Our wonderful group did discuss the benefits and rewards to budgeting, but somehow spent most of the time discussing the obstacles (you see, this is why I created the group in the first place!).
By far, the biggest reward to budgeting is the feeling of knowing what is going on with your money. When you know what you have, you know what to manage. After you’ve done your budget, you feel good, like after you’ve gone to the gym. There was even talk about applying Feng Shui principles to finances and the book, “Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life” was highly recommended. When you think about it, Feng Shui encourages us to get rid of clutter, even mental clutter. When one budgets, one is getting rid of mental clutter and that promotes well-being. Is well-being enough of a driver, though, to get people to actually budget? Hmmm…
The other reward to budgeting is having the extra savings, to be used in any way you wish! Participants discussed lots of creative ways to save, such as saving all coin, all dollar bills, dollar bills with a certain letter or number on them. One heard of the “52 week savings plan” in which you save $1 in week 1, $2 in week 2 and so on. Week 52 you save $52 and after the whole year you’ve saved $1300! There’s also the “round up” option on some credit and debit cards that put the extra charge into your savings account.
But there are obstacles. As one of the group participants said, “Budgeting is easy on paper, hard to execute.” Tracking your spending is quite labor intensive, after all, and once you’ve written those numbers down, you must be accountable for them. That can be scary but at least it’s the devil you know versus the devil you don’t know.
But tracking spending isn’t really budgeting. Budgeting means establishing how much you are able (watch that carefully, because therein lies the problem) to spend and then following through on that plan. You can at least start with something on paper (or online if that’s your style) and revise it if it doesn’t work, just start!
One of the biggest problems I see so prevalent with budgeting is that most people do not use actual money (cash) for purchases. Most everyone buys with credit cards, debit cards, online (PayPal) transactions or automatic payments through their bank. It’s hard to budget when, in effect, you don’t work within the structure of one. When you use cash and you allot a certain amount of money either per category (like gas) or per time frame (like week), you create structure and discipline where there wasn’t any. If you only allot $100 for groceries and you’ve committed to using just cash, you must limit your spending to $100. I suspect this is why people don’t use cash: they don’t want to limit themselves.
Set aside special budgeting time with yourself or, if you’re in a committed relationship, with your spouse or significant other. Create a special block of time when you enjoy something delicious, some candle light and music…get in a good place mentally. Discuss what’s been working first, then what isn’t working. Do not place blame. Use “I” language, (such as “I have been very mindful about my spending on lunches, but I don’t feel like I’m seeing the benefits in our savings account.”). Establish a routine, a healthy habit. Put your attention and energy onto what you wish to grow (kind of like talking to your plants).
Get in the habit of tying your work to the reward. My husband always calculates how many hours he’d have to work for a specific purchase; it puts things in perspective. Think about how you could create more money if your budget is beyond your earnings.
Photos (aside from the rose, which is mine) courtesy of ClipArt.