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11 Aug 2008

Hey Budget Hater – Admit It. You Already Have a "Budget"

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by Jesse Mecham

Hello there Budget Hater. I know who you are. You’re the type that snickers when I ask for a receipt after purchasing one bag of Great Value Seasoned Fries (excellent with some grilled hamburgers) for less than two dollars.

I need that receipt so I can record it, you fool!

Yes, I know who you are. You’re the type that claims it’s “all up here”, pointing to your head as you nod, apparently confident in your ability to budget in your head. Though that’s a stretch. Because if I said, “Oh you budget in your head?” You’d certainly be quick to respond that you don’t “need a budget” but you’re well aware of all of your spending (and you nod and point to your head again..It’s all up–enough of that!)

I most certainly know who you are, so let me take it from here.

You don’t admit to budgeting, but you have one. You have a list of priorities for your money, you just don’t admit it — not even to yourself. You always pay the rent, right? You always pay your electricity, right? You always buy groceries, right? You have priorities and your money does things to fit those priorities. You’re budgeting — you’re just doing it in a by-the-seat-of-your-pants way that’s terribly ineffective and will leave you with, well, less than you could have had (and by less I’m not talking about raw dollar numbers, I’m talking about the intangible stuff like peace, confidence, and flexibility).

Yes, you budget. All you people out there that say you don’t need a budget? You do need one and you’re already doing one. Yours just isn’t very good, so you don’t recognize any benefit from it.

You’re reactively budgeting. An emergency strikes and the van needs its power steering pumped fixed. So you budget — right then and there — and do with your money what you can. It’s almost never enough and you surrender to the Plastic, chipping away at your confidence and increasing your minimum payment just a wee bit.

You’re invited to hang out with some friends and realize that you’re a bit short on cash at the moment… so you charge the night out. You knew you were going to be doing something social…but you chose not to think about it until it actually happened. And social stuff like entertainment isn’t so much in the budget in your head, so you kind of didn’t have a plan for it.

Christmas rolls around and you dig your hole a bit deeper.

Gas prices keep rising and you don’t know where you can cut back to compensate.

Food prices seem to be climbing, but you have no plan of action.

Your reactionary methods have gotten you this far. Why not try something different?

Maybe you could sit down with each paycheck, just twice a month, and look at what you have available and allocate ALL of those funds to a purpose — give every dollar a job I like to say. You’d have some preset categories and they would spur the thinking for you: “Oh, entertainment’s a category…I’m sure we’ll be doing something this weekend so I’ll budget $30 for it.” Would the $30 had been there if you weren’t budgeting? Maybe. But a few months from now when something else on the van breaks, that $300 wouldn’t have been there. It came from the fact that you socked away $100 per month toward car repairs.

Not because you had any big repairs planned — only because you knew there would be repairs eventually.

Yes, you are a budget hater. You hate that you feel “controlled” but that feeling won’t actually be there when you start. You’ll feel in control. You’ll feel confident in your decisions. You’ll see your dollars stretch further. You’ll see communication in your marriage improve. You’ll be budgeting.

And you’ll happily take a receipt from the cashier when you purchase seasoned fries.

Your Next Step

Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)

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