Hate Budgeting? Take Step 1: Admit Powerlessness

The “I HATE Budgeting (But I Like Having Money)” support group was started because I realized there were support groups for some people to help with some challenging aspects of life (alcohol, drugs, overeating, gambling) but there really wasn’t anything for money, and that’s something we all have to deal with, every day.

The group has committed to the 12 steps made famous by Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. They include:

  1. Admit powerlessness.
  2. Acknowledge a Higher Power, ask for help.
  3. Turn over your will and life to the Higher Power of your understanding.
  4. Personal inventory (SWOT).
  5. Admit wrongs to your Higher Power, self and another human being.
  6. Ask your Higher Power to remove your defects of character.
  7. Ask your Higher Power to remove your shortcomings.
  8. List all people we’ve harmed & be willing to make amends.
  9. Make amends directly whenever possible.
  10. Another personal inventory, admit wrongs promptly.
  11. Become disciplined with your prayer & meditation, acknowledge & seek your Higher Power’s will & communication.
  12. Carry these principles to others, live them in all aspects of life.

We focused on Step 1 (“Admit Powerlessness”) at the September kick-off meeting.

I admit, I struggled with this concept of powerlessness
when so much of my work is to help people feel empowered about their finances (my tag line, blog and book feature this word).

But I went into the meeting with an open mind
and an agenda, knowing the participants would lead the way.
And they did.

The Meaning of Powerlessness: The group identified a couple major themes with this step including surrendering (because you won’t seek or ask for help until you do) and knowing what you can and cannot control (along the lines of the Serenity Prayer). We cannot control:

  • The constant barrage of “buy” and “do”  and ” you’re not good enough” messages in the media/advertising.
  • How we were raised.
  • What happened in the past.
  • What was done to us.
  • Other people’s materialism.
  • Other people’s social media posts.
  • Other people’s opinions.
  • Our culture.
  • The system.

Surrender Versus Passivity: We discussed how purchasing can be self-medicating; a means to bury issues until we can/want to deal with them. We busy ourselves, too, with activities; denial can be protective.

Powerlessness doesn’t mean avoidance or obsession: It is my observation that when people feel powerless with money they either obsess and become super controlling or they avoid it altogether (i.e. don’t open bills/statements); “all-or-nothing”-ness. Of course neither response is healthy or balanced.

We talked about admitting powerlessness with statements such as, “This is where I’m at right now. Where do I want to go from here?” and “I’m powerless against what is making my life unmanageable,” (again, this was tough for me).

Some tactics for surrendering/admitting powerlessness and moving forward:

  • Get present – Focusing on the past fosters anger, regret, and resentment and focusing on the future can foster worry (which is an addictive behavior). Reframing and  cultivating hope, self-awareness, self-love, gentleness, mindfulness/intentionality all help you be in the present (and, not surprisingly, will help you in the future). Go outside. Take some deep breaths. Count to ten.


  • Make a Reality Sandwich – You start by stating what’s working well, then consider what needs work, then finish up with positive next steps towards a better outcome next time.


  • Ask yourself, “What itch am I trying to scratch?” –  I talk a lot about the importance of acknowledging your needs in order to be fully content with your financial decisions. If you ignore your true, core needs, you’ll end up buying everything in sight to try to get that need met. You are powerless when you don’t know yourself. Approach every decision based on who you are. Increased self-awareness leads to increased discipline, will power, and contentment.


  • Do The Tens – Based on Suzy Welch’s book 10-10-10, ask yourself “How will I feel about this decision ten minutes from now? Ten hours from now? Ten days from now? Ten weeks from now? Ten years from now?”


  • Meaning –  One participant shared how the book, The Geometry of Wealth helped her focus on her ability to use wealth to “create a meaningful life.” One participant shared this pearl of wisdom, “I’m powerless against everything except how I respond to it.”

Want to join the conversation?

Peace & abundance,
Amy Jo

About Amy Jo Lauber

I help people who are overwhelmed take control & make good financial decisions with confidence and experience peace and abundance. Are you ready to say goodbye to working hard but not having anything to show for it? Go to www.lauberfinancialplanning.com "Let's Talk" tab to schedule your complimentary initial consultation and take the first step on the path to financial empowerment.
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