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How To Overcome The Most Common Obstacles To Budgeting

man stressed with papers and calculatorYou know you should be budgeting. Your heart tells you that you should budget. You know you would be happier and less stressed out if you had a budget. So, what are the most common obstacles that are keeping you from budgeting and how can you overcome them? Here are some answers to these questions that could help.

Procrastination

There was a study done by The Journal of Clinical and Experimental Psychology that found that procrastination is usually a problem of self-regulation. This means if you are a chronic procrastinator, it’s likely because you’re probably easily distracted, disorganized and have weak planning or goal setting skills.

Unfortunately, these are exactly the type of negative behaviors that will not only cost you money by delaying your budgeting but will actually impede your overall progress in life. If you are a chronic procrastinator, you probably have a hard time with subjects that you find difficult or uninteresting and budgeting is no doubt one of them. Fortunately, there are some tactics you can use to change your habits whether they are financial or otherwise.

As an example of this, if you find the idea of making and sticking to a budget overwhelming, try breaking it down into smaller pieces. This makes it possible for you to tackle budgeting a bit at a time – and then feel good after you have achieved some small steps. If you use the financial tool Mint.com you could use its automatic budgeting tools as a starting point and then adjust your budget gradually over time as you learn more about your spending. Once you have your budget in place and working, you could then use gentle reminders tp help keep you on track lest those nasty, old habits of procrastination take over again. The reminders you set on Mint or your smart phone’s calendar are very important self-discipline tools that can help you achieve that bigger goal.

Watch this video for more tips on defeating the bugaboo of procrastination.

 Fudging the numbers

Have you been kidding yourself in terms of how you spend your money? For example, you might think – off the top of your head – that you’re really not spending all that much money on food. If you create a budget, you may find that you’re spending several hundred dollars more a month than you had thought. In other words, you’ve been fabricating or fudging the numbers. If you’ve been wondering why your savings are not growing as quickly as you had hoped, this could very well be the reason. When you fabricate your numbers, this helps you avoid the unpleasant reality of your financial habits. But whom are you kidding? If you turn a blind eye to your spending, this won’t change your bottom line. What you need to do is take stock of what you’re actually spending by keeping your receipts and logging all your spending for several weeks. If you don’t do this, you’re just deceiving yourself.

Busting your budget

When you want to feel good now, breaking your budget and fudging the numbers can help you achieve that. But would you really rather avoid unpleasant truths and splurge today instead of dealing with the long term? When you do this, you’re really forgoing bigger pleasures down the road. You may want quick gratification and be ignoring the benefits you could enjoy later. Psychologists call this “present bias” and it impacts your ability to realize that the $5 latte you drink today can cost you much more money later. If this is your problem you can change it by focusing more on the bigger picture. Psychologists say that you should visualize your goals as clearly as you can. Try imagining how you would actually feel when you can afford a new car or to retire comfortably. Then, think about how you’ll feel years from now when you haven’t met your goals. Ask yourself if the disappointment of not being able to get that car or retire comfortably is worth the small pleasure of buying a latte today.
What psychologists also say is that what we’re really craving is a feeling of novelty and variety and splurging is just a way to achieve this. So, if you get the urge to overspend, look for new forms of stimulation. Workout or go for a drive. Call up a friend, put on some music you love or work on a hobby. The point is to do something that will re-set your frame of mind and provide that thrill and rush of endorphins that you’re really seeking. The truth is that spending is just a fast fix that will leave you poorer– and probably no happier – in the long run.

There is help available

Creating a budget these days is much less difficult than just a few years ago thanks to the software and smart phone apps now available. Using one of these could help you overcome the procrastination hurdle of budgeting because it can make creating a budget so fast and simple you’ll hardly know you’ve created one at all. We especially like the tool Mint.com that we mentioned earlier. It’s free and available for use on computers, iPhones, iPads, Android devices and even Windows phones. What makes Mint so helpful is that all you have to do is type in the numbers of your checking and savings accounts, credit and debit cards, loans and investments. Mint will then aggregate all of your information and present it to you as one easy-to-understand picture. Mint will automatically organize your spending into budget categories for you – saving you the time and brain damage that would be required for you to do this yourself. You can set spending limits in each category and Mint will send you email alerts anytime you overspend in any of them. It will even alert you if it finds a financial product such as a credit card that’s better than one you’re currently using.

More helpful apps

Another helpful app for saving money – especially for people who don’t know how to create a budget – is LearnVest. It lets you sync your savings and investment accounts together and then get an overview of where your money goes. It will categorize your expenses, show you how much you spend on restaurants and travel and then track your progress so you can see if you’re staying within your spending limits.

Three other popular budgeting tools include You Need A Budget (YNAB), AceMoney and MoneyDance. YNAB costs $60 and is designed for use on a computer. AceMoney is $34.99 and MoneyDance is $49.99. AceMoney is unfortunately not available for use on Apple products but MoneyDance is.

Of course, these are not the only financial apps available. They are the most comprehensive. There are also apps available that are more single-minded. For example, if you have a hard time sticking to a budget, you could try Mvelopes. It’s based on the old tough love strategy for budgeting where you create envelopes for your categories and then add the money you budgeted for each category into its “envelope.” The tough love part comes in when you’ve spent all the money in a category, as the program will then block you from spending any more money in it.

To pay down debt

Finally, if your number one goal is to pay down debt there are several apps designed to help you do just that. One of the best of these is called Ready For Zero. It’s available for use on the iPhone and is said to be great for tackling credit card debts, student loans and other personal loans. You use it to track all of your debts as you pay them

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