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16 May 2017

Worried You’ll Never Be Able To Stick To A Budget? This One’s For You!

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by Lindsey Burgess

We’ve all known the feeling. You pull your card from your wallet and wince, just slightly, as you hand it to the cashier. Some quick mental math says you should be fine. Probably?

But you don’t actually know for sure, and overdraft fees. Ugh. Enough with the overdraft fees, the timing of bills, the doubt, and the guilt.

As if on cue, a familiar nagging thought surfaces—one you’ve been avoiding: “I need to start budgeting.”

It’s the same thought that you try to ignore when you’re paying bills, eating out, or even considering “splurging” on, well, anything. And when you have no concrete idea of how much money you have or what you can afford at any given moment, pretty much everything feels like a “splurge.”

You know your current money management approach (??!??!?!?!???!) isn’t sustainable, but it’s the status quo, and so you accept and maintain a permanent level of stress and anxiety that—mostly unconsciously—is impacting more and more areas of your life. (And not in a good way.)

Can we agree something has to change? Ok, cool. So then, what if we flip the script? Instead of worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to stick to a budget, start worrying about what might happen if you never get to live a life free of money stress?

Time to Try Something New: A Life Free Of Financial Worry & Doubt

It’s possible! A budget helps you manage your finances, sure, but this is about so much more than avoiding overdraft fees. It’s not about denial, it’s about freedom. A budget will give you control of your money, and once you are in control, you can ensure your money remains focused on whatever is most important to you and live a life of your own design! (Intrigued? At least a little bit? Keep reading!)

Truth: Budgeting Will Make You Happier

If you did a double-take at that last sentence, you’re not alone. Budgeting has a terrible reputation and many people never get past the hype—they never even make it to the starting line. Maybe you can relate? Maybe you’ve given up before you ever started because you are intimated by some combination of these common fears:

Because Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Think of it this way: If you know that there’s a spider in your room, wouldn’t you rather have the light on? When you know how big the spider is, and where he’s dangling from, you can make more informed choices. In the dark, your anxiety goes up (and you’re kind of scared to move).

The same is true for managing money. If you’re in the dark, figuratively speaking, it’s hard to say whether or not you should book that weekend getaway or get your car repaired. Turning on the lights, or budgeting, might be uncomfortable at first, but it isn’t a punishment. It’s empowerment.

A budget doesn’t tell you how to live your life—it’s a tool that puts you in the driver seat. The budget helps you get laser focused about what you want and how to get there—faster. More of what matters most to you = happiness. (It’s not rocket science, folks!)

Can we all agree that something has to change you just don’t know where to begin? Great! Because this is where we really shine! We can help you get started in just a few simple steps. You will be shocked at how easy it is to get going and how quickly you will feel differently about your money!

Step One: Track Your Spending

Seriously, just start tracking your spending. That’s it.

You don’t have to change a single spending habit, just track every single dollar you spend. You could use software like YNAB (we’d be remiss not to mention you can try it free for 34-days!), a spreadsheet, or just a pen and paper. Analog or digital is no matter, just track every dollar.

Step Two: Observe The Unlikely Power Of Awareness

You’ve avoided a budget because of all the rules and restrictions! Just no! You think a budget will mean you can never get Starbucks, or buy new jeans, or generally speaking, do anything fun. It seems hard. And you don’t want to feel like a failure. But the irony is, a budget gives you clarity.

When you decide to take control of your finances, and spend some time thinking about what your money should be doing, and what you want it to do, and then track what it actually is doing, you’ll naturally make better decisions. Knowledge is actually power!

Being aware of every dollar forces you to face the fact that your money is finite. There is only so much to go around, so, naturally, you want to be sure there will be money available for the things that are most important to you. And that’s it—you are budgeting!

Because that is ALL budgeting is—a tool to help you ensure your money is being funneled toward the things that are most important to you—whatever those things may be. There is no formula. It is different for everyone. The key is it is about getting more of what you want.

Step Three: Ask Yourself What You Really Want?

That is the core of budgeting—prioritization. You start with what is most important to you, what you want most, what makes you happy and then you back into it. The budget will help you get more of those things faster, without the guilt and stress and anxiety that plagues you and your current head-in-the-sand strategy. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Step Four: Give Every Dollar A Job

Keep tracking every dollar. But now, take it one one step further, and with your top priorities as True North, give every one of your dollars a job before you spend a dime. Then use your budget as a guide for your spending and adjust the plan when life doesn’t go as planned (so, you know, weekly) or when you change your mind about what is most important (yes, of course! We all change our minds!). Sooner than you think, your efforts will become habits. Habits are easy—we do them without even thinking about it. When you get the swing of it, add another habit. Before you know it, you’ve built up a collection of habits, and budgeting is second nature (yes, really).

Life is always changing and so will your budget. That doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong, it means you are engaged. It’s a good thing! Sooner than you think, your efforts will become habits. Habits are easy—we do them without even thinking about it. When you get the swing of it, add another habit. Before you know it, you’ve built up a collection of habits, and budgeting is second nature (yes, really).

Sooner than you think, you’ll get whiffs of success. Common side effects of budgeting include: less stress all around, more breathing room, more satisfaction when you choose to spend and when you choose not too, and more money in the bank than you ever thought possible.

Forward progress will fuel your efforts and before you know it, you’ll have a new set of habits—a new mindset—that feels second nature. You won’t stress about having to budget because you’ll know your budget is the only reason why you’ve been able to stop stressing!

You may not have as much money as you wish you did (who does?!), but you’ll know exactly what you have and what it needs to do, which empowers you to spend confidently, knowing you have a plan focused on the things that make you happy! Less stress, more money spent wisely! SCORE!

Step Five: Reap The Benefits Of A Budgeted Life

Imagine this: you pull your debit card from your wallet and smile as you hand it to the cashier. You budgeted for this, and you’re excited about your purchase. You’re not worried about an overdraft fee—you’re a budgeter—you spend without guilt or fear!

Because you have a plan. When the bills come, you won’t have to wonder if there is enough, or debate which bill to pay late. When a bill comes in, you just pay it. You knew this was coming and you planned for it. No sweat. In fact, you are already thinking further out into the future. To think you ever worried you wouldn’t be able to stick to a budget!

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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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