It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or is it? It might...
Common excuses that stop you from budgeting
Most people want to manage their money in the best way possible. However, the idea of putting a budget together can stir up feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and out-and-out rebellion!
To be truly money-savvy, you need a thorough understanding of your income and outgoings. A budget is the best way to achieve this. Let’s take a look at why budgeting can be so difficult, and how to combat those common excuses.
Why is budgeting so HARD?!
There can be many reasons why budgeting isn’t always easy. Some common ones include:
- Not knowing what your most important bills are
- Not having a realistic budget
- Feeling like you’re being punished by cutting down on stuff you love
- Not having a big financial goal to work towards.
The human brain is a mess of contradictions. It can obsess so much about what the future holds, but it sometimes struggles to see how small, daily efforts can add up to long-lasting, positive changes.
There’s also good old-fashioned impatience. One of the reasons why a new exercise regime can often fail is because it takes time to form the healthy habits we’re working towards. You need to do the same routine, day in and day out, and be assured that you’ll see results down the line.
Budgeting can present a similar problem. It’s easier to cut down on social outings and takeaways if you know it’s going to pay off in the form of being debt free, having money set aside for an emergency or being able to pay for that holiday you’ve been dreaming of. However, goals like this can seem an awful long way away, which can affect your long-term motivation.
While you’re putting your budget together, think about:
- How much money you truly need for your living expenses
- What goal you’re working towards
- How you’re going to ‘be your own cheerleader’ and keep yourself motivated
So now we’ve looked at why budgeting can be difficult – and how to make it easier – let’s unpack those common excuses that can stop you living your best financial life!
1) “I find budgets too restricting”
If you’ve found budgets unworkable in the past, it may be because they weren’t realistic to your needs. Your living expenses are paramount, no matter how much debt you’re trying to pay off or how big your savings goal is.
When budgeting, people often want to see results fast, such as a big fat emergency savings pot or all of their debts paid off quickly. These are fantastic goals to have, as long as they’re worked on in a realistic way. As examples, the following ways would be unrealistic:
- Drastically cutting down your food and supermarket spending. You can’t master your finances if you’re wasting away or getting ill because you’re not eating properly
- Denying yourself any money for new clothes. Having good quality clothes is about more than keeping you warm (and not getting arrested by leaving the house naked). What if you need new smart clothes for a job interview? What if your favourite shirt shrinks in the tumble dryer? Even if it’s a bumper pack of undies, you need to have money available for new clothes from time to time
- Not allowing yourself any money for transport. What if you need to get somewhere in a hurry? What if auntie Ethel takes a fall and you need to travel from St Ives to Southport to visit her in hospital?
- Not setting any money aside for sports, hobbies and entertainment. You need to relax and have fun, and that requires at least a little bit of money. By all means, seek out and enjoy free entertainment and cheap days out where possible, but have some money available for a trip to the cinema or the occasional night out with your mates
Take a look at what you spend each month, and think about what truly makes you happy. If it’s going to a music festival once a year, or treating yourself to a new pair of shoes, then think about how to set a bit of money aside each month to cover these expenses. Remember; this isn’t about depriving yourself!
2) “I can’t get my partner to stick to a budget”
It can be very frustrating when you’re trying to be more money-savvy but your significant other doesn’t want to follow your budget. It’s a free country, and they have a right to spend their income as they see fit. However, you also have the right to make sound decisions with how you spend and save your own money.
If your partner’s unwilling to follow your budget, you could try:
- Building a budget based only on your income and expenditure. For example, if your partner pays all of the bills, but you give them money towards housekeeping, put ‘0’ in your budget for each of those bills you don’t pay towards. You then put the amount you give your partner in ‘housekeeping’
- Making stealth savings wherever you can. Are you in charge of the big food shop? Try switching one or two items to cheaper alternatives each time and see if your partner notices (chances are they won’t, as many own brands are just as good as the premium brands). Do you have children? Suggest free activities that you could do as a family (your local council website should list free or upcoming events that are happening near you). Take packed lunches where possible. Give charity shops a try. Look out for BOGOF deals. It all adds up
- Having an honest chat about budgeting with your partner. Have they tried budgeting in the past and it wasn’t for them? Do they have a lot of stress around money and find it easier to ignore it? If you share some of your worries around money or hopes for the future, you may find that they’re more receptive to budgeting with you.
