I was asked to contribute to a feature about budgeting recently.
There were three simple questions:
- How do you prepare yourself mentally for the arduous task of budgeting,
- How do you keep yourself on track and
- How do you stop yourself from unnecessary purchases?
They are simple, but actually doing them is quite difficult. So I thought I’d make some suggestions about each separately. Here’s the first one,
How do you prepare yourself mentally for the arduous task of budgeting?
If you trying to prepare mentally for budgeting, it helps to be realistic. If you are going to budget when you haven’t really done it before, you are trying to change a habit. That means three things:
Changing a habit is difficult and there are no “magic bullets”.
Yes, I know that you have a friend (or usually have heard of a friend of a friend of a friend) who woke up one day and gave up shopping (heroin, gambling, smoking etc.) just like that.
Some of those stories are probably true, but:
a) they are very rare in real life as distinct from stories,
b) you usually find that the person who gave up so quickly goes back to it just as quickly and
c) the “overnight” cure (like overnight success) was often contemplated for years in advance before it finally resulted in an “overnight” cure.
Changing a habit is not impossible.
Yes, I know you tried before and it didn’t work. It is difficult, and because there are lots of people peddling “instant cures” (like diet pills, sure fire investments, quit smoking schemes etc) that make it sound easy, you get confused and disheartened when you haven’t lost 5 stone and gained £1 million in two weeks or whatever you were promised. However, it is possible, and you can do it, but you will have to work at it.
People are different, and need to do different things in order to change. The same person may also need to do different things at different times in order to change.
Yes, I know it would be easier if there was a magic formula to be sensible with money (or lose weight, stop smoking, banish social anxiety etc) that everybody could use.
It would also be easier if one application of one method helped you whatever sort of problem you had (buying shoes from stores, buying gadgets on the Internet, buying junk generally etc) or wherever you were with the problem (concerned about spending, contemplating the bill you can’t pay, considering bankruptcy etc).
It would also be nice if we could end world hunger and get everybody to love one another, but that’s another one that has no simple solution, is very difficult but not impossible, and that we have to look on as a work in progress!
So if you want to prepare for budgeting, remember that you can do it, you probably won’t find it easy and you need to work out what works for you (I’ll give some further help in the next post), because simply following what somebody else did isn’t necessarily going to work.