Honesty Pays (and Your Budget is No Pinocchio)


Most of us would never think of taking money from a friend, or borrowing some money (why?) with no intent to pay it back — a form of stealing. We would never dream of taking something from a store, or anything else even remotely like that.

But when it comes to being honest with ourselves we struggle in a big, big way.

I catch myself borrowing money…from myself. What I mean is that I’ll maybe rationalize my way into spending and buying something now because a supplemental inflow is coming our way. Have you ever bought with the money you’re going to get in the near (or not so near) future? Certainly there are times when it works out, but then there are those times that it won’t. One way of being dishonest with ourselves is this borrowing from future not-quite-yet-earned money. It’s probably best that we all develop the discipline to push off that purchase until we actually have the money in hand. Not because you’ll go bankrupt if you do. It’s just that it seems a Best Practice that should be implemented.

Another way we lie and steal from ourselves is regarding retirement. It’s certainly related to spending future money. We also don’t save because we’re under the impression that the good times will roll later on, saving will somehow become easier (it won’t), and your economic situation will only be peachy. If you’re earning any sort of income, you need to be saving for retirement. Be honest with yourself. You are going to need that money!

Budgeting is your Jimmy Cricket my little wooden friend. Remember the part in the movie where Pinocchio is learning to “yell, Jimminy Cricket!” and he “give[s] a little whistle” when he’s being tempted?

[The next time you’re walking through the mall and your gaze lands on the next thing, maybe you could do the same. Give a little whistle…perhaps yell “I need a budget!” (loud enough for some people to hear. “It’s y-o-u-n-e-e-d-a-b-u-d-g-e-t-d-o-t-c-o-m”, you’ll tell them)]

Sorry.

Seriously though. The budget will keep you honest. As you assign those dollars to categories, you’re going to see that Available number decline until it hits zero. That’s it. You’re done. You don’t have any more money. I honestly feel like we sometimes think we have this limitless supply of money. You should look at the budget, look at that big, blank space where your Available money was and say to yourself, “I have no more money. And there isn’t any more on its way, in case I was wondering.”

Your dollars will be given jobs. That’s what they will do. Your job is to make sure they do what they were asked. Be flexible. Be realistic. But above all — be honest with yourself!

Occasionally a person will email me their budget and they are truly strapped. What do I tell them? “Oh, no, you have plenty of money. Don’t worry about it.” That would be a huge disservice! That wouldn’t be right. That would be dishonest and it would hurt the person’s progress. Sometimes it’s necessary to tell the person that they need to get their income up. They need to get a second job. They need to cut the cable. They need to brown bag it to lunch. They need a budget.

Sometimes it’s helpful to tell yourself the exact…same…thing.

I don’t have any more money.

I will start saving for retirement.

I need a budget.

It pays. Honest[l]y.