3) “Putting a budget together feels like more work – I’m busy enough!”
When you look at a finished budget, it can seem like a lot of hassle. If that’s the case for you, why not try and tackle it one bit at a time?
There’s no rule saying you have to finish your budget in one go. In fact, our 7 Days, 7 Ways email support programme can help you put your budget together step by step, over a number of days. There are also budgeting apps you could try.
You can get up-to-date balances on your debts pretty quickly. All you need to do is check your credit file through one of the three credit reference agencies – Experian, Credit Karma or Equifax.
As for your bills, take ten minutes to go through your recent bank statement. You should find the regular amounts you pay out for council tax, rent, mortgage and other important costs.
For food, you can work out your monthly average by counting up what you spent in the supermarket over an average week.
Building a budget isn’t usually a rip-roaring roller coaster ride through Funtown, but sometimes you have to do the boring stuff to make big changes to your life.
4) “I’ve tried and failed to budget in the past. It’s not for me.”
Sometimes when you give something a try for the first time, and you ‘fail’ at it, it can be tempting to give up on it completely.
One of the childhood rites of passage for many people is to learn how to ride a bike. Was this the case for you? Cast your mind back to those first few tries. Remember when the trailing wheels finally came off, and how wobbly you felt riding on just two wheels? Remember falling off and scraping your knees? Remember crying and wanting to give up?
Budgeting is like riding a bike. Yes, you might feel wobbly and uncertain at first. Yes, you might ‘fall over’ and spend too much one month or not put enough in savings the next. Eventually though, you’ll find your balance and it’ll all kick into place. You just need to stick with it!
Looking for more inspiration? Mark in the MoneyAware team has some great tips to help take you from financial novice to budgeting king:
5) “I just don’t have enough money!”
Like many people, you may find that there’s just too much month at the end of your money. Daily expenses such as food and petrol get more expensive, and not everyone gets a wage rise when inflation hits.
Please note: any extra earnings must be declared to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
6) “I’ve managed fine without one so far…”
This might be true. However, there’s a difference between ‘managing’ and ‘optimal financial fitness’, which is what a budget can help you achieve.
As you’ll learn through our 7 Days, 7 Ways email support programme, it’s the difference between thriving and surviving. We’re guessing that you want to do more of the former.
7) “I have an irregular income”
The job market is changing all the time, and self-employed and zero contract gigs are becoming more common as a result. Take a moment to think of your food delivery driver or parcel deliverer, as they’re working to a zero-hours contract. This is a relatively new type of employment, but it can make a person’s income pretty unpredictable.
Having an irregular income shouldn’t stop you from making an effective budget. You could try:
- Thinking of the lowest ‘net estimate’ of your income each month, and building your budget based on this figure. By doing this, you can ensure that your priority expenses are covered, and any extra money that you get can go into savings or towards any debts you’re trying to pay off
- Putting extra money into a ‘Hill and Valley’ fund. This is a fund you can dip into if you have a particularly lean month. When you have a great month with a higher than expected income, set some of the extra money in this fund so you have something to fall back on if times are tough.
(Please note: StepChange Debt Charity is unable to give debt advice to self-employed/zero-hour contract clients. Business Debtline can give you free and confidential debt advice solutions that’s tailored to your circumstances)
8) “I’ll never be any good at budgeting and that’s the end of it!”
Humans tend to be very ‘all or nothing’ in our thinking. If there have been a few ‘failed’ attempts at budgeting in the past, it can create a feeling of shame that’s very difficult to shift.
The fact you’re here, at the end of this article, means that you have what it takes to make an effective, realistic budget that can help you turn your finances around for good. Thousands of people have made positive changes to how they manage their money, and so can you!
Looking for more great ideas to boost your budget? Sign up to the MoneyAware newsletter and we’ll send your our best tips and ideas each month!