Budgeting is said to be the first step towards financial independence. If that is the case, then why is it that a lot of Americans are finding it difficult to maintain a budget? In some cases, they even have difficulty in starting one.
This is probably caused by the lack of motivation to follow a budget plan. This is especially true if you think that a budget is a lot like a diet.
In truth, there are a lot of similarities between the two. An article on Wisebread.com actually discussed various similarities between dieting and living on a budget. In fact, the author of the article mentioned that a diet is defined as restricting one’s food intake. The same is actually happening when you are budgeting. You restrict your spending on some things so you can keep yourself from running out of finances of the expenses that matters most. In general what you want to happen with your budget is to stop overspending your money.
However, there are people who have not been successful with their budgets because they associated it with dieting. That is because in terms of motivation, comparing a budget to a diet is not the best way you should go about it.
3 ways diet concepts can ruin your budget intentions
An article published on NYTimes.com in 2011 is titled, “Why a budget is like a diet – ineffective.” In one part, the article discussed how humans are notorious for not being able to follow plans. While there are those who undoubtedly can, there are also people who are incapable of doing so. In fact, some consumers frown upon budgeting as they would a diet plan. The article said that it is because a budget feels so much like dieting – that is why it is met with so much distaste. People end up shying away from budget plans simply because it is associated with diets.
The reason why people are scared to budget in the same way that they are of dieting is because it is oftentimes associated with these three concepts.
You feel you have fewer options
When you are on a diet, you are oftentimes told to eat only healthy meals. That makes your options quite limited. You are not allowed to eat certain food and drinks in order to keep yourself in tip top shape. Unfortunately, a lot of the food that we are told not to eat are those that taste good!
The same is true for budgeting. When you create a budget plan, you are faced with the reality of how much you can really afford to spend. After you identify your net income, you need to divide it among the important expenses that you make each month – for the house, utilities, food, transportation, etc. Whatever is left will have to be put aside for your savings. There is not much room for splurges or unnecessary spending especially when you have debt payments to include in your budget.
However, you do not have to feel this way about budgeting if the few options are the most important expenses that you have in your life. Even if you had to cut back on a lot of things, if the vital expenses are met, then you should not feel that you have fewer options. You just gave up on the spending that you do not really need.
You feel deprived
Since you have fewer options when you are budgeting, you will naturally feel deprived. When you are on a diet and you love to eat junk food, greasy food and all the other fattening stuff, you will feel deprived after entering a diet plan. These are the big no-nos in dieting.
In the same way, following a budget would also mean you have to stop doing the habits that are bad for your finances. Things like impulsive buying or buying things without comparing prices. These practices can be harmful to your finances. Your budget plan will deviate you from these practices and this is why you are bound to feel deprived when you are budgeting.
But just like the first, you do not have to feel deprived if you also focus on your priorities. As long as the priorities in your life are satisfied, you should not feel deprived at all. We make budgets hard to follow because we keep our eyes on what we cannot do. But if you concentrate on what you can now achieve (e.g. bigger savings, room for investments, lower debt balance), then you should not feel the deprivation at all.
You feel the pain
Lastly, dieting is usually associated with a lot of pain. This is mostly caused by the exercise that you need to do while you are regulating your food intake.
In the same way, budgeting could bring you some sort of pain as well. First of all, a budget plan is not a one time effort. You need to constantly monitor it and revise it as your financial needs change. Not only that, if your budget reveals that your current income is not enough, you may be forced to look for a second job in order to make ends meet.
Some people may say that if a budget will force me to work 2 jobs, why would they want to create a budget plan in the first place? While the sentiment is understandable, you should realize that not acting on what your budget plan encourages you to do is only delaying the inevitable. If you are spending beyond your means, you are bound to accumulate a lot of debts. Your budget will save you from that but you need to deal with the sacrifices that come with it.
Tips to make budget plans more bearable
In the end, budgeting and dieting may have some negative things in common but the bottom line is, they are both necessary because they keep you from bigger problems in the future. But if associating one with the other will keep you from incorporating a budget plan in your life, then you do not have to treat them the same way.
A budget plan is still different because it involves your finances. You need to look at a budget in such a way that will liberate you from the threat of a financial disaster. A budget can really improve your finances because it helps you be in control of your money.
According to an infographic found on Prafulla.net, more than half of Americans do not have a budget and that one-third is unable to pay their bills on time. There may be a lot of factors involved as to why consumers cannot pay their bills on time but you can bet that one of these reasons if a lack of a budget.
In case motivation is a problem, here are some tips that might help you set up a budget in your life.
- Start with a goal. This is the best motivation that you can give yourself. It can be to get out of debt or save up for retirement.
- Go slow. If you discover that you have a lot of expenses that are unnecessary and that you have decided should be cut off, try to do it one at a time. Do not go cold turkey to keep the pain from becoming too hard to bear.
- Create a timeline for your goal. Keeping in mind that you need to go slow, create a reasonable and realistic timeline to achieve your goal. That way, you will not push yourself too hard or be too relaxed in reaching your goal.
- Make your budget as accurate as possible. Wrong entries in your budget might lead to incorrect assumptions and thus the failure of your budget.
- Get support. If things get really tough, you may want to get support from family and friends. Or if you can afford it, go and get professional help. In most cases, the first few steps are always the hardest. But once you get one foot in front of the other, you will find yourself effortlessly following your budget.
To learn how to set up a budget, here are some tips from National Debt Relief.