Many people struggle to be successful with budgeting. They create a plan, but can’t seem to rein in the spending and put more in savings.
For the longest time, I didn’t have trouble with this at all. That’s because I didn’t even get as far as having a budget.
I wasn’t a failure at budgeting. I was failing to budget.
If you’ve often considered creating a spending plan for your money but have just never gotten around to it, you might be failing to budget, too.
You know a budget could help you track your spending and feel more in control of your finances. But, you don’t do it.
Sometimes we just need to figure out what’s holding us back before we get motivated to move forward.
I thought I’d share some of the reasons I failed to budget for many years. Once I identified the roadblocks, the solutions became pretty clear.
Read on for my 3 big reasons I kept failing to budget. You just might find something you relate to, so you can push past what’s keeping you from getting on a budget.
1. Lack of communication
This is a common issue in marriages, but when it comes to finances, there can be serious and lasting consequences.
In my case, my husband didn’t bring it up, so I didn’t bring it up. And vice versa.
All he knew was that we had electricity and water, food on the table, and no bill collectors were calling. Why would we need a budget?
I was the one who saw how our income was barely covering our expenses and watching the credit card balance creep higher and higher every month. But because I was in the thick of it, and my husband didn’t care that we were living paycheck to paycheck, I accepted our financial situation for what it was: our way of living.
We each had our own lame excuse for not talking about it.
If you have a spouse or partner, and neither of you is bringing up the “b” word, I encourage you to make the first move.
Open up a conversation that supports your efforts as a team. Money talk can be stressful and frustrating, especially if your partner has very different ideas about how to handle finances.
Even Dave Ramsey teaches in his financial courses that, in a marriage, one is usually a “nerd” who wants to save, and the other is a “free spirit” who doesn’t. I guess it’s part of the law that opposites attract.
The important thing to remember is that each person has strengths to contribute, and when both partners operate in them, the marriage is stronger for it.
If your partner is simply not interested in talking, he might just feel uncomfortable. Don’t give up. Keep bringing up the subject, telling your partner your thoughts about money management and the benefits of budgeting. Be patient and extend grace. It may take time for him to come around and agree with you.
And even if your partner never hops on the budget wagon, you can do your part. Start tracking your spending, set up budget categories, put some aside for savings. You can still make a difference and see progress. Who knows, maybe it’s the progress that will win him over.
The important thing is to open up the lines of communication so you each know what the other values and you can find a way to work together.
2. No financial goals
My husband is not goal-oriented. He’s a day-by-day kinda guy. That means he doesn’t really plan for anything, especially if it has to do with money.
I am a planner. I used to set goals at the beginning of every year. I wasn’t great at reaching all of them, but just having some kind of direction has always been important to me.
Not having any financial goals as a couple has kept us stuck in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. There was no point in planning out a budget if we didn’t care about saving, or paying off debt, or paying cash for a vacation, or you get my drift.
A budget is a powerful tool to help you reach your financial goals, but if you don’t have any then there isn’t much motivation to create one.
Spend some time thinking about what you’d like to accomplish with your finances. Right now, you might just want to live within your income and not overspend. This goal can motivate you to watch a budget closely and limit spending so you’re not dipping into your savings.
Or maybe you really want to apply more money towards debt. If you’re already strapped, this might mean you’ll need to cut expenses or figure out how to increase your income. A budget will give you a good picture of where your money is going so you have an idea of what you need to do to generate or free up more cash.
Having financial goals can be the biggest motivator for creating a monthly budget and sticking to it.
3. Fear of accountability
You might feel a lot of frustration if your spouse is a spender and doesn’t seem to care about saving.
But do you ever think about how you’d feel if he did care? What if he was asking you about the money you’re spending?
It’s easy to point the finger when you feel like you’re on the right side of money management. Holding someone else accountable is easy.
But if your spouse was pointing out your overspending, how would that make you feel?
Not having a budget means nobody is accountable. We just spend what we want, when we want, until it runs out.
But having a budget means we both have to stay within the boundaries we define. Not just him, but me too!
It’s easy for me to point out my husband’s shortcomings and blame him for overspending. But I’m no perfect budget keeper either. I just get away with it because he doesn’t pay attention!
And true confession: sometimes I think what I spend money on is more important than what he spends money on.
The fear of accountability could possibly be a reason why you haven’t started a budget before now. Maybe you enjoy the freedom to spend money without having to answer to anybody. And it’s tough to let that go.
When you know better, you do better
That’s actually one of my favorite quotes, spoken by the late Maya Angelou.
Hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to look back and see where we messed up. We have a tendency to be hard on ourselves for not making better decisions in the past.
But it’s important to give our younger selves extra grace because life can be complicated and hard to figure out.
Sometimes we don’t know better until we learn from the mistakes we’ve made.
Over the years I’ve learned the importance of communication, having goals, and seeking accountability. Not just in our finances, but in most areas of life.
With budgeting, these three practices are especially important if you want to break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and achieve a greater level of money mastery.
That’s why you shouldn’t focus too much on how you failed these areas in the past. Instead, just keep trying to learn and grow and become a better steward of your finances.
One way to do that is by creating a budget and following it. So, figure out what’s holding you back. Then you can move forward knowing better, and doing better.