One of the most common pieces of advice personal financial writers give is “develop a budget.” One of the most common complaints of people who seek personal financial advice is “I cannot budget.” There are tutorials on how to create a budget on a number of sites and people going into in-debt discussions on the benefits of budgets. Of course, there are also tales of attempt after failed attempt leading to nothing but exacerbation and eventually giving up on the task entirely. It may seem like the two aren’t connecting, but that’s far from the case. The reason why people have trouble budgeting comes down to one reason…
You don’t want to!
Anyone can develop a budget. If you have ever made a shopping list and stayed within it, you have budgeted. If you’ve ever planned a party or even with a set amount of money (birthday, wedding, anniversary), you have budgeted. All it really takes is the ability to read and write. Making the budget, for the most part, is the easy step. All it really entails is recording all of your income and regular expenses, then allocating the rest. The income numbers come right from your paychecks if you are an employee someplace, or from your accounting software if you are self-employed and don’t take a salary. The expenses you can get right from your checkbook or bank statement, as most of them are recurring and generally the same. That leaves the odds and ends–the entertainment and commuting, clothing, maintenance, etc. It may be a little difficult at first, but these are the categories that you are going to be allocating estimates to so you don’t need to be exact with them.
So where is the part that people don’t want to do? Right here:
Making the budget is easy. It’s just numbers taken from the historical data that is your life. Making the necessary lifestyle changes to stay within those budgeted amounts is where most people fail to follow through. Where most people get tripped up is sticking to the allocations for spending. They fail in adjusting their spending habits to stay within their budgeted amounts for certain expense categories.
The truth is, many people are unwilling to make the sacrifices to adapt and change the way they live and manage their money. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone if this describes you. Many of us are guilty of this. We have all become accustomed to certain lifestyles, and change is not something that most people handle very well. And it may not even be your own fault. The reasons vary, but most typically include:
- The way they were brought up–either coming from money or from homes in which the parents lived beyond their means–never having a solid financial foundation
- The way they lived in their “bachelor/bachelorette” years–free-spending, not a care in the world–getting too used to it and not wanting to grow up
- The way they live now–worrying about keeping up appearances–worrying about what others think
Nobody wants to go from driving a new Mercedes every 2 years to a Kia or worse yet, buying a used car. Nobody wants to go from dining on lobster and filet mignon to tuna fish and hot dogs. Nobody wants to go from staying at the Ritz Carlton to the Holiday Inn on vacations, or even cutting them out completely. It’s difficult to find areas to cut back on when you are so used to, and comfortable with how you were previously spending your money. Wants often times get confused with needs when you’re used to living a certain way.
It can be difficult to break long-standing habits, or learn the proper way to do things when you’ve been doing them wrong for so long. Sometimes it’s easier to simply throw in the towel and give up, using the excuse that it’s too difficult to change. That is just an excuse. It’s certainly not a reason for why you cannot execute a budget. As I’ve said, we’ve all been there before. Sometimes it is necessary to throw everything we thought we knew out the window and start learning how to handle money all over again, the right way. Or, you can just keep living your life the way you have been, never making any headway and never getting ahead.
Remember: you are the only one stopping you from being able to budget your money.
Do you have a budget in place? Is it difficult to make, and stick to it? What tips would you give someone who is having trouble executing their own?