Is Your Budget Just Too Tight? Loosen It!

I write an awful lot about making a dollar work, saving for a rainy day, simple ways to save money. etc. It’s pretty important. A pretty quick way to give yourself a raise is to cut out the fluff in your money (everyone’s fluff is different, mine is probably eating out as it seems to go first during the cutting phase).

I like to stay fit, but when I was 14 I wanted to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I think that’s a fairly typical desire of any 14-30 year old 😉

I don’t want to digress too much from the topic here but bear with me for a second. A successful bodybuilder knows that he must build a foundation of muscle before he can enter the ‘cutting phase’ in preparing for a competition.

Many wanna-be gym-goers will jump the gun when it comes to gaining muscle and might. They’ll eat moderately, lift intensively, and in a matter of a few short weeks or months, they’ll want to begin “cutting”.

Cutting is basically the phase of a bodybuilder’s competition preparation where he goes on an absolutely stringent diet. The diet will help him become extremely defined, bringing out every muscle striation and bulge he has to offer.

During the show season you’ll find bodybuilders in this ‘ripped’ phase. Their veins are sticking out, their muscles have muscles inside those muscles, etc. Were you to do this you would find out there are more than just two ab muscles. 🙂

But in the offseason what do bodybuilders look like? What are they doing? They’re eating (still good food), and they’re eating a lot. They’re also lifting very intensively and they’re building a new foundation.

Where the wanna-be bodybuilders go wrong is their timing of the cutting phase. If you’re first starting out, you’re well advised to go through a foundation-building routine for a year or more. It takes a while to build up anything worth cutting to show off!

And sometimes when we’re budgeting we make the same mistake. We begin cutting when we should really be focusing on our foundation.

Your ‘foundation’ in this sense is your INCOME.

Honestly, there are times when you really are cut to the bone. There’s not much else you can do. You need to eat. You need a place to sleep. You need clothes on your back. You need some heat for the winter. If you cut much more, there won’t be anything left. This is the time (or perhaps it should have been done earlier) where you need to focus on your income. How can you build your income?

As Dave Ramsey says, your income is your number one wealth-building tool. You need to make the most of it!

Think long-term about this as well. I’m not talking about increasing your income by holding a garage sale, selling stuff on ebay, or working overtime at your current job. Those are all temporary solutions. You need to think about furthering your education, acquiring a new skill, building a part-time business. A furthering of education does not need to be formal. I’ve never taken a class on family budgeting – yet I’m fairly educated on the subject because I’ve read so much about it. If I want to learn about investing so I can increase our income I don’t sign up at the university. I sign up at the local library.

There are dozens of things you personally can do to increase your income. What kind of an employee are you? Does your work merit a raise? Are you going above and beyond in your job? Are you educating yourself at home, during off-hours, about things work related so you can be better prepared to get the job done with a higher quality in a shorter amount of time?

What can you do to make your boss’ job easier?

What kind of talents do you have? Are you an exceptional writer? Can you design? Do you have a knack for landscape architecture? Are you handy? Can you fix things easily? Do you do bookkeeping? What unique selling proposition can you bring to the table? I’m convinced that everyone has an idea that is salable – but not everyone has the tenacity and courage to hoe to the end of their row and actually go out and market their idea.

Focus on your income. Build your foundation!

I for one don’t want to be pinching pennies forever. I don’t want to just have $5 of fun money each month for myself (do you have any idea how long it takes to save for an iMac when I get $5 per month? 20 years). I don’t want to have just $20 for eating out each month (we mowed through $13 of it at a fancy burger joint on Saturday). I want to be able to buy some new tennis shoes when I need them – and maybe even when I just want a new color! And that’s the only reason!

Budgeting is empowering. Telling your money what to do is an absolute necessity. But everyone knows its more fun and less stressful to work at a company where the money just flows.

Don’t limit yourself to the cutting phase only. Build your foundation as well. A successful bodybuilder knows when to do both, for how long, and in what order.