Have you been trying to learn about, read about or even watch videos regarding budgeting but every time you try to apply that information to your own personal finances, you just can’t seem to do it right? You might feel like you suck at this and maybe it’s not for you but with a bit of understanding of what a budget is and how to go about it, you’ll start getting better at it. Budgeting can work for anyone.
What is a budget?
A budget is a written spending plan that clearly describes what exactly you would want your money to do for you every month and on a continual basis. This is to help you keep your spending in check.
Budgeting is not as complicated as some of us may tend to think. So why do most people suck at it?
Reasons Why You May Be Struggling With Budgeting
1. You don’t know how to budget well.
The first reason why you may be struggling with budgeting is because of not knowing how to do it. We were not taught this in school yet this is one of the things that we should all know. Budgeting is a skill like any other. Just like taking a cooking class or a swimming class, you can take a budgeting class to learn this skill.
There is no one single way to budget. For instance, we have person A and person B. Person A is employed and has a fixed income while person B is in business or they are freelancers, hence their income is irregular. These two people cannot budget in the same way. You need to know how to budget based on your circumstances.
If you’ve been trying to DIY this and years later you’ve still not figured it out, maybe it’s time for you to get an actual structured class or a professional (like myself) who can guide you in understanding how to budget based on your unique situations. This is one of the best ways you can invest in yourself this year.
2. You think that budgeting is having a list of bills.
Budgeting is NOT a list of your bills. If you just have a notebook, phone app or whatever resource you’re using to record your expenses and that’s all you’re doing, that is actually not budgeting.
You need to start thinking of budgeting as strategizing. Think of budgeting as a way to figure out how your hard-earned money can work for you.
The first thing you need to know is what should be in your budget.
Your budget shouldn’t just be for planning your bills. It needs to have these:
- Mandatory bills and expenses
- Savings and Investments
- Debt repayments
- Wants. Entertainment, miscellaneous spending and projects
Depending on how much you make, you need to ask yourself, ‘how can I structure this money so that it caters for all of these things?’
Budgeting is not restrictive at all. As you can see, we have even set aside money for your entertainment. Budgeting actually shows you if you’re living within your means or not. It will help you look into your lifestyle choices and decide what will work best for you. For instance, whether to drive or take public transport, whether to take your kids to just a decent public school or to an international school etc.
You must find a way for your money to work for you in such a way that it is not just paying bills for you and you’re now living paycheck to paycheck.
3. You keep making excuses why budgeting will not work for you.
The third reason why you could be struggling with budgeting is that you keep making excuses on why a budget will not work for you instead of figuring out how you can make it work for you.
It is a fact that intentionally planning for your money is important. You could have tried budgeting before and it didn’t work but you can’t get stuck at ‘budgeting just doesn’t work for me’.
If you think you’ve tried it all and it’s still not working for you, maybe what you need to change is your mindset. It could be a mindset of thinking that you’re earning too little to even budget or that there’s really no need to budget in this economy. This is a victim mentality that says that you are not in control of your life. You need to move to an abundance mentality.
How you can do this is by figuring out your own personal way of budgeting. Remember, as I said above, there’s no one single way to budget.
Here are some budgeting strategies you can adapt depending on your circumstances:
- A Bare-bones budget
A bare-bones budget is a necessities only budget. This is the budget you stick to when you don’t have an emergency fund, no savings and you’re deep in debt and you want to turn around your situation in the next couple of months.
- A zero-sum budget
This is mainly for those who have a hard time accounting for their money and they can’t tell where their money goes at the end of the month. This means you will have to budget for every single coin you earn. If let’s say you earn 90K, at the end of your budgeting you should ideally be able to account for the entire 90K before the month starts so you have a plan for every single coin.
- The envelope strategy
This one is for people who tend to overspend in some aspects causing other areas to suffer. For instance, overspending on entertainment and ending up compromising money for savings or not saving at all. With an envelope strategy, you’re able to curb overspending. This is simply putting money in envelopes for specific reasons. For instance, you can decide that this month, I will limit my entertainment money to 10K. You’ll then put this 10K in an actual envelope or in your wallet or in your mobile money app and decide this is the entertainment envelope. When this money ends it means there will be no entertainment for you till next month. This calls for self-discipline.
- 50-30-20 budgeting rule of thumb
This is another strategy you can incorporate as a budgeting rule. This means that 50% of your monthly income goes to your needs, 30% of your income goes to your wants and 20% goes to your savings and investments.
If this is the first time you’re hearing about these budgeting strategies you need to get onto my Budget For Your Best Life Master Class where I take you through all these and more. I will teach you how to take whatever amount of money you earn and structure it using these budgeting strategies so that you can start seeing changes in how your money works for you.
4. You struggle with accountability.
Another reason why you may struggle with budgeting is that you don’t like seeing your numbers and holding yourself accountable. Budgeting requires tracking and knowing where each coin is going. It requires you to track even the tiniest of spending like noting down transaction costs.
Why some of us may not be doing very well in budgeting is because we do not want to face our finances. We don’t want to see the numbers. I understand that it can be frustrating to see how your numbers are. But note, if you do not know where the problem is and where the loopholes are, you will keep trying to figure this thing out and you still will not be able to do it.
I remember the first time I started tracking my bank charges and Mpesa charges, I was shocked. This was after finding that I was using close to 5K on transactions alone. I was always using mobile money for everything and not keeping tabs. Yet, I would always complain that I don’t have money to save or pay my debts and here I was spending all that money on transactions without knowing.
For you, it could be that you’re spending too much on enjoyment. It could be unintentional since you’ve never tracked to see how much you spend on this.
You would be surprised at how much you spend on some things. Even the amount you spend on foodstuff could shock you if you account for every single coin spent.
You have to be willing to face your finances and be accountable for your money.
5. Caring too much about what other people think about you being on a budget.
It is important to note that when you get into this journey of financial wellness, where you’re putting respect on your money, some people will just be cut off.
It is quite an unfortunate fact that if some of us did not care about other people’s opinions, we would not drive the cars we do because we know very well that we can’t afford them. Even the estates some of us live in and schools we take our children to.
There is too much competition of broke people trying to convince other broke people that they are not broke.
Too many of us are just afraid of going on a budget. Being on a budget could mean not having your hair done every month, moving to a smaller house, driving a smaller car or using public transport until your budget makes sense or until you’re earning money that is worthy of that particular lifestyle.
My personal goal is to be wealthy not just to look wealthy. It would be so devastating to me if I looked wealthy and deep down I knew I’m in debt, I have no savings and if anything was ever to happen to my job today or an emergency was to come I would have nothing to fall back on.
You need to look deep down and find out if you’re trying to buy the approval of others through your lifestyle or if are you budgeting in such a way that you’re serving your long-term goals and ensuring that the future you is secured financially.
There is no shame in saying ‘I cannot afford it.’
You need to stop caring so much about what people think about you being on a budget. People’s opinions will not pay your bills.
I hope that this gave you some insights as to some of the things that you can look at in your life and change so that you can do better in planning for your money and budgeting.