A Budget Isn’t Enough

Pre-war Bayer heroin bottle, originally contai...
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You know exactly how much you make, to the penny.   You’ve listed all of your bills in a spreadsheet, including the annual payment for your membership to Save the  Combat-Wombat.   You know exactly how much is coming in and how much has to go out each month.   Your income is more than your expenses, yet somehow,  you still have more month than money.

What’s going on?

The short answer is that a budget is not enough.

A budget is not…

…a checkbook register. Do you track everything you spend?  Are you busting your budget on $10 lattes or DVDs every few days?  Is the take-out you have for lunch every day adding up to 3 times your food budget?  Are you sure?   If you don’t track what you spend, how do you know what you’ve actually spent?  You have to keep track of what you are spending.   Luckily there are ways to do this that don’t involve complex calculation, laborious systems or even proper math.   The easy options include using cash for all of your discretionary spending(no money, no spendy!), rounding your spending up so you always have more money than you think you do, or even keeping your discretionary money is a separate debit account.  That will let you keep your necessary expenses covered.  You’ll just have to check your discretionary account’s balance often and always remember that sometimes, things take a few days to hit your bank.

…a debt repayment plan. You may know how much you have available, but if you aren’t exercising the discipline to pay down your debt and avoid using more debt, you not only won’t make progress, but you’ll continue to dig a deeper hole.   Without properly managing the money going out, watching the money coming in is pointless.

…an alternative to responsible spending. Your budget may say you have $500 to spare every month, but does that mean you should blow it on smack instead of setting up an emergency fund?   I realize most heroin addicts probably aren’t reading this, but dropping $500 at the bar or racetrack is just as wasteful if you don’t have your other finances in order.   Take care of your future needs before you spend all of your money on present(and fleeting) pleasures.

A budget is a starting point for keeping your financial life organized and measuring a positive cash flow.  By itself, it can’t help you.   You need to follow it up with responsible planning and spending.

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  • 2 comments

    Comments

    1. Yep. My budget doesn’t mean crap if I simply record amounts…staying under a target amount in each category keeps us on track overall. Plus, adding your savings goals to your budget helps too. Pay yourself first and all that jazz…

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