When you think about budgeting, do you think about all the times you’ve failed to stick to a budget? Do you ever wonder why it’s so hard to just look at your money and make sure you’re not spending too much? It seems easy in practice — but the truth is, budgeting is anything BUT easy.
Figuring out the ins and outs of our money and tracking our monthly earnings and expenses is so hard… but why? I have some theories.
Every budget should tell a story
One of the biggest things I talk about is how we start our budgets in the wrong place. So often, we go straight to the numbers and just start breaking them down.
Now, for some people, I totally understand that this is a matter of survival. Maybe you have to go straight to the numbers because they’re so low. I totally get that! However, for a lot of us, our budgets are failing because we haven’t stepped back from the numbers enough to see the bigger picture.
So I want to start the conversation with this: imagine what is possible in your life. What would be your ideal life?
And then… actually go there and think about it! I know it might feel silly at first, but when you look deeply enough, you’ll be able to dig into the things that are important to you.
I firmly believe that every budget should tell a story. We need to know what’s important to ourselves, and then get our budget aligned with that to tell our story.
Decide on your core values, and then make a plan to prioritize those values through your money! When we mix what’s most important to us with money, we allow our money to dictate our lives, instead of the other way around.
Why do budgets fail?
So, once you’ve stepped out and painted that bigger picture, you want to create a budget, right? But budgeting often fails (and probably has failed for you in the past). Why is that?
There’s not a strong vision
If all we’re doing is simply managing money coming in, then managing the money coming out… that’s not going to give you much motivation to stick with your budget. You don’t have a vision for where to put the money you save by sacrificing things you want.
Recently, I had a client come in who hadn’t been saving for retirement. As always, I took her through my BudgetingBlocks™ exercise. We were looking through the proposed budget, and I could just tell that they weren’t feeling motivated by the numbers. They saw such small numbers sitting in front of them, and couldn’t tell what the larger impact would be. So the question was… “why should we sacrifice and save now?”
But then, I showed them what was possible with those “small” savings. Suddenly, they could see a vision of what their money was for. It went from being a sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake to giving them an understanding of exactly what their money was for.
So if you’re having trouble sticking to your budget, go back to square one and start with understanding the greater vision.
We don’t know how to talk about money
No one trained us in how to discuss money with our partners. In fact, we’re told not to talk about money, that it’s a taboo subject and we shouldn’t bring it up!
This makes it SO difficult for couples to budget. It creates tension because each person in coming in with their own money script (narrative) about what money means and what to do with it.
For example, I like to think about money before making a decision. My husband, on the other hand, likes to make quick decisions. Neither one of us is right or wrong – we simply have different ways of approaching money.
Once we were able to recognize this difference, our money conversations became extremely powerful, allowing us to move forward at a much quicker pace.
There’s so much shame around money
We’ve all felt shame around money. We make mistakes with money or we don’t have enough of it and we feel that pit in our stomachs.
Money is such an easy measuring stick because there are very clear numbers attached to it. And that makes it an even easier shame gauge.
For so many of the couples I work with, the topic of money is an extreme trigger. But when we can dive into this conversation with an understanding of the bigger picture, we’re able to mitigate the shame and have an easier time truly approaching the conversation from a healthy, objective place.
One of my favorite stats is that someone needs to hear something seven times before they really hear it for the first time. I think about this a lot.
And the truth is, money and budgeting will take practice. Our goal is not to simply “do” the numbers today. Our goal is to create a sustained environment that fosters wealth throughout our lifetime.
There is no “right” way to do budgeting
There are so many people who get into financial planning and financial advice because they’re good with numbers and money. Their brains operate in the field of dollar signs and decimal points all the time.
But the truth is, most people’s brains don’t operate in that way. Everyone’s brain works differently, and because of that, everyone needs to budget differently!
If budgeting is hard for you, just know that you are one of MANY. Budgeting is hard for everyone — but you can do this.
You just need to know why you’re budgeting your money. Know your greater vision.
And suddenly, the numbers will fall into place and keeping a budget will become sustainable!
If you want a fresh way to approach your money and create a budget that’s truly realistic and easy to stick to, click here to check out my Everyday Money Workbook!