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Prior to telling people that they should avoid student loans, my suggestion to budget was met with the greatest amount of resistance. Whereas I have no idea why everyone is so angry about me suggesting that they seek other types of college funding other than student loans, I completely understand why people hate budgeting. People think budgeting is boring and restrictive. They think it’s tapioca.
For 32 years, I hated tapioca. It was vile. The texture was awful. The color was awful. And the taste? Well, I don’t know. I had never tasted it. I had turned my back on tapioca for 32 years without fully understanding what it had to offer. Um, tapioca is FREAKIN’ GOOD. I tasted it last year. It was really good. I was immediately pissed at myself for wasting so many years of tapioca eating time. Budgeting is the financial tapioca.
But what is budgeting? This actually isn’t a stupid question. Part of the anxiety that surrounds budgeting is its propensity to be misunderstood. Budgeting is several things. Budgeting is the process of determining how much money you should spend on each expense category. Budgeting is also looking to see what you DID spend on each particular budget category. The thing is, in order to budget correctly, you have to do it all. You have to decide how much you should spend on things, and then you have to determine how much you spent. You also have to try to spend less in order to accomplish particular financial goals. Budgeting is great, once you decide to give a real chance. Don’t judge budgeting on it’s texture and appearance. Try it. But do it the right way. If you are aren’t budgeting, chances are that you believe one the following budgeting myths.
- Budgeting is pointless once you make over $100,000 per year- Budgeting is important no matter how much money you make. Having worked with several professional athletes in the past, I can tell you that even people who make over $1 million per year should budget. Many people strive to make more money so that they don’t have to budget, only to find out that expenses are tighter than ever despite the higher salary. This is because of unaccounted for spending. If you feel like you are still living paycheck to paycheck despite getting a substantial raise, then it’s likely that you need to budget.
- Life becomes miserable once you start budgeting- If you resent your life once you start budgeting, then you’re doing it wrong. Budgeting, when executed properly, is delightful. No, seriously. It is. If you are budgeting and hate it, then let me show you how to do it right.
- Budgeting requires too much math and time- Well, it requires a little math. Use a calculator. As far as time, being a financial disaster requires too much time. Do you know how hard it is to fix your financial life once you have broken it? Years. It takes years. It takes only 20 minutes per month to budget properly. That’s not too bad compared to fixing your financial life over a period of years.
- You don’t need a budget if you’re smart- The most overvalued skilled in the financial world is intelligence. Intelligence and a $4 can buy a cup of Starbucks. Discipline is where it’s at. If you think that intelligence gives you some sort of budgeting exemption, then you aren’t as smart as you think. Budgeting is the practice of identifying the finite amount of financial resources that you have in any given month. Identify the resources (income), then assign it to expense categories.
- Budgeting is stressful and panic-inducing- Actually, that stress you feel when thinking about budgeting, is your lack of a budget stressing you out. Being organized is not stressful. It just isn’t. Stress is relative. The stress of a bankruptcy and/or other financial tragedies are much worse than the stress of budgeting.
I’m going to increase the budgeting lessons over the next month or so. If you can master budgeting, then everything else falls into place. Budgeting really is that essential. If you can budget, then the rest of your financial life gets easy.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.