Sorry it took a lot longer to write this than I expected, mostly because it’s not a fun thing and I couldn’t seem to make it fun to read, but here it is:
Budget – it’s an ugly thing. It even sounds bad. Bud-get. Bu-dget. Budge-it – it doesn’t Budge.
We’ve all done it. Either it’s New Year’s Day or we notice that the credit card balance is getting bigger every month so we decide to start a budget.
Right from the start, it’s bad – we find out that there isn’t enough money. No wonder we feel so broke all the time!
Then in a pitiful, Marge Simpson-like effort to be improve our lot, we go down the list of things on the budget to try to reduce it: the cable is usually the first to go, then donations, then a ridiculous oath to stop eating out AND give up the Starbucks runs. This usually requires buying a $300 Starbucks coffeemaker in a deluded attempt to save money.
After a few discouraging days of feeling like Rachel after she decides she doesn’t need her parents’ money anymore, what follows is a lucid nightmare of rationalizing why we “need” stuff – budget be danged!
LuLu lemon pants – fashionable, fitness related, AND work appropriate! A Big Screen TV – we’ll stop buying tickets to games and watch at home! A tablet – it was only $200 with the new phone plan and I’m getting so much done while I make dinner! New tile in the bathroom – it’s so HARD getting mildew off the shower walls and doesn’t everyone need a “retreat”?. The resulting stress from spending money we now know for we don’t have makes us feel guilty even as we cling to the hope that the stuff will make it better.
The budget falls off the stainless-steel fridge we needed for the party we had at home so could save money by not hosting a big dinner out. Realizing we might have a problem, we turn to the internet and the financial geniuses. Dutifully, we track our spending (sort of) for three weeks and THEN start a new budget, like somehow knowing what we did wrong will stop us from doing it in the future – hangover much?
The gurus tell us sagely to learn the difference between what we want and what we need – like there’s a difference? To put 10% aside every payday – we’ve already established there’s not enough money and now we’re supposed to get by on even less? To freeze our credit cards – and then what? Use the debit card?
At that point we usually give up and go to the big box mall to buy something on sale so we can feel like we’re saving money. The gurus set us up to fail and we feel like we’ll always be a failure so what’s the difference. It’s the same as dieting. If we were the kind of people who could live on a budget or a diet we wouldn’t need someone to tell us how to do it.
So what can we do to get out of the nightmare so the budget can balance itself?
We need to know why the nightmare happens and that it is not something of our own making, even though we do spend the money – next time.
For now – do nothing. Wait for the signs.