Ok, let's play a game. Close your eyes.
Wait, no, keep reading, but imagine you are closing your eyes. Now, relax and pretend you are on a beach, sipping a delicious drink without a care in the world. Someone walks up to you and says the word "budget!"
What comes to mind? Is it a comforting thought, knowing your finances are in order and the drink in your hand is already paid for on paper? Or is it an annoying interruption, something that makes you want to smack the person in the face for interrupting your ignorant bliss?
Well, I'm here to tell you the word "budget" can be enjoyed by all! Even those who "don't have time to fuss with a budget", and those who think "budgets are too much work, and are too restrictive." Nope. Budgets are simple, powerful and FUN! Don't believe me?
Check out these 6 ways that budgeting is simpler than you imagine!
It's Fun To Dream!
My wife and I love to think of the future. We make fun plans, dream BIG dreams, and enjoy chatting about "what could be." And you know what?! A budget is the roadmap between those dreams and a future reality! The budget is the bridge between dreaming and doing! When you think about budgeting in terms of "what big dreams do we have?," it's way more fun.
Just do this: Pick 3 dreams of yours and write them down. Those dreams usually will need funding, so now just work backwards and see what financial milestones you need to hit in order to realize those dreams. Have a sunny beach in mind? Set up a vacation savings fund. $200 a month, and BOOM!, in 6 months you'll have over $1,000 put away for a nice fall getaway!
You Learned Subtraction in 2nd Grade, Didn't You?!
OK, some people freak out about math. Like, seriously FREAK OUT! But the great thing about budgets is that they are the simplest, most fun form of math. You just take what's coming in, subtract what's going out, and save the rest! DONE!
Most of Your Budget Can Be Automated
When people think about budgets, they think of a restricting form of torture, and sitting down every night, counting every penny that passed through their hands. But nowadays, the reality is that most line items in your budget can be taken care of automatically. Most banks have "automatic bill pay," allowing you to have your mortgage, utilities, and other recurring expenses paid directly from your bank account without having to lift a finger. To take it a step further, you can set up those automatic payments through your credit card as well. So not only do you NOT have to even think about missing a payment, but you can earn rewards at the same time. Doesn't get any easier than that!
You Control the Rest!
Now that most of your payments are automated, the rest is under your dominion (insert evil laugh here)! Things like your food budget, gas, clothing, and other expendables are all up to you. If you want to throw a safety net around the whole thing, you can even pull out cash for each of these categories, so you literally CANNOT overspend. Simple!
There Are Programs That Do (Most) of It For You
Now, I know many people who are conscious of what they spend, and TRY to save money, but if you ask them to write down a budget, they bristle like you just asked them to listen through an entire Justin Bieber album (shudders!). And I get it, sometimes the tedious task of tracking your spending and staying within the budget can just be downright annoying.
Luckily for them (and YOU), we live in the 21st century, and people have developed tools and apps to take care of your daily budgeting needs. In our household, we used to do full-on Excel spreadsheet budget (which I still enjoy), but my wife didn't really care for it. Plus, it took a bit of time. But last July, we switched over to Mint.com, because they finally spruced up their budgeting feature, and we couldn't be happier! All our spending is automatically tracked and categorized, we can see our budget in real-time with our computer or phone, and we even have email alerts set up when we get close to going over budget in a category. HOW COOL IS THAT?
When You Budget, You Win (And Everybody Loves Winning)
Here's the big idea: When you create a budget plan for your money, you win. Period. You are going to put yourself heads above the rest of the country who don't seem to know how to keep their money from slipping through the cracks. And when you set some goals and start hitting them, it feels friggin' awesome! The simple act of getting on a budget is like giving yourself a HUGE raise and at the same time allowing yourself to actually ENJOY spending the money you do have. It's a WIN-WIN.
It's Easy, So Get Started Today
I hope you feel encouraged to know that the "B-Word" is no longer a curse word. Actually, I'm hoping they just replace the word "budget" in the dictionary with the word "freedom", because that's exactly what it brings. I recommend checking out my Basics series and getting yourself started today. Financial freedom is within reach, and it's a lot easier than you think!
For further reading:
Jacob Wade is the author of www.iHeartBudgets.net, a personal finance blog dedicated to putting the "Fun" back in Fundamentals of Finance. He is a husband, father and avid budget nerd who actually spent his recent birthday budgeting for FY14 at his home. If you ask anyone who has known him for more than 13 seconds, you would know he truly does Heart budgets.