing
If you show up at the grocery store or and begin to just place items in your cart without first checking your budget, you will bust your budget quicker than the speed of light. Or agree to go to the movies without first checking in with what the Entertainment category has left in it.
The budget is meant to be a guide and not a noose. By checking in with what you’ve set aside in varying categories, you are giving yourself freedom to make wise choices with how you planned to spend money that month. You free yourself to say “yes” or “no” to whatever items or activity has come up based on what amount is left in the budget for that particular category.
By consulting the budget, you won’t end up accidentally overspending your gas money on one too nights out at the movies.
4. Be Ashamed of the “B” Word
In the world of responsible budgeting, a common phrase would be, “Let me check the budget” prior to spending money. This phrase can be really hard to use when in the company of other people and typically invokes great fear or shame.
I remember in the early days of our journey to financial freedom, it was late in the month and friends we were hanging out with asked us to go to a movie that night. We honestly didn’t know what we had left in our “entertainment” category for the month since we’d already done a few fun things in the previous weeks. Jonathan looked at me and said, “Is it in the budget,” and I got completely embarrassed.
I shouldn’t of felt anything negative since budgets are not a matter to be ashamed of. We had other priorities and going to the movies wasn’t top if we didn’t have the funds available for it. Much to our disappointment, we had already depleted our entertainment budget for the month and turned the friends down. Thankfully they were very understanding but even if they hadn’t been we didn’t need to feel anything but confidence.
5. Over-complicate Things
Lastly, one way to get derailed in the budgeting process is to make things so complicated that even you, the budget creator, can’t tell how or where to categorize things.
There is a tendency to create way too many categories in one’s budget. You don’t have to budget for shampoo. Budget for toiletries. You don’t have to budget for an occasional magazine. Budget personal blow money. You don’t have to budget for Netflix. Budget for entertainment.
You get the idea. Finding ways to bring lots of different expenses under common categories will simplify your life. Think general and make categories for those commonly occurring expenses. Those smaller ones that come up only a couple times a year can find a home in one of your general categories. We even have a “miscellaneous” category for things like stamps, Amazon Prime, and the random items that come up every now and again that need a home in our budget.
If you over complicate the budget, you won’t stick to the budget.
Hopefully you can avoid the common ways to derail your budget this year!
I think the number one reason people don’t stick to a budget is lack of accountability and support. Starting next month we will begin providing some form of budget accountability. We’re still figuring our the logistics…will it be a link-up? A photo? A hashtag? Some combination of those? We are working out the details but starting February 1, 2015 we are here to support and encourage all of you trying to stick to a budget this year!
Hope you can join us!