Budgeting - it’s something everyone knows they should be doing. However, less than one-third of Americans put together a budget each month. Whether it is a matter of time, resources, or personal vices, there are countless quirks that can make or break a financial plan. What is your spending alter-ego?
You walk into the store, and there it is: the perfect pair of kicks for that one outfit that has been hanging in the back of your closet for months. You hear the word “sale” and you are walking out the door with a shoebox and plans to come back for the season blowout blitz next week. If a deal exists Sally will know about it, and you can bet she will be there ready to spend. After all, budgets cannot wait for deals.
You are a diligent worker who does not need too much to get by. You play it safe and keep your spending to a minimum, keeping any extra income safely saved away. The idea of visiting a financial planner or the word “investing” makes you shudder. Larry errs on the side of caution when it comes to investing his income, sometimes, ironically, at his own expense.
You often feel like you are running a marathon - on any given day you sprint from one thing to the next. Your to-do list is already a mile long, so adding “create a budget” to it is pretty much out of the question. Besides, where do you even start if you want to make a budget? It becomes overwhelming, and the last thing you need in your life is more stress. Bridget has a lot on her plate, so budgeting is one of the first things to get cut.
You have a budget - it is the same one you created this time last year. So far, the budget works just fine, so why would you change it? Even when your expenses change each month and your old budget does not quite fit, you stick to the tried and true budget of yesteryear and keep plugging through. Stanley has taken the first big step of creating a budget, but he fails to adjust it for the ebb and flow of monthly finances. Why fix something that did not break, right?
Your budget is law and you never step a toe out of line. There is no wiggle room in your budget for even the smallest spontaneous purchase, let alone any emergency spending. You have a certain amount of dollars for groceries and if you have to live on Ramen noodles for a week to stick to that budget, then more power, and sodium, to you. Nancy loves her budget, maybe a little too much, and could learn to be a little easier on herself when it comes to finances.
You might consider yourself an optimist - your budget is great and everything is on track … until reality hits you like a ton of bricks. You do not like to dwell on the chances of unexpected expenses like storm damage to your home, medical costs, or a wrecked car, so your budget does not either. This works just fine until you find yourself with costs you didn’t anticipate. Patrick’s positive outlook can be admired, but he (and his budget) might be due for a healthy dose of reality.
Carrie’s wallet is full - not with cash, but with credit cards. Budgeting is a nightmare because there are just too many financial accounts to keep track. How can you stick to a budget when you can not follow how much is being spent and where it is being spent?
If you are like Mike, you think of your budget as a suggestion. You might have allocated a certain amount for your mortgage payment, but if you need to use some of those funds for eating out, well, you do what you need to do … right? Mike makes boundaries with his spending, but he does not have too many qualms about switching things up. In fact, he can almost pretend that his budget does not exist.
The lesson from each of these spending alter-egos is simple. Budgeting takes time, patience, and diligence to craft a budget that you can reasonably follow. There are many mistakes you can make when budgeting. Fortunately, there are countless ways to make budgeting easier, too. For tips on how to manage your finances and steps for creating a budget that is perfect for you, check out the money management category on the Bank of the James blog!