How to Budget? 3 Tips for Budgeting Success
With the tough economy and everyone focused on money saving tips, there's been a renewed interest in how to budget. For some, it’s an easy task, and completed in an afternoon. For others, the very idea of creating, or worse, living on a budget strikes fear in their hearts. This article is for those of us who need help learning how to budget.
Let’s start with the idea of making of budget. Why is it so hard? There are plenty of software programs, free online worksheets, and books on this subject so it’s not that we don’t know how to write down our living expenses in the little boxes. Our resistance to making a budget may be one of three things: either fear, shame, or complete denial. Here are some success strategies to help you overcome your budget reluctance and master how to budget.
It’s scary to actually sit down and list how much money is coming in versus what is going out, but it’s vital to keeping your financial house in order. If you suspect that fear is holding you back, think of budgeting baby-steps. For starters, just commit to writing down what you spend on food for the next 30 days. That’s it - just food. When you get a cup of coffee, write it down. After grocery shopping, keep the receipt, etc. Focus on documenting your spending in just the one area. This method shouldn’t awaken the fear monster inside you, and could let you move from this one area of tracking your spending into other areas.
We know, even without little numbers on a spreadsheet, when we are spending more than we should. We feel it. And with that feeling of overspending comes some shame. Not only is this harmful to our health, but spending beyond our limits is dangerous. The success strategy here is to keep a feelings journal. You are obviously in touch with how you feel, so write down every place where you feel good. If you are happy when making dinner, write that down. Feel good watching your kids play soccer, write that down. After 2 weeks, review your journal. Identify moments, places, and people that bring you joy. The goal is to spend more time doing what brings happiness, and less time spending money.
Those in complete denial are the ones who don’t open their bills when they arrive, or have no idea what the balance is in their checking account. Maybe they have tried budgets in the past, and they just couldn’t make them work. If this sounds like you, try the success strategy I call “one bill at a time”. If facing your debt seems like too much, just start with one bill. Open just a credit card bill, or go online and see what that cards balance is. I know it might be tough, but you have to force yourself to start somewhere. Remember the old riddle when you were a kid? How do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time.
Not everyone is at the same starting point when it comes to making a budget that works. Try and move forward, working through whatever is holding you back. Imagine how you would feel if all your bills were paid, or if you knew exactly how much money you could spend shopping today, guilt free. Make a decision to move one step forward right now, past whatever is holding you back. I know you can master how to budget, and you will feel so much better when you do.