I love budgets. I do.
Most people I know do NOT like budgets. At all. Not even a little.
When I ask my friends about it they get this I-just-ate-cold-strained-spinach look on their faces. Then the hemming and hawing begins about how they know they should be using one but they’re not.
I get it. Because I ignored budgets for far too many years.
Maybe we dread it because a budget feels like a “Jailer” holding our money captive, and we don’t like having to tell ourselves NO about something because it’s not in the budget.
Or maybe we dread it because no matter how hard we try we can’t seem to stay within the budget, overspending month after month. And then eventually we throw in the towel and admit defeat because it’s a monthly failure we don’t need in our lives.
Or maybe you have another reason…?
Whatever it is, do we really need to have one? I mean, really?!!
No. and Yes.
No, because you could get the same results if you put your money on auto-pilot and had the iron will of a super-triathlete and the frugality of a mountain man.
You don’t? And you don’t want to live like a mountain man?
Ok then, you’re a Yes.
I’ll make it really simple and painless for you though...
Your budget only needs three things
That’s it. It doesn’t matter what all the fancy Quicken or Excel templates are doing. It doesn’t make a difference what colors, columns, rows, ledgers or tables it has. It can be on a napkin, your bathroom mirror, or a notepad.
It only has to do those 3 things for you. And you can customize it to your style of handling money.
Tracking is where we record every income and expense we’ve had. Any time money flowed in and out of our sphere of influence: our hands, wallets, accounts, anything; it is tracked.
We track because it allows us to see where we’ve been. We recognize the actions we’ve taken, the consequences of those actions, and decide if that works for us or not.
If it does, then we include those actions in our Planning so we can repeat them. If it doesn’t then we change our actions.
Planning is where we decide how we want to direct our money in the weeks and months ahead. Every cent that enters our sphere of influence then gets directed by us, in some way.
Without a budget, the decisions are haphazard. We lack a focused vision, so our money will follow our unfocused lead. And the result is generally overspending and waste.
Planning always looks to the future. It works best when we have a very clear vision of our Goals. Then money flows easily in the direction of our greatest needs and desires.
What directions are you giving your money?
Accountability keeps us honest. It compares our actions to our goals and calculates our success. And our failures.
It keeps us consistent; doing the same tracking and planning daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly so we can watch our prosperity grow.
It helps to have an accountability partner and to meet regularly to review the tracking and planning. My husband and I are each others. Not every planning meeting has been pleasant. (Ha--understatement) But we kept adjusting and working through it.
And now, we ENJOY our meetings because we are on target with our goals. It’s always fun to celebrate successes and to feel like we’re winning with money. And that’s what our planning meetings feel like: a celebration.
A budget is not designed as a weapon. Nowhere is there space or time for blaming or manipulation.
If you have common goals with your money then it’s NOT the people who are failing, it’s the budget system.
Adjust the system (the plan for how you direct your money) to play to your strengths and you can’t help but have success.
Give it two months of persistent Tracking, Planning, and Accountability meetings and you’ll be very clear on what your Goals and Vision with money are, and the best ways for you to implement your Plan (ie. Budget) to get the Results you want.
Do I look at my budget every day? No, not really.
But when we were still figuring things out I went over it very frequently. Enough times to have the numbers become a habit with me. And that’s the Result we’re shooting for: to make good Habits that become second nature.
And now I don’t NEED to look at our budget every day.
It’s on auto-pilot. And I didn’t even have to become a triathlete or a mountain man to do it. ;)
What is the easiest part of your budget to manage? Which part poses the greatest challenge? Share in the comments.