One of the first steps in clearing up your financial mess is to set up a budget. You need to figure out how much money you are making, how much you are spending, and what you can do to keep one of those numbers smaller than the other. If your income is smaller than your expenses, you’ve got work to do. If not, yay!
Even if you don’t obsessively cling to your spreadsheets and calculator, you need to spend the time to establish a budget–at least once–to know where you stand. When you do, you’ll find out it sucks. With good reason.
1. It takes too long to set up. Setting up a budget can be a long, drawn-out pain in the butt. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be, but you won’t know that until after you make your first budget, then see some fairly drastic changes, and make a second budget. That one will be easier. For the first one, just concentrate on making a list of all of you regular bills and how often they are due. Don’t be surprised when you miss some. I missed a couple of our quarterly bills. All told, it took a year to get our budget completely done.
2. It doesn’t lie. Once you have all of your expenses down on paper, you are done hiding. You can’t tell yourself it’s all puppy dogs and ice cream when you are staring at the giant red pit that is the negative balance of your bad decisions. Nobody likes the messenger who brings bad news. When your budget shows you how big the hole is, you are going to hate it. That’s when it’s time to confront the problem head on and get out of the hole. Find the problems and rip ‘em out. Cancel the cable, taxidermize the cats, and start buying generic underpants. It’s time to take an honest look at your situation. If you can’t handle where you are, how are you going to get where you want to be?
3. It’s not fun. When your friends go out, but you stay home because you’re broke, you will hate it. Y’ou’re also gonna hate comparing your old cell phone to the iPhone in the hands of the d-bag contemplating bankruptcy. Like Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.” Skipping some of the fun now will turn into security later. When you get to that point, it will have all been worth it.
Why do you hate your budget?