Don’t let the title of this post mislead you. Much like my friend, Jacob, I truly do heart budgets. When I had over twenty thousand dollars of consumer debt dragging me down like a millstone around my neck, there is no way that I could have understood the gravity of the situation without crunching the numbers. More importantly, without going through the process of creating a budget, there was no way I could have clearly seen where expenses needed to be cut and how much extra income I was going to need to move from the red to the black.
With all of that said, budgets really can be a serious bummer. To do it right, you really need to dig in and get your hands dirty, and look in all of the dark crevices where you like to hide your spending. Those $3 coffees that you like to get in the morning at work? Yeah, they certainly do add up. That monthly Netflix subscription that you barely use anymore? Why are you still paying for it? Those $120 trips to the hair salon every other month? Wow, they cost more than your electric bill!
Budgets Are A Financial Mirror
What stinks about creating a budget is that it will FORCE you to make some tough choices. Right away, it should become crystal clear that you cannot have your cake and eat it too. If you want to make a large purchase one month, you are going to have pay for it somewhere else. Purchasing that new $400 breakfast room table may force you to skip eating out for a month or two. Deciding to bank $300 each month for that big vacation, may necessitate zeroing out your entertainment budget, and taking a pass when friends invite you out. During times like these, it would be so much easier to just put your blinders on, and use the credit card to cover these purchases. After all, #YOLO! Isn’t that what all the kiddies would say? We can just add “Credit Card Payoff” as a category in next month’s budget, right?
Of course, this is a mistake, and undermines the whole point of budgeting in the first place. Just because budgets are a bummer doesn’t mean that you can spend what you don’t have. If you put that night out or that new table on credit cards and don’t count them against your current budget, you are taking a serious gamble, and the odds are stacked against you. For one, your budget next month will get started with one foot buried in the ground. Next month’s budget may have some unforeseen expenses and might not have room for you to pay off your balance in full. This means you will have to pay interest on that borrowed money, and even worse, you might be in danger of slipping into a pattern of carrying an ever-increasing balance on your credit cards each month.
How To NOT Be Depressed With Your Budget
The only way to keep budgets from being a bummer, is to stay on the correct side of the ledger. If your budget tells you that you can’t afford to buy something this month, don’t get discouraged. Just figure out a way to work it into next month’s budget instead. You may just find that after a month of waiting, you don’t need that item as much as you thought you did.
If your budget shows that you spend too much on groceries (as mine did), don’t let this discourage you. Just start expanding your shopping routine to include trips to budget grocery stores, and start looking into couponing. If your budget shows you that when all is said and done, you just don’t make enough money, then don’t develop an inferiority complex. Instead, use this as a wakeup call to see if you can talk to your boss about getting a raise, or find some work on the side to cover the gap until things get better.
While budgets may seem like a bummer, in reality, they are a necessity. Learn to heart them, my friends.
Jefferson writes for the family finance site, See Debt Run. The site began as a place to chronicle a family’s journey out of debt, but has evolved into a place to discuss everything from saving money on groceries, to how to teach your kids about money, to how to find out if your co-workers are making more than you